Ted Lehmann: An Appreciation

I’m going do something I’ve never done before.

And I may never do it again.

At the end of this post, I’m going to ask that you click on a link that will take you to another site that writes a bit about bluegrass, to read a report by someone who writes a lot about bluegrass. (But you have to promise to come back to Bluegrass Today!)

I’m writing about my friend Ted Lehmann, who writes the Bluegrass Rambles column for No Depression’s website. The headline on this week’s column is “Long Journey Home.” In it, Ted notes that he and his wife Irene have just attended their last bluegrass festival as RVers, and that they’ll put their rig up for sale when they get back to their New England home in six weeks or so.

The column is not a farewell as much as it is an acknowledgement that time marches on, waiting for no one. Ted and Irene will be attending fewer festivals, and staying in motels. As Ted writes, “Night driving isn’t much a part of our lives these days, and the risk of falling is a reality. I guess that means we’re getting old.”

As I read Ted’s column, I kept thinking about another old song that, like Long Journey Home, reminds us that nothing lasts forever. It’s the Carter Family’s Give Me Roses While I Live.

So consider this little article a bouquet for Ted Lehmann. And consider it an invitation for all of you bluegrassers to track down the two of them and thank them for their contributions to the genre. His graceful column about winding down in the coming years gives us a precious gift: Time to offer appreciation instead of a eulogy. It’s a reminder that if you have something to say – to Ted and Irene, to a parent, a spouse, a child – say it now. As Ernie Thacker’s passing on Tuesday underscores, we don’t know how many more tomorrows we will have. So it behooves us not to wait.

No matter how many more festivals Ted and Irene attend, their legacy as bluegrass chroniclers and supporters is secure. (While Ted ran around festivals like someone much younger than his 70-something self, Irene was often found at the merch tables, selling CDs and hats while bands took a quick break between sets).

Ted didn’t often write anything negative. If he didn’t have anything good to say, he usually said nothing at all in print. But that made the rare occasions when he did gripe all the more meaningful. One instance that stands out to me was when he called out a well known band for mailing in a performance at a major festival. Ted took a fair amount of grief for that. But if someone who sees as many live performances as Ted did thought a performance was awful, I’m willing to bet that it was.

Ted has been a repeat nominee for IBMA’s print reporter of the year award. He has never won. That’s an oversight that should be corrected, and soon, while Ted can enjoy it.

Personally, I can’t wait to see Ted and Irene somewhere down the road to say face-to-face what I’m saying here. I’m sad to know that won’t be at IBMA’s World of Bluegrass this fall. They’ll be with family in Paris. But Ted is already looking forward to the 2019 conference.

And I look forward to reading his reviews on bluegrass and other topics.

Ted Lehmann loves bluegrass. He’s earned the right to slow down a bit, to enjoy the comforts of home with Irene and their family.

Here’s hoping there are many more chances to cross paths and enjoy his insights.

And now, I’m thinking of another song. It’s from Neil Young and it isn’t bluegrass. But the title perfectly captures my wish for this wonderful bluegrasser:

Long May You Run.

(Go here to read Ted’s column. Hurry back.)

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.