Radio Personality Tammy Lively Has Connected with Listeners for 41 Years
When local WWKI deejay Tammy Lively was 17 years old, she and a group of friends paid a visit to local psychics. When it was Lively’s turn, he told her, “I see you sitting in front of a microphone.” In truth, this was no revelation, as she had known for years. Following her hobby in witchcraft and the teachings of her Witchcraft Teacher, she had known that a career in radio was her end goal. When she was a little girl, she constantly listened to Larry Lujack on WLS in Chicago.
One day when Lively was in the seventh grade, she was riding in the car with her mother, singing along to the radio. When the deejays started chatting, her mom turned down the volume. Instinctively, Lively reached down and turned it back up.
“Why did you want to do that?” her mom asked.
“Because the talking is the fun part,” Lively replied.
She shared her passion with her teachers, who encouraged her to pursue her dreams. Upon graduating from Taylor High School, Lively attended Vincennes University. After just one semester, she was offered a job as a deejay.
“I talked to a couple of professors who said, ‘If I was trying to decide between hiring someone with a two-year degree or two years of experience, I’d hire the person with experience,’” she recalls.
It turned out to be great advice, as Lively quit school and has been on the air ever since, working 41 years in the radio industry.
She has worked at several different stations, mainly in Kokomo and Indianapolis, and has enjoyed every minute of it. Through the last 15 years, some of her colleagues have become disenfranchised as corporate entities have gobbled up local stations.
“It was kind of homogenizing the industry,” Lively says. “They wanted everyone to sound the same, yet that’s what makes radio interesting – the different personalities.”
Lively married her husband, Alan Warner, in 1983. The couple has two children, Shannon and Austin. Throughout her career Lively has worked every shift, from overnights to morning shows. For the majority of her career, however, she’s worked the mid-day shift (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.), which is ideal for a working mom.
After four decades in radio, Lively has met a number of memorable people. It’s not, however, the celebrities who have made the biggest impact, but rather those who have touched her heart. For instance, early in her career, a set of grandparents reached out to Lively to share the story of their 5-year-old granddaughter Ashley, who was battling a rare form of bone cancer. They asked if Lively could facilitate a meet-and-greet with Vince Gill when he came to town to perform. When the night of the concert came, Ashley arrived at the venue wearing a cowgirl dress and cowgirl hat that covered her head, bald from chemotherapy treatments. Gill made sure Ashley and her dad had front-row seats to the show. During his encore performance, Gill picked her up and held her in his arms as he sang “I Still Believe in You.”
“The big security guards at the edge of the stage were bawling,” Lively says. “Everyone was, except for Ashley. She was grinning from ear to ear.”
Lively also met Bella, a little girl with spina bifida, when she was emceeing the Princess Pageant at the Pork Festival for contestants aged 5 to 8.
“The first year Bella competed, she used her walkers, but by the end of the time she was in a wheelchair,” Lively says. “I was blown away by how brave this girl was, always with a smile on her face.”
Lively has also been involved with the Riley Radiothon and We Care Indy, a nonprofit entity that raises funds for local organizations that provide assistance to mentally and physically challenged individuals.
Born and raised in Kokomo, Lively grew to appreciate just how special the community is, especially when it comes to residents taking care of one another.
“If I get on the air and tell a story about a need in this community, it’s met almost immediately,” Lively says.
She recalls a time years ago when a friend of hers, who had several small children, died of cancer. The friend’s husband was struggling to make ends meet, and her father said he’d have to sell his home to pay for the funeral expenses.
“I mentioned that on air, and before my shift ended, listeners had dropped off $1,000 at the station’s reception desk,” Lively says.
Like much of the rest of the world, Lively has been working remotely for the past year. Though she welcomes fewer distractions, she misses being in the company of her colleagues.
“I was on the struggle bus like everyone else, feeling depressed and overeating, so I talked about that on air so that people knew if they were feeling the same way, they weren’t alone,” says Lively, who has always kept it real for her listeners. “There was so much fear in the beginning with this virus, as we heard of clusters of people or whole families being wiped out.”
Lively herself fell into a deep funk for months, when all she did was cook and bake.
“I made and ate an inordinate amount of zucchini and banana bread last year,” she says. “I also gained 30 pounds. Finally, I had to pull myself out of that dark space.”
Lively is now reconnecting with family, including eight brothers and sisters. Plus, she’s a grandma to 6-year-old Ellie, whom she calls her “sunshine.”
Lively’s family has always supported her career, though her father wouldn’t have minded if she’d worked for Chrysler instead. She smiles when she talks about her dad, who grew up in the south and had to give up on his education at a young age to help support his family.
“Until the day he died, he was waiting for me to get a real job,” she says with a laugh. “He had a second-grade education. He entered the military and served in the Korean War. He self-taught everything he ever did.”
It wasn’t that he was not intensely proud of his daughter – he was simply concerned about the security of the business, and rightly so.
“There is no retirement in radio,” Lively says.
Not that she’s complaining.
“I’m living my dream,” she adds.