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).


Atlanta History
1:35 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

City Cafe on Cyclorama Move

Design concept for the new Cyclorama building. View of the Cyclorama addition from the corner of West Paces Ferry Road and Slaton Drive
Credit Atlanta History Center

You may have heard our story yesterday on little-known facts about Atlanta’s Cyclorama—the panoramic painting of the Battle of Atlanta on display in Grant Park. Here’s a fact which is becoming well-known as the news broke this morning: The Cyclorama will be leaving its home and moving to the Atlanta History Center. WABE’s Myke Johns joined us live with more on that story.

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12:20 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Eight Things You May Not Know About Atlanta's Cyclorama

Credit Katie King for Atlanta PlanIt

Update: On July 23, Mayor Kasim Reed announced that the Cyclorama of the Battle of Atlanta will be relocated from its current home in Grant Park to the Atlanta History Center, where it will be housed in a soon-to-be-built new facility. The move is expected to take two years. Learn more at the History Center's website.

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1:04 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

City Cafe on Dad's Garage's Plans for Move

Dad's Garage Theatre may be moving to this church on Ezzard Street in the Old Fourth Ward.
Credit Google Street View

Earlier in July, Dad’s Garage Theatre Company announced they were raising funds to move into a new space. Late last week, Lisa George from the WABE newsroom reported that  they are under contract for a new home. The almost 20-year-old improv theatre has its sights set on a church on Ezzard Street in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. City Café producer Myke Johns is following the story and joined host John Lemley for a conversation.

Find WABE's previous reporting on this story in the related links below.

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City Café
12:15 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Author Events: Clay Risen, Lori Rush and Laurel-Ann Dooley

Credit Bob AuBuchon/

Daren Wang of the AJC-Decatur Book Festival talked with City Cafe host John Lemley about the upcoming literary events happening around Atlanta. As Daren starts by pointing out, two of the authors coming to town this week take a close a look at Atlanta history, but come up with very different stories. 

Laurel-Ann Dooley at the Decatur Library with her book "Wicked Atlanta: The Sordid Side of Peach City History"

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12:21 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

New App Explores Battle of Atlanta Sites

The Battle of Atlanta app from Emory University's Center for Digital Scholarship
Credit Dave Barasoain/WABE


With the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta right around the corner, the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship has created a new online resource for residents and visitors looking to learn more about the Civil War fight that played out around the city.

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1:04 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Coming Soon: An Atlanta with Cooperating Transit?

MARTA's not the only game in town when it comes to Atlanta's transit puzzle. A new website attempts to piece it all together.
Credit WABE

 Just how realistic is the prospect of an Atlanta with cooperating transit?

Maybe a little more realistic now, with the advent of a new website. seeks to make getting around on metro Atlanta’s multiple transit systems easier, by serving as a one-stop hub for planning trips that span MARTA, Cobb Community Transit, and Gwinnett County Transit systems.

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12:08 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Local Performer Wins Best Actress At National High School Musical Awards

Photo Credit: Vii Tanner

A local high school student is getting national attention for her talents in singing and performing.

Late last month, 15-year-old Jai’len Josey of TriCities high school in East Point was named Best Actress at the 2014 National High School Musical Theater Awards. She won the chance to compete after being recognized for her performance as “Effie White” in her school's production of Dreamgirls.

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12:08 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Author Events: Amanda Lindhout, Jo Baker & More

Credit Bob AuBuchon /

  The AJC - Decatur Book Festival’s Daren Wang drops by to tell us about the week’s literary events, which include visits from journalist and philanthropist Amanda Lindhout and also author Jo Baker. 

Amanda Lindhout at the Atlanta History Center

Laura Lane McNeal Book Signing at A Cappella Books

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Faith & Politics
12:06 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Randall Balmer on Jimmy Carter's Evangelism

President Jimmy Carter

President Jimmy Carter was known to have struggled during his time in the White House, serving only one term as our 39th Commander-in-Chief. Author Randall Balmer writes that Carter "was catapulted to the nation’s highest office by an electorate weary of political corruption, and enamored, however briefly of Carter’s evangelical rectitude." Balmer is the author of Redeemer, which looks at Carter’s faith and how it played into his politics and affected his presidency.

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The Lighter Side of Sports
12:53 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Atlanta's Newest Soccer Star

The Atlanta Silverbacks, for one brief, shining moment in July 2011. John Lemley is in the front row, fifth from the left.

With the United States soccer team playing against Germany in the World Cup today, we thought it would be a good time to really think about what it takes to be a soccer player. 

But since we couldn’t visit with the US team, we did the next best thing. We called on the Atlanta Silverbacks.  This is actually an encore of a story we produced back in the summer of 2011. The day began at Silverbacks Stadium, where team director Rodrigo Rios told me what to expect. 

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12:55 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Serenbe Playhouse on the Shores of "Ten Mile Lake"

The dock on Serenbe Playhouse's "Ten Mile Lake"
Credit Dan Raby / WABE

Normally when we talk about theatrical productions, we fall back on phrases like “on-stage now…” Well, not quite so with this story. Serenbe Playhouse’s current show is a world premier called Ten Mile Lake and the entire show is set on a dock on a lake. So Serenbe Playhouse staged the show on a dock on a lake. We spoke with Serenbe’s Artistic Director Brian Clowdus and to the playwright Tira Palmquist about this confluence of theatre and reality.

