Ralph Lynch was born in 1941. He grew-up on a small Chicken and Dairy Farm, about midway between Springdale and Siloam Springs, Arkansas. His mother’s side of the family was musical and he loved to play music, and listen to the radio. His love and passion for radio would remain with him for the rest of his life.
While he was in high school, he was part of a group that formed a Rock and Roll band. In addition to Lynch, the band included Gene Ware, Gail Page and the Cate Brothers, Ernest and Earl. The Cate Brothers went on to do quite well including some National Network TV exposure, and a top 10 record. The band played several sock hops and proms during that time.
On the Lynch farm, his Dad had a metal tool shed which was open in the front. Lynch would buy old radios at auctions, attach the antenna to the metal shed and crank it up. He loved listening to the old KAMO-AM out of Rogers, Arkansas, and one of the former students from his high school at Springdale was the afternoon rock show DJ. The program was called “Tops-In-Pops”, and the announcer was Lee (Leon) Bailey who later went to KAKC in Tulsa, and, then, eventually became a National Programming Consultant for Major Rock Stations.
“I knew at that time, I had to become a Radio announcer. However, when I made this known, I actually had a fellow High School Student laugh at the thought, and one of my favorite Uncles said I would never make it. The only place where I knew I could get training was at John Brown University in Siloam Springs,” Lynch said.
John Brown University owned and operated KUOA-AM, and part of his studies included Vocational Training. The students majoring in Radio and TV were allowed to go on the air. Lynch entered College in the fall of 1959.
“After two years, I made a foolish decision to drop out of school and try to find a paying Radio Job. As fortune would have it, at that time, Lee Bailey was being drafted into the Military, and as inexperienced as I was, in 1961, they hired me to replace Lee. Another fellow announcer that I worked with at KAMO was the late Jerry Vaughn, who later became Program Director and Announcer at KRMG in Tulsa,” Lynch said.
The decision to leave college to work for KAMO turned out to be one of the most important decisions of a very long career. For it was at KAMO that Lynch would meet a beautiful woman with a wonderful personality by the name of Evelyn McGinnis. “It was while I was at KAMO that I met my wife of 51 years, Evelyn McGinnis. Evelyn had been a Cheerleader for the Rogers Mountaineers, a rival school of my Springdale Bulldogs,” Lynch said.
Although Lynch is a strong advocate of students remaining in school until they graduate, his decision was based on an early love and passion for radio broadcasting that remained with him for the rest of his life. McGinnis was working at a dress shop in Rogers, Arkansas. Readers should note that is the same Rogers, Arkansas where a small businessman named Sam Walton started a little store that became Walmart.
“Shortly after Evelyn and I became engaged, I was approached by a man who strongly encouraged me to apply for an Announcers job in Austin, Texas. I never applied as it was too far from the chicken houses. The Station was owned by Lady Bird Johnson and this was not far removed from the time that Lyndon ascended to the Presidency. That would have been interesting. I was able to “hang-on” at KAMO and get a couple of years of experience, and in 1963 accepted a job doing the Morning Show at KSWM-AM in Aurora, Missouri,” Lynch said.
Lynch worked for the radio station owned by the First Lady of the United States of America for six years and during that time he obtained his First Class Engineering License and started learning the Advertising Sales. He eventually became Sales Manager at KSWM. His son, Derrick, was born at the Aurora Hospital in 1966.
While at KSWM, he had other opportunities at larger market radio stations and turned down the offer of a job as an Anchor at KYTV in Springfield, Missouri. Lynch said no to the offer because he wanted to stay in smaller markets as a General Manager.
During his employment at KSWM, he had the sad duty of telling their listeners that President Kennedy had been assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.
While at Aurora, he got to know Albert E. Brumley who listened to a Gospel Show he did. Brumley had written many wonderful Gospel Songs, but his best known is “I’ll Fly Away”. He also had the fortune of training a young 18-year old from Republic, Missouri by the name of Les Garland. Garland moved-up to several larger markets including KELI in Tulsa. His is the voice you hear on one of the versions leading to the Jefferson Starship song, “We Built This City on Rock and Roll”.
The Jefferson Starship song was done while Garland was a DJ in Los Angeles. Garland is now a Vice President of MTV. After many years of experience, Lynch was hired as the General Manager at KTLQ-AM and FM in May of 1969. His CEO was Galen Gilbert who put KTLQ-AM on the air in August of 1957, and KTLQ-FM, which later became KEOK-FM in 1966. “Galen allowed me as General Manager to own a small interest in the Stations as well as minority interest in some of his other Radio Station Properties in Texas and Missouri. I transferred my interest into enough money, to, (along with First National Bank), buy the Tahlequah Stations in 1982,” Lynch said.
The present writer had the honor of working closely with Lynch and his family because it was in July of 1982 that Lynch hired the journalism graduate student as first African-American Country Music DJ at KTLQ in its history and helped a young graduate student at Northeastern Oklahoma State University to complete his Master’s Degree in Communication. “You were a wonderful person and you did a lot to help the Tahlequah community.” Lynch said in an exclusive interview with xystwhat.com on March 6, 2014 from his offices at KTLQ.
“I sold the Stations in 1988, and became a fully Licensed Insurance Agent with Cook Insurance Agency. The Agency was owned by my good friend, Paul Cook, who was thinking about eventually selling the Agency. I remained with the Agency until December of 1998. The Tahlequah Radio Stations were in the process of being purchased by Dewey Johnson. I had known Dewey for many years, and it was at his Station, KSPR-AM in Springdale where I had first applied for a Radio Job. Dewey convinced me to come back to Manage the Stations and I accepted his offer in January 1999. After five years Dewey sold the Stations to Bill Payne, who is in the Country Music Hall Of Fame and the Oklahoma Broadcasters Association Hall Of Fame,” Lynch said.
After 53 years of service to loyal listeners and reaching hundreds of thousands of people through the magic of radio, Ralph Lynch of KTLQ radio is retiring from his microphone and leaving the station where he has spent his life. His retirement on April 30, 2014, will be an occasion for old friends to remember a kind gentleman who used the power of radio for good. His wife, Evelyn; his son, Derrick; and his daughter, Heather, will all be with him, as they were in 1982 when he purchased the station, to remember his contributions to radio and his service to listeners all over the nation. Enjoy your retirement, Ralph, and thank you for being a true gentleman and a great employer and friend who served his customers well for 53 years.