John Lemley

Host of City Café, The Stargazer's Journal and Performance Today

Since Groundhog Day 2009, John Lemley has served up a “plateful of classics and variety of sides” each weekday at noon on the public radio program, City Café (90.1 FM, WABE and  John is host of the Atlanta-based broadcast, which presents classical, film and musical theatre selections in a popular and accessible style.   On City Café, John also welcomes a seemingly endless roster of interview guests onto the one-hour show, as they discuss everything from arts and culture to history and upcoming events. As midday is, for many, the only opportunity to catch up on the world around us, City Café is also Atlanta’s lunchtime place for NPR and BBC news headlines, sports, traffic and weather. Following City Café each Monday through Friday, John remains in the host chair for two additional hours of traditional classical fare on Performance Today, which also includes the very latest news, traffic and weather, along with a nighttime sky-watching preview on the Stargazer’s Journal.

John is a Musical Theatre Performance graduate of Birmingham-Southern College. The Oneonta, Alabama native joined the staff of Public Broadcasting Atlanta in June 1997 after serving for five years as music director and afternoon classical music/news host at WBHM, Birmingham’s public radio station.  Between 2005 and 2009, John took a hiatus from his music hosting duties to take on the role of news anchor on WABE’s afternoon drive program, All Things Considered.  For his work on that program, John was named in 2008 as “Best Drive-Time DJ” by the staff of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 2010, Atlanta Magazine picked John and City Café as one of their “Best of the Dial” selections. John lives in Decatur with his partner, Mike Selk, and their two furry “children,” Jeffrey (a Chinese Shar-Pei) and Lexie (a white and grey feline).


12:06 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

"A Storyteller of Great Pain" - Letters to Sala at MJCC

Young Sala
Ann Kirschner MJCC

The Marcus Jewish Community Center is hosting two programs depicting one woman’s story of survival during the Holocaust. The woman is Sala Garncarz, who was 16 years old in 1940 when she was forced from her home and into a German labor camp. Now, Letters to Sala is being brought both to the gallery and the stage. The exhibition features her letters, photographs, and a diary chronicling her years in the Nazi work camps.

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In the Garden with Geri Laufer
1:30 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Tips for Thrifty Gardening

Thrifty tip: Create lasting plant labels from milk jugs.
John Lemley WABE

Spring is here, and as we see more green on the trees, horticulturist Geri Laufer gives us some tips for seeing more green in our pockets, too. Here are some tips from Geri on thrifty gardening.

In this web bonus, Geri gives us even more money-saving pointers.

Have some thrifty gardening tips of your own? Share them on our Facebook page!

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12:50 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Honor and Revenge: Charles McNair on 'Pickett's Charge'

Charles McNair reads from 'Pickett's Charge' at the Cyclorama Thursday, April 10.

  As part of their ongoing commemoration of this year’s 150th anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta, the Cyclorama this week hosts a reading by novelist Charles McNair. McNair will read from his second novel, Pickett’s Charge.

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12:35 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

I-85 and 400 Joined At Last

A view from below the flyover. The pedestrian bridge over Peachtree Creek is visible.
Myke Johns WABE

The commute around North Atlanta is expected to get a little easier in the near future. Flyover ramps have been constructed to connect I-85 and 400 in either direction. Both are expected to open in the next week, but the Georgia Department Of Transportation gave us the opportunity to drive up onto the ramp with them—it was a rare chance to walk around on a piece of Atlanta’s roadway…free of traffic.

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12:17 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Tappin' Through Life with Maurice Hines

Maurice Hines in "Maurice Hines is Tappin' Thru Life," at the Alliance Theatre April 2 through May 4.
Credit Photo courtesy Teresa Wood / Alliance Theatre

Maurice and Gregory Hines are world-famous, award-winning dancers. Maurice—the elder brother—is known for his Broadway performances in Guys & Dolls, Sophisticated Ladies, and many others.

He also appeared alongside his brother in Frances Ford Coppola’s film The Cotton Club as a pair of… what else? tap dancers.

Gregory’s innovative improvisational tapping as well as his choreography and acting won him a long list of Tony’s, Emmy’s and other awards before he passed away in 2003.

