Timothy Kehr was an entrepreneur in every sense of the word, parlaying his business acumen and creativity into careers as a record producer, advertising agency founder and host of a popular overnight movies program on Twin Cities television.
Kehr died of melanoma Sept. 10. He was 67.
Kehr was still a student at Roseville High School in the 1960s when he began booking gigs for many of the Twin Cities top teen bands. He became an expert in Minnesota music and went on to produce scores of albums, including the Castaways “Liar Liar,” which landed at No. 12 on the Billboard charts, and “Nowhere to Run” by the popular Stillwater garage band the More-Tishans.
From the late 1960 to the early 1980s, he worked at Columbia and Epic Records, Motown, 20th Century Records and Polydor. He was named Executive of the Year by Billboard magazine for seven straight years and was given numerous gold records for contributing to the success of hundreds of hit songs and artists. For two years, he wrote a column called “Musically Yours” for TV Digest.
“He was brilliant, a true entrepreneur who dabbled in everything,” said friend J. Marie Fieger, who runs Nemer Fieger Advertising in St. Louis Park. “He built quite a group of fans over the years.”
Kehr developed his passion for movies as a child, often spending Saturdays at the theater watching a triple feature, said his wife, Nancy Stewart Kehr, of Edina. In the late 1970s, when Twin Cities TV stations signed off at midnight, Kehr bought the midnight to 5 a.m. slot on KSTP-TV and hosted all-night movie parties on the air. For 10 years, he hosted “Late Night Movies With Timothy D. Kehr” on Channels 5, 9 and 11.
“For him to step in and buy that time, I’m sure the TV guys thought he was nuts,” said longtime friend Tom Garry. “That was the way he was wired.”
Kehr financed some of his endeavors with money he earned from popcorn stands he ran for years at the Minnesota State Fair. Once he used his music connections to get country music giant Kenny Rogers to help hawk snacks.
For 38 years, Kehr ran Timothy D. Kehr Advertising. He wrote the scripts and produced most of the commercials that he appeared in on local TV stations, including chicken commercials for the Chef Cafe on Franklin and Chicago avenues in Minneapolis. His voice was also heard on radio advertisements for Midway Ford, Belzer Chevrolet and several shopping centers, his wife said.
“He had his fingers in everything,” she said. “He was a mastermind in so many ways.”
Kehr had a wide circle of friends that included music celebrities Wayne Newton, Bing Crosby, Andy Williams and Buddy Holly. But he was a humble and soft-spoken man who dressed in polo shirts and bluejeans and was quick to lend a helping hand, those who knew him said.
“For those friends who got to know him, you found a friend who would be there through thick and thin,” Garry said.
Kehr grew up in St. Paul and attended St. Rosa of Lima Catholic grade school. He graduated with three majors from the University of Minnesota, even though he attended classes for only two years, his wife said.
In recent years, Kehr was inducted into the Minnesota Rock and Country Hall of Fame and rock and roll halls of fame in North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa. He also had been a voting member for the Grammy Awards since 1997.
Services are at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, 5701 Eden Av., Edina. Visitation is one hour before services at the church.