Wharton: Lehmann moves from radio to television to book author
In the 1960s and early 1970s, teens often spent more than a little time glued to transistor radios listening to AM disc jockeys at KMOR, KNAK and KCPX.
We divided ourselves between Beach Boys and Beatles fans though I was partial to the Dave Clark Five. Some of us identified with a "beta" hairstyle while others called themselves greasers.
Radio personalities such as Skinny Johnny Mitchell, Ray Graham, Sleepy Gene Davis, Big Daddy Hesterman, Woolly Waldron and Michael G. Cavanaugh inspired great listener loyalty. Few, though, matched the humor and popularity of morning jockey Lynn Lehmann.
The man known for his humorous Lehmann Lemon Awards started spinning records when he was 17, eventually working at KNAK before moving to KCPX in 1969 and spending the next 11 years there. He hosted a television show called "Dialing for Dollars" and even worked as a weekend television news anchor for a short time.
"I liked to pick on newspapers," the Salt Lake County resident told me recently. "The print media is so permanent. Once something is in print, it's hard to retract."
He remembered giving a Lemon to The Tribune for a headline when Scott Matheson was a Democratic governor who kept busy vetoing Republican-sponsored legislation. It read: "Governor's Pen Is Busy." As Lehmann remembers it, there wasn't much of a space between the words "pen" and "is."
"I haven't been on the air for 32 years, other than brief appearances here and there," said Lehmann. "But I still run into people regularly who remember me giving the Lehmann Lemon Award to 'fill in the blank.' I find it amazing."
Lehmann left KCPX in 1980 and went to work at KSL, eventually gravitating to producing and writing for television. Some of his work, including a television news feature called "The Great Human Race" featuring two-minute stories on interesting people, went into syndication.
He once did a fictional story on a turkey farmer in Sanpete County to see what people might believe. That led to a pilot shot first proposed for Dick Clark and ABC that then appeared for four seasons on Fox called "Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction." He would do five short stories, some of which were true, some totally made up. At the end, the audience would guess which one was truthful.
As an admirer who grew up listening to him on the radio, I interviewed Lehmann via phone a few times about subjects such as some of the old Salt Lake concert venues or more recently about a Beach Boys reunion. He seemed like a delightful guy. We started exchanging emails. I learned he just finished his fourth book.
Lynn was kind enough to pass along his latest self-published effort called Naked and Crying, which he assured me wasn't about his honeymoon. I read it in a single night. He tells the stories of Nobel Prize winner Mario Capecchi, Sing Sing prison warden wife Katherine Lawes, basketball star Tyrone Bogues, freed slave Biddy Mason and amputee Michael Dowling.
The chapters come with "truths" that include the value of education, love, belief, work and laughter. It's a wonderful read and Lehmann is an excellent storyteller and researcher.
"Each story was meant to teach a value," said Lehmann, who seemed like an old friend even though we met just recently for the first time. "I wrote the book for my grandchildren. I have no credentials to moralize, sermonize or do counseling. I can write whatever I want. There are small lessons. I hope one day my grandkids will read this and it will have some real meaning."
The book is well worth reading because it offers insights to people who overcame obstacles to make a real difference in the world. What's more, it gives those of us who lived in the halcyon days of AM radio and rock 'n' roll to remember Lynn Lehmann, who added to the joy of our youth.
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