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12:49 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

NPR's Cokie Roberts Discusses New Children's Book

Cokie Roberts reads from her new book in WABE's Studio 4.
Dan Raby WABE

Morning Edition contributor Cokie Roberts spent ten years as NPR’s congressional correspondent. But her life in politics didn’t begin there. Her parents were Congresswoman and ambassador Lindy Boggs and Congressman Hale Boggs, who served both as House Majority Leader and as a member of the Warren Commission.

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Musicians at WABE
2:53 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Interview with 'Faust''s Noah Stewart

Noah Stewart, musical boundary-breaker
Credit Decca/Universal Music

Opera tenor Noah Stewart is known for being a musical ground-breaker.

He's in town this week, singing the lead in The Atlanta Opera’s production of Charles-François Gounod’s Faust, but before that, his 2012 debut album Noah made him the first black musician to top British classical charts.

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12:40 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

'Black Slaves, Indian Masters' Explores Little-Known Chapter in History

Barbara Krauthamer will be at the Cyclorama Thursday night.

  In the late 1700s and 1800s, two groups of Native Americans, the Choctaw and the Chickasaw, traded and owned African-American slaves. Thursday night, an author coming to Atlanta’s Cyclorama will discuss her new book about this complicated chapter of American history.

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Chinese New Year
12:40 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Navigating Chinese New Year with Wanda Yang Temko


Chinese New Year begins on Jan. 31, and there are many attendant events and celebrations taking place around Atlanta. 

  To get a better idea of what’s going on, we spoke to Wanda Yang Temko—musician, performer, vocal instructor at several schools around town and former host of "The Art of Song" here on WABE. We began our conversation with her childhood.

Wanda Yang Temko hosts the Chinese New Year Special on Sunday February 2nd at 9pm here on 90.1FM.

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1:10 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Interview with "Stuck in the Bluff" Producer Jim Burress

Credit Joeff Davis / Creative Loafing

A documentary by WABE News airs on Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. on 90.1 FM. Stuck In The Bluff: AIDS, Heroin and One Group’s Illegal Quest to Save Lives centers on the controversy surrounding the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition, a nonprofit that exchanges clean drug needles for used ones.

City Cafe host John Lemley sat down to talk with reporter Jim Burress about what prompted him to create the special, and about what he uncovered.

Part One

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12:19 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

"The Entire World Being Holy" - A Celtic Christmas in Atlanta

Celtic Christmas musicians John Maschinot, Joe Craven, Lisa Edwards, and Evan Kinney.
Credit Myke Johns / WABE

The arts of the Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Appalachian holiday traditions will take the Rialto stage this weekend for Celtic Christmas. I sat down with a few of the musicians—Joe Craven, Lisa Edwards, and John Maschinot—to talk about the show. John began by discussing the oral traditions that birthed much of the music and poetry they will be performing. 

See a video of Joe, Lisa, and John performing with guitarist Evan Kinney in the WABE studios here.

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City Café
12:20 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Talking Dance and Destiny with Helen Hale

Helen Hale in 'Sanity Ceremonies'
Credit Bobbi Jo Brooks

The move that set a celebrated young choreographer on track to the burgeoning career she has today seemed, at first, like a big misstep.

That’s the story at the heart of the last of three conversations highlighting Arts ATL’s “30 Under 30” series.

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City Café
11:46 am
Mon December 16, 2013

Christmas Lights on Monroe Drive

You’ve likely seen Christmas light displays that really stand out. Such is the case at the home of Paul Medlock just behind Piedmont Park on Monroe Drive.

He started decorating his home with lights back in 1992.   Back then he had about 300 lights, but today that number is closer to 35,000.  We spoke with him in December of 2012.   See a sampling of his Christmas light show here. 

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12:23 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

Celebrating the Outstanding at the Suzi Bass Awards

Credit WABE

Every year, Atlanta’s theater community comes together for the Suzi Bass Awards. The ceremony recognizes outstanding work in live theatre with awards for Direction, Choreography, Design, Acting and many more categories. Think about it as the Tony Awards for Atlanta. This weekend, for the first time, television audiences can follow the action down the red carpet as PBA30 will be broadcasting this year’s “Suzis,” which took place in November.

