Benefit For Beloved Tennessee Radio Man

By Tracy Sharp
Managing Editor

The only thing that Stew Byars ever wanted to be was a disc jockey.
“When I was with the Breakfast Flakes, I’d hear all my co-workers talking
about the next steps they wanted in their careers,” Byars laughed. “I
finally said one day to them, All I’ve ever wanted to be was a disc jockey
and in radio.”
Byars’ career has been illustrious. He moved to Tennessee from Michigan when
he was a child and his goal from childhood was to be on the air. Not only
has he been in radio for more than two decades in northwest Tennessee, he
has worked in television, as a stand-up comedian and as a cartoonist. His
career includes “Breakfast Flakes in the Morning” segueing into the
“Stew-Man in the Morning” show broadcast from Martin and ultimately back to
Union City with Thunderbolt Broadcasting.
Byars’ success has been a mixture of luck, hard work and destiny. He credits
his friends for getting him into stand-up comedy in 1990 after a
conversation took place in which he said stand-up comedy had always
intrigued him.
His friend Rick Workman who served as the news director at the time at KYTN,
without Byars knowing it, booked him for a two-night gig at South Street
Comedy Club in Jackson. And one of Byars’ careers evolved and he became a
hit on the southeastern circuit. His zany stage act has been seen at comedy
clubs, colleges and major corporate parties. He traveled for several years
doing stand-up, but retired from the life after adopting two children back
in the early ’90s.
All the while, he was the morning man in radio, but his career continued to
flourish in different directions. For WLJT, Byars first hosted “Club
Country” with his morning co-host Robert Marshall, who was replaced the
following year Byars’ Rick. Rick Byars was also a guest on many of his radio
shows as well throughout the years. In the dawning age of country music
videos, the siblings hosted the eclectic and funny show, which was a mix of
comedy and country video during a time that the genre was not known for it¹s
videos, making the show revolutionary for its time. The show aired in
several states throughout the country, as well as in Mexico.
“We’ve known Stew for years. He’s not just a co-worker,” Katrina Cobb,
Director of Programming at WLJT said. ³He¹s our friend. We wanted to help
out.”
But it was radio where he found his niche and he had found his professional
home. As head of production at Thunderbolt Broadcasting, his voice was heard
on radio stations all across the south. He served as the voice of several
travelogues, drive-in movie theatres in Kansas City and customer phone
answering services.
He tied himself for first place in 2004 in production of two commercials for
two national awards and also won a second place award, and an honorable
mention in the Radio and Production Awards. Those awards led to him being
featured in an issue of the international publication “Radio and Production”
magazine. That article, and the exclusive accompanying CD, led to him being
hired by Clear Channel Communications Memphis division.
During his yearlong tenure in Memphis he won a “BOMR” award. “Best of
Memphis Radio” ­ for his humorous commercials and was twice nominated for
employee of the month. According to Byars, that was a first for the media
outlet.
During his tenure with Clear Channel, his voice was used for commercials and
promos across the entire country.
He and his wife Ginger decided to return to their home in northwest
Tennessee, and he and his wife Ginger, decided to move back home where he
returned to Thunderbolt Broadcasting, owned by fellow morning man, Paul
Tinkel. He was soon promoted to Operations Manager of the Union City radio
stations of KYTN 104.9 and The Cool Duck 105.7 FM.
Last year, Byars was diagnosed with cancer. A malignant tumor was discovered
in his kidney. A just a few short months later, bone cancer had settled in
his left hip and shoulder. He ended up spending several weeks in Baptist
Hospital in Union City and Baptist East in Memphis fighting the disease.
The strenuous regime of chemotherapy has been his life for the last few
months leaving him unable to work in the profession that he loves.
He says he’s grateful to his friends and co-workers who have helped him
adjust to living with an illness but the one thing that concerns him the
most is that he misses hearing the laughter that has sustained him over the
years.
“I love hearing people laugh,” he said. “That’s been the hardest part.”
These days, the cancer has left him with ambulatory problems. The biggest
issue come from the nausea after the hours he sits, sometimes seven at a
time, on an IV drip during his chemotherapy.
For the first time in his adult life, he isn’t working, his energies going
into the biggest battle of his life.
A group of people known as “Friends of the Stewman” are holding a benefit on
Monday, Jan. 14 to help raise money to help the radio man and his wife
defray the mounting healthcare costs he has incurred over the past few
months.
The benefit will be held at Olivia’s Opera House on Lindell Street from 4:30
p.m. to 9 p.m. and will feature an auction, karaoke and Chris Brinkley will
be broadcasting “Skyhawk Talk” from the restaurant.
T-shirts will be available at the event at $20 apiece and DVDs of ŒClub
Country” highlights will be for sale that night along with “Chris and Stew’s
Game Shows to Go” as well as his award-winning “Bumper Stickers” on CD
series for purchase for $10 for one or all three for on price of $25.
All proceeds will go to the Byars family.
This is the second benefit to be held in Byars’ honor. Snappy Tomato Pizza
Company headed by manager Frank Cochran located in Martin gave all of its
proceeds during a live-broadcast of “Skyhawk Talk” back in the fall.
Roger Donaldson, chairman of the upcoming event, said that the Benefit is
not only to raise money for his friend, but to honor ‘the man behind the
mic’ who has given countless hours to others in need throughout the years,
“Stew is a friend to this entire community. We are asking for open
donations, there will be music, a cash bar is available as well as
appetizers at the benefit. Everyone, and that means everyone, is invited to
attend.”
Trudy Henderson, who works with the UT Martin Athletic Department, said she
hopes to be able to webcast the event so Byars can watch it from home. “Stew
is having some trouble getting around, but we want him to be able to see all
the people that love him.”
Donations are being accepted at the Weakley County Press for the auction the
night of the benefit. Lynette Wagster and Marvin Alexander are handling and
numbering donations for the ‘Friends of the Stewman’ benefit.
Byars said he was shocked by the amount of people that have come out to
support him.
Olivia’s Opera House is opening the restaurant on a Monday night for the
event. It is usually closed on Mondays, but they are swinging the doors open
in honor of Stew.
Cash donations can be made at any First State Bank branch or through Pay Pal
using friendsofthestewman@yahoo.com.
For more information about the event or how to make a donation, call
587-3144, 881-7630 or 587-2575.

Originally appeared in Northwest Tennessee Today on January 8, 2008

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One Response to “Benefit For Beloved Tennessee Radio Man”

  1. […] Updated Auction List for Saturday 1/12/08 I realize this site is kinda dry, but it’s to communicate to all of the wonderful folks who have donated and participated in raising money for our friend Stew Byars. If you would like to read about what has happened to him, go here. […]

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