Along with Porky Chedwick, Clark Race, and KQV icons like Chuck Brinkman, TL was rock radio royalty in this region. The New Eagle native, born Terrance Lee Albert Trunzo, was a musician who got into radio accidentally when a disc jockey scheduled to appear at a dance he was playing pulled a no-show.
He made his name both on the air at various stations before settling at WMCK in McKeesport and continued when the station became WIXZ, known for what he and his fans called "The TL Sound" in 1964.
His "Music for Young Lovers" segments, which featured romantic ballads (vocal and instrumental) from diverse sources, playing behind him as he set a mood, speaking romantic homilies, voice drenched in echo. The concept was later syndicated nationally and became one of his trademarks. Here's a sample from the airwaves. The music is a slowed-down version of "Sleepwalk."
But Lee was also known for hosting many dances and record hops at local teen nightclubs throughout the region, particularly in the Mon Valley, a region he pretty much ruled. His name was practically synonymous with long-forgotten venues like Redd's Beach, the White Elephant. His own club, TL's Nite Train, was located along the Glassport-Elizabeth road in Lincoln Borough, along the river just north of Elizabeth Borough.
He hit TV in 1967, taking over Channel 11's Saturday afternoon dance party program "Come Alive" from Chuck Brinkman. A show he'd host for the next three years. I recall the show well, a blend of American Bandstand and live local acts, usually local rock bands. Some were among the region's best-known. Others reflected a time when it seemed every kid had an electric guitar, bass or a drum set (and some could play them better than others).
Lee was featured in this 2001 story PG Pop Music Critics Scott Mervis and Ed Masley (now at the Arizona Republic in Phoenix) wrote on the region's rock scene that details Lee's importance. Click here.
After years away from the airwaves, running his farm and a trucking business in Ohio. TL made an emotional February 2010 return to an old haunt, McKeesport's Palisades Ballroom, greeted by an enthusiastic crowd, spoke to his continuing place in the memories and hearts of a lot of Pittsburghers.
Lee initially returned to WJAS Sunday nights in 2010. This is a bit of his first broadcast there on April 25, 2010.
Today, Porky Chedwick, a nonagenarian, remains with us. Chuck Brinkman and Bob Livorio are retired. Jim Quinn has reincarnated his broadcast persona. But many early greats, Mad Mike Metrovich, Sir Walter Raleigh, Clark Race and now TL are gone. For those who were teenagers half a century or so ago, TL's passing makes everyone who remembers feel a little older.
If there's any consolation, it's the fact so many regional radio greats, beloved as they are, tend to fade away into oblivion. While missed by their fans, they don't return. Few ever get the chance—even for a brief period—to reach those fans one more time. Terry Lee did just that.
This is maybe the best way to end it: with an instrumental he played on his show, ironically, recorded by a group of Nashville studio musicians, led by pianist Bill Pursell: the 1963 hit "Our Winter Love."
To paraphrase his sign-off: Good night, TL, and God bless you.