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Atlanta History
12:20 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Rich's Exhibit: The Story of the City in a Store

1917 Rich's interior
William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum

There’s Kaufman’s. Gimbel’s. Neiman Marcus. In the last century, a number of Jewish-owned department stores across the nation were economic powerhouses in their communities.

The South had Rich’s Department store, headquartered in Atlanta. Rich’s closed in 2005, but through May 2014, the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum is exhibiting memorabilia from the store’s nearly 14 decades of existence, beginning with its start in 1867 as a dry-goods store on Whitehall Street.

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Atlanta Street Fashion
12:20 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Atlanta, Immaculately Turned Out: On the Street with Cameron Adams

Atlanta is not lacking for people who are trying to make a statement with their clothes, whether they’re dressing up to impress or dressing out to express their personalities. And one man has made it his mission to document this—his name is Cameron Adams and he runs a photo blog called Atlanta Street Fashion.

We took a walk with Adams around the Fairlie-Poplar district downtown to spot some of our more well-dressed citizens.

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12:25 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Spelman-Morehouse Concert: A Tradition 87 Years Strong

The Annual Christmas Carol Concert routinely packs the halls in all three performances.
Credit Morehouse College

This weekend sees the return of a musical holiday tradition that’s been taking place for more than eight decades. Each year, the glee clubs of historic black colleges Morehouse and Spelman join forces to put on a powerful holiday concert whose program includes carols, spirituals and more.

Dr. Kevin Johnson, who directs Spelman’s Glee Club, joined us to talk about the tradition, and what he looks forward to most each year.

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12:00 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Retiring Scrooge with Chris Kayser

Chris Kayser as Ebenezer Scrooge
Credit Greg Mooney / Alliance Theatre

Chris Kayser has spent twenty years portraying Ebenezer Scrooge on the Alliance Theater stage.  This season’s production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol will bring that to an end—Kayser will be retiring from the role after the show closes. But before he exits, we had the longtime Atlanta actor in to talk about the role he has inhabited for so long and about his insights into this character we all think we know.

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Georgia History
12:41 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

Georgia History - 100 Years of Georgia State University

Myke Johns WABE

Georgia State University has been celebrating their centenary all this year, as enrollment grows and the campus expands further into downtown. We met up with Dr. Tim Crimmins—Director of the Center for Neighborhood and Metropolitan Studies at the school—for a tour through GSU’s first hundred years, and a hint at their future as well.

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12:35 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

Pickled Okra: Southern Tradition, Tasty Snack, and "Link to the Past"

Pickled okra
Kate Sweeney WABE

Winter is on its way, but that doesn’t mean we need to forsake all the goodness from our gardens, or from the produce shelves. We paid a visit to the kitchen of Preserving Place on Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood, where Martha McMillin teaches classes on food preservation, including canning, fermentation and pickling.

Host John Lemley talked with Martha about why she thinks pickling has made a comeback and what it means to her, as we made a batch of that southern delicacy, pickled okra.

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Musicians at WABE
12:00 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Adam Levin and a New Renaissance in Spanish Guitar

Adam Levin performing in the WABE studios
Credit Dan Raby / WABE

Classical guitarist Adam Levin has immersed himself in the music of Spain. He’s performed across the United States and Europe and on November 16th he pays a visit to Atlanta by way of a solo performance at Spivey Hall. Levin paid us a visit here at the WABE studios to talk about the work that went into his new album, 21st Century Spanish Guitar, and he was kind enough to play a little for us as well.

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Things to Do
2:07 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

Halloween Tour at Oakland Uncovers Atlanta's Colorful History

The Halloween 'Capturing the Spirit' tours are the only times Historic Oakland Cemetery opens its gates after dark.
Credit Oakland Cemetery

  Once a year, Historic Oakland Cemetery opens its gates at night, for its “Capturing the Spirit” Halloween tours, in which costumed characters stand by their own graves to tell their stories.

On one recent rainy morning, we paid a visit to Oakland, where executive director David Moore told host John Lemley all about the tour’s blend of history and storytelling—and one long-time resident of the cemetery whom he often portrays.