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12:48 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

C.S. Lewis, Writer and "Friend:" Actor Tom Key on His 37-Year Role

Tom Key in "C.S. Lewis On Stage" at Theatrical Outfit
Credit Theatrical Outfit

This week, actor Tom Key takes the stage in a role that has long deeply absorbed him—even before he first performed it in 1977, at the age of 26.

The part is that of writer C.S. Lewis. Lewis is most widely known as the author of the classic children’s series The Chronicles of Narnia. But he also penned serious theological essays, poetry, and novels like The Screwtape Letters

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1:21 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

City Cafe on Decatur Book Festival 2014 Program Announcement

The AJC Decatur Book Festival staff unveils this year's poster at their launch party at Eddie's Attic, June 17, 2014
Credit Dan Raby / WABE

The AJC Decatur Book Festival is going into its ninth year this Labor Day Weekend, and on June 17, they officially announced their plans for 2014’s program. WABE’s Myke Johns was there for the announcements and joined host John Lemley for a look at this year's offerings.

Among their many offerings this year, including a reading track curated by author Pat Conroy and an art|DBF program including over fifty artists and organizations, the big news is the festival's keynote speaker.

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Art Around Town
12:40 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Building Regionalism Through...Photography?

A previous year's "My Atlanta" exhibit at Piedmont Park Community Center
Credit Atlanta Celebrates Photography

  For eleven years, the nonprofit group Atlanta Celebrates Photography has put on a festival that’s grown to be one of the largest in the United States.

For one exhibit, the group annually puts out the call both to amateurs and professionals to submit photographs representing their impressions of life in Atlanta. The “My Atlanta” exhibit has rarely been themed—but this year, they're doing something different.

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Peachtree Road Race
1:29 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

City Cafe on 2014's Peachtree Road Race

Credit Susan Mittleman

The Peachtree Road Race is one of the biggest Independence Day traditions in Atlanta, and this week, officials announced that this year’s race will be the men’s and women’s national 10K championship. WABE's Martha Dalton joined us to let us know how that will change how this year's race will be run.

Martha Dalton previously reported on this story Morning Edition, and you can find a link to that below.

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Art Around Town
12:52 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Program Aims to Save the Arts from Grants Balancing Act

When we think of awards that fund the arts, often we think of grants that pay for specific projects. But now, the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund has started a new program that takes a different approach.

The Arts Fund is a partnership between the Community Foundation and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Rather than funding individual initiatives, its new pilot Arts Capitalization aims to promote small and medium arts groups’ basic fiscal health—and they've announced their first recipient, The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center.

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Atlanta History
1:17 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

Jim Burress on Celestine Sibley

Celestine Sibley
Credit Courtesy: Atlanta Magazine

Celestine Sibley would’ve been 100 years old today. Some might not recognize the name, but for those who’ve lived in “Pre-Olympics” Atlanta, the name is unmistakable.

Sibley was a long-time reporter, editor, and columnist at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She was not just an Atlanta icon, but a Southern one.

WABE news reporter Jim Burress put together a short story to remember Sibley on her birthday and joined us in-studio to talk about her life and work.

You can find a link to Jim Burress' story below.

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Atlanta History
1:04 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

In its Final Days, Rich's Exhibit Tells Story of the City

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 an exhibit at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum open through next Tuesday, May 27th  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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City Café
1:37 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

The Voice Behind the Voice - A Conversation with Liz Helgesen

Voice over artist Liz Helgesen at work in her home studio
Credit Myke Johns / WABE

You may not know the name Liz Helgesen, but if you’ve been around Atlanta for very long, you almost certainly know her voice. Among her many credits in her career as a voice over artist, Helgesen is the voice of MARTA.

We paid a visit to Passion Fruit Voiceovers—Liz’s home studio—to talk to her about her work here in Atlanta and around the world.

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2:03 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

"Don't Push" - Sylvia McNair on Robert Shaw

Sylvia McNair
Credit All Saints' Episcopal Church

Sylvia McNair is a Grammy Award-winning singer who is just as comfortable in the opera and classical world as she is with Broadway and cabaret repertoire. Early in her career, she spent some time singing with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Robert Shaw. We recently spoke to McNair about her early years working with the maestro and how that has shaped her as a musician.

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Atlanta History
12:57 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Southeastern Plant Pioneers Highlighted in History Center Exhibit

The exhibit also features botanical drawings inspired by the Bartrams, like this 'Celosia argentea,' or Cockscomb.
Credit Carrie DiCostanzo

The next time you notice the flowering dogwood in your neighborhood, you might think of John and William Bartram. In the late 1700s, this father-and-son team journeyed across the wilds of the southeastern colonies, identifying, illustrating and writing about the native species they found here. William Bartram especially, went on to find great success with the publication of his book Bartram’s Travels.

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Georgia History
2:14 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Georgia History: W.E.B. DuBois and 'The Souls of Black Folk'

John Lemley and Dr. Tim Crimmins in front of Stone Hall, now Fountain Hall, on the campus of Morris Brown College
Credit Myke Johns / WABE

The 37 acre campus of Atlanta’s Morris Brown College sits largely vacant, awaiting sale.  And while the future of this nearly one hundred thirty-year-old institution is uncertain, we decided to look back at one aspect of its past. We talked to Dr. Tim Crimmins—Director of the Center for Neighborhood and Metropolitan Studies at Georgia State University. We met him at Morris Brown one windy day to talk about one of the school’s most famous teachers—W.E.B. DuBois.

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11:42 am
Wed April 30, 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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12:06 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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12:49 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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