Eulogy to a radio giant you have never heard of
f you have been lucky enough to work in the always vibrant, challenging and ever changing world of radio, you will no doubt have met and worked with some amazingly talented and colourful characters. To me that was always what got me out of bed each day. That, and the challenge to create great compelling content, which of course needs those colourful characters.
ln 2013 I spent a year working in Dublin, Ireland at 98FM; a Hot AC station in the Communicorp Network. The station was loaded with fantastically talented and passionate people like Dermot and Dave on Drive, Ray Foley and JP on Breakfast and John O’Keefe in Image Production.
But there was one particular character who always stood out like a giant force of nature, and for me he always will. His name was Johnny Lyons, and he was the sports director and leading sports journo for 98FM.
Tragically Johnny died on August 19 alone in his apartment. Such a waste of massive energy warmth and light. I don’t quite know why his death saddened me so much as I only knew him for a year,
His passing has left a huge hole in Dublin and Irish media.
Johnny was only in his late 40’s but had crammed more into those years than was humanly possible. He was a giant of a man in all ways he was about 6 foot 6 ,shaved head, loved soccer, GAA, and most of all cricket. He loved pork chops (which he would devour in huge amounts regularly) and heavy rock, especially AC/DC.
His typical dress code much to the hierarchy’s chagrin was sleeveless t-shirts always with some heavy metal or sporting insignia, leather biker pants and huge size 13 hiking boots! He adored people and was incredibly intelligent, loud and passionate about pretty much everything, especially people. Johnny would make everyone from the CEO, to sporting legends, through to the Romanian night time cleaning crew feel like they were his best friends and you always felt better of yourself in his company.
Johnny always greeted everyone with a raucous “How ya doin'”, he worked directly out the front of my office and was so loud on the phones or yelling at the T.V sports matches overhead. I desperately wanted to tell him to shut the F*** up and close the door but I never would as it just didn’t seem right, but occasionally l did tell him to keep it down!
Living alone in a foreign country is tough, away from my wife, 2 kids, 2 dogs and my friends. Ireland is a great country with great people but it was still lonely, except when Johnny Lyons was around.
I would often stay back late and talk with Johnny who worked till 11pm we’d talk about life, sport and rock music he loved Oz Rock and I would introduce him to many Aussie artists and likewise he would always have a few locals to throw back at me. I was warned not to go out with Johnny as only chaos would ensue, It never did, just great Craic!
Unsurprisingly he liked a drink or ten, mostly Jack Daniels and Guinness. Surprisingly, so did I.
When you were with Johnny you knew you with someone special because everywhere you walked people would yell out “Hey Johnny, How Ya doin’ ” Johnny would always yell back “Rock n Roll! Or shake their hand with his giant bear like paw no matter what walk of life you were from.
We have lost wonderful radio people and friends here at home like the beautiful Richard Marsland, Adam Vaughan and Richard Winter to name a few.
Some people are taken way much too soon but the world and we are better for their time here. Always try and get to know, really get to know your people, and you will be a better person for it.
Johnny was a brilliant intelligent man a real gentle giant, he would always sign off his bulletins with a deep resonant “I’mmmm Johnny Lyons”. He certainly was, and there will never be another. I along with everyone who was lucky enough to know him and share his crazy world will miss him dearly.
My heart goes out to his family and staff at 98FM.
Footnote : One of many great stories about Johnny Lyons goes like this…
He was scheduled to interview one of his idols, cricket legend Sir Ian Botham, for his 98FM award winning show “Now That’s What I Call Sport”. Most of us would take an iphone or small recorder but one thing Johnny had never grasped in any form was technology, So he grabs his own giant ghetto blaster and waltzes into Botham’s ritzy Dublin hotel with it over his massive shoulders, plonks it on the table, introduces himself and tries to start the interview with a slightly taken aback Ian Botham.
But the Ghetto blaster won’t fire up…no batteries! Unperturbed Johnny asks him to mind the recorder and heads out to the local Lidl shop and buys the batteries, comes back puts them in and says to Botham, “Sorry about that Now Let’s Rock n Roll”. Ian Botham had so much fun with Johnny they chatted for 2 hours!
Dave Smith – Former Radio Head
Dave Smith has an extensive and successful Commercial Radio career spanning more than 25 years and a wide skill set including Content Director, On Air Presentation, Strategic & Tactical planning, Marketing & Brand Management.
Dave has been Content Director of major Australian metro markets with Southern Cross Austereo at Fox FM & Triple M Melbourne and ARN Mix 106.5 & Gold 1043/Mix 101.1. He also worked in Dublin with Communicorp’s 98fm.