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30 Under 30 Artist Spotlight
4:45 pm
Wed October 9, 2013

Talking Theatre with Actor John Stewart

Credit Arts ATL

Here's a conversation between WABE's John Lemley, actor John Stewart, and Arts ATL’s Andrew Alexander, who recently wrote about Stewart for the magazine's “30 Under 30” series.  They talked about Stewart’s performances in “The Whipping Man” and “Choir Boy,” as well as what it means to Stewart to be a young performer.

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12:20 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

Behind the Scenes at 'Downton Abbey'

Jessica Fellowes is the author of 'The World of Downton Abbey,' which goes behind the scenes with the hit PBA drama.
Credit Beatrix Jacot de Boinod


  The author of a book that goes behind the scenes with the hit PBS show Downton Abbey was in town over the weekend. Jessica Fellowes, who wrote The World of Downton Abbey, spoke on Saturday at the restaurant Terra Terroir. Her uncle, Julian Fellowes, is the show’s writer.

Jessica stopped in to talk with us about what makes the serial drama so popular, the real-life English estate where it’s filmed, and the character who seems to be everyone’s favorite.

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12:30 pm
Fri October 4, 2013

WABE & Creative Loafing Share "The Heavy Lift"

Creative Loafing has rolled out a series of articles looking at metro Atlanta’s non-profit community. The project -- titled “The Heavy Lift” -- is a collaboration between the weekly paper and WABE. We spoke to the two journalists behind the series: from Creative Loafing, News Editor Thomas Wheatley, and from WABE, reporter Jim Burress.

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12:21 pm
Fri October 4, 2013

Photography Detective Maureen Taylor

Maureen Taylor's family photo
courtesy Maureen Taylor

Maureen Taylor describes herself as a “photo detective”. She helps people reconnect with their history through their family photos. Taylor, who is an internationally recognized expert on photograph identification and genealogy joined us via Skype for a conversation. We spoke about a couple of photographs (above). Maureen started the conversation by talking about what there is to learn from looking at family photographs.

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In the Garden with Geri Laufer
12:20 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

Flower Cutting and Arranging 101

Horticulturist Geri Laufer shows us how to create a flower arrangement like this one, fresh from her garden.
Credit Kate Sweeney / WABE

  If you’ve spent the summer in the yard, it may be that you have a garden full of flowers, ready to be cut and arranged. But even for those of us who’ve never planted a single flower, horticulturist Geri Laufer is here to provide some tips on creating floral arrangements indoors. On one recent sunny morning, we paid a visit to Geri’s home garden, where she taught us flower arrangement—from garden to table.

More Flower Arranging Tips From Geri

Homemade Flower Preservative Solution

(courtesy of the Perdue Department of Horticulture)

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12:40 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman on "Harmony"

Bruce Sussman (Book & Lyrics) and Barry Manilow (Music), co-creators of 'Harmony'.
Credit Chris Ottanuck

On Friday, October 6th, a musical premiere by Bruce Sussman and Barry Manilow closes at the Alliance Theater. It’s called Harmony, and it’s the story of a real singing group from the 1920s and ‘30s known as The Comedian Harmonists.

For nearly a decade, the group was known for its six-part harmonies and vaudevillian humor, before it was disbanded by the German Nazi regime.

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11:46 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Jennifer Holliday on Being the Original Dreamgirl

Jennifer Holliday
Credit Actor's Express

Jennifer Holliday is a Tony-award winning actor and singer best known for originating the role of Effie in the Broadway show Dreamgirls.

Holliday paid us a visit to talk about the role—and the music—that made her career in advance of this weekend’s concert performance at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

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30 Under 30 Artist Spotlight
10:00 am
Tue September 10, 2013

Talking Art, Race and Identity with Bethany Collins

'Unrelated,' Chalk and charcoal on chalkboard, Bethany Collins
Bethany Collins

Here's a conversation between WABE's John Lemley, visual artist Bethany Collins, and Arts ATL’s Stephanie Cash, who recently wrote about Bethany for the magazine's “30 Under 30” series.  They talked about Collins’s creative process and how she grapples with race and identity in her longest-running series, “White Noise.”

Collins is a visual artist whose work often reflects encounters she’s had regarding her biracial identity. This fall, she travels to New York for a residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

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