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Know Your Neighbor: Chip Lyness of WDDK Radio

October 16, 2020 - 00:00
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    Chip Lyness

He might wake you up in the morning. He might be with you in your car. But, if you bump into him around Lake Country, you probably won’t know who he is.

“I’ll be in a restaurant and they won’t know me until I start talking,” WDDK Radio’s Chip Lyness told the Lake Oconee News. “Then they’ll go ‘Hey, do you work at the radio station?’. ‘Ah, yeah,’ I say. ‘What’s your name?’ I tell them and they go ‘I listen to you all the time.’”

His uniquely raspy voice has been heard throughout Georgia’s Lake Country for 30 years.

Lyness was part of a group who purchased Greensboro’s local radio station in 1990, changed the format to oldies and switched the call letters to WDDK – The Dock 103.9.

He was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and his given name, Arthur Lyness, did not last long.

“We lived with my grandfather (Arthur Sr.) and my father (Art Jr. or Artie). My parents were out of Arthur nicknames--so they gave me Chip.”

When he was young, his father was transferred to Alabama.

“I’ve always wanted to be in radio,” Lyness said. “I’m one of the fortunate ones. Ever since I was 10 years old, that’s what I wanted to do. I was just mesmerized by radio. I listened to it a lot as a child. Mostly sports then but wondered how I could be at home with a little transistor radio listening to people across the state, the city, the world. I was just fascinated how that worked.”

Now 64 (but quick to humorously point out he reads “on a 66-year old level.”), Lyness said he is lucky to have the dream job he has coveted since he was 10 years old.

“My real fascination came when I visited a radio station in a little town where I grew up, in Tuscaloosa,” he said. “I had to drop off a public service announcement at a local station and the guy on the air took me back and showed me the control room. Showed me how things worked and I said “hey, that’s pretty cool’.”

Lyness’ mother died when he was 10. Eventually, his father was transferred to Atlanta, uprooting Chip, his younger brother and older sister.

He attended what was then Sequoia High School in Atlanta. That is where he met his wife-to-be, Margie, but he said they did not date until they both went to the University of Georgia.

Lyness graduated from UGA with a Broadcast Journalism degree in 1978 and immediately got his first job in radio at WGAU/WGNC in Athens. He said he could have worked at the campus radio station but they did not pay any money and he was working his way through college.

At the time, his dad ran a plastics plant in Greensboro. That’s how Chip became familiar with the radio station he and others bought 12 years later.

“We saw the growth potential at Lake Oconee,” Chip said. “Back in 1990, the lake was just getting started and we kinda grew along with it.”

In 2017, he was inducted into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame.

Margie and Chip live in Watkinsville. They have three children – Andy, Kim and Kelley - all grown and two of them with families that have given them six grandchildren. Everyone lives in the Atlanta area.

“My hobby, basically, is the family,” Chip said. “I love being with the kids and grandkids. We go to sporting events, love travelling. We love to go hiking in the mountains.”

The Lynesses are Catholic and were involved in locating a church just a stone’s throw across Lake Oconee Parkway from the current WDDK studios.

“We helped get Christ our King and Savior church started when there wasn’t a Catholic church here,” he said. “I just helped at the very early beginnings to find the land, get it purchased and publicized when there was going to be mass for Catholics to attend.”

Over 30 years in Greensboro radio, Lyness has played a lot of oldies, sold commercials, done interviews, read news on the air, called play-by-play for local sports as well as participated in remote broadcasts at local businesses and community events.

“When you work at a small station, you do almost everything,” Lyness said.

And he wouldn’t have it any other way. Georgia’s Lake Country is in Lyness’ blood.

“I’ve had opportunities to go to bigger markets but just being able to have input, locally, on what we bring to our listeners. That just means a lot to me,” he said.