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Lem Turner
WHO Iowa Barn Dance Frolic
WHO Des Moines, IA

About The Artist

Lem Turner was one of the mainstays for many years on the WHO Iowa Barn Dance Frolic, offering up his own brand of humor that you just don't hear anymore. Reading his book of jokes from those days, they're just plain, clean old-fashioned pun-filled parodies on everyday life.

But before we serve up a few samples of that humor, let's see what we can find out about him.

He was known as "Councilman-in-Charge-of-Opry-House-Doin's" and later "Clown Prince of Laughter". Since he was the comedian of the show, he got to do his act with many of the stars on the Iowa Barn Dance Frolic show. But the one he worked with most was a gal named Martha in the Sunset Corners, the fictional town the show took place in. Other acts he did his dialogs with included such folks as Bobby Clark, a ventriloquist, the Songfellows, even the announcers couldn't escape his fun like Jack Kerrigan, known as the "Singing Announcer" and Stan Widney, Joy Miller, a cute little 7-year old singer who could yodel, Mountain Pete, Ralph Peer, the World's Greatest Ocarina player, accordionist Glenn Burklund and Jerry Smith.

Later on we find that in 1953, he was hosting a disc jockey show over WHO out of Des Moines, getting letters from fans in such exoctic places as Alaska, Puerto Rico, Labrador, Panama, Hawaii and Canada, due to the clear-channel signal strength of the station. His show was on a bit early and called the "Country Music Record Show" and we're willing to bet that he didn't leave his humor behind on that show and maybe caused a few people to roll back over and go back to sleep after hearing a parody or two but eventually waking with a smile and probably telling the folks at work something like "Did you hear what that Lem Turner said this morning?"

How about some tidbits that Lem and Martha that got audiences a chuckle or two?

Martha: Say, Lem...
Lem: What is it, Martha?
Martha: What makes a balloon go up?
Lem: Why hot air, of course!
Martha: Land sakes! What's holdin' you down?
  (don't say we didn't tell you they could be a bit pun-ful...)
Lem: Dad blame it, Martha, you ought to be in Congress.
Martha: Congress? How come?
Lem: Cause you're so good at introducin' bills into the house.
Martha: Did you see that scarecrow my pappy made over in the south forty? I bet it scared away every crow on the place!
Lem: That's nothin'. I build one one time that scared the crows so bad they brought back all the corn they stole for the past three years!

How about some nursey rhymes that Lem would dish out?

My Bonny lies over the ocean
My Bonny lies over the sea
My Bonny says she's just sweet sixteen
My Bonny's still lyin' to me!
Martha had a little watch
She swallowed it, I'll swan
Now when she walks down the street
Time marches on!

Now let's take a look at what a comedian and a seven-year old yodeling gal do for humor on-stage.

Joy: Y'know, Lem. I listen to you on the radio all the time.
Lem: Well, thank you, Joy.
Joy: Yessir—an' so does my mommie! Why as soon as she hears your voice, she drops everyting—
Lem: Yes???
Joy: And runs out of the house!

And if you're not shaking your head and groaning yet, well, how about a snippet of a parody that he did once in a while with the great Ocarina player on the Iowa Barn Dance, Ralph Peer?

In the good old summer time
 In the good old summer time
I bought a rubber bathing suit
  for a swim I thought would be fine,
While on the beach I bent over too far
  and ripped that suit of mine
I had to have it culcanized,
  In the good old summer time.

In the good old summer time,
  In the good old summer time
I went and bought a brand new car,
  They told me it was mine.
But when I missed just one payment
  they hauled it back to the line
So now I'm on my feet again
  in the good old summer time!

Well, we haven't found that much about his career yet, but at least we found and could share a bit of his taste in country humor.

Credits & Sources

  • Lem Turner's Favorite Jokes and Parodies; Compliments of the McCormick-Deering Dealers and International Truck Dealers
  • Country Song Roundup; No. 23; April 1953; Charlton Publishing Co.; Derby, CT

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