On-Air Highlights

Prairie Home kicks off 40th Anniversary

Written by Fred Vigeant, Director of Programming and Promotions for TV and Radio | Jul 1, 2014 3:38 PM
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A Prairie Home Companion's Garrison Keillor

If you showed up on July 6, 1974 at the Janet Wallace Auditorium at Macalester College in Saint Paul to attend the very first broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion, you were in select company. There were about 12 people in the audience. Forty years later the show will return to the Macalester campus for an anniversary celebration with three days of music, comedy, food, and festivities July 4-6th. The show expects a slightly larger attendance than that first performance. In fact thousands of fans will make their way to Macalester for the festivities.

“We intended the show to last for a year, or maybe two, but just as we were about to quit, the show started to draw an audience, fifty, a hundred, two hundred people coming to see it on Saturday night, and we kept going so we could figure out what we were doing right. The formula is simple: a variety of music that appeals, radio actors who can do noir, or horror, or soap, strong writing, a Midwestern ethos, and the thrill of live radio. And a support staff to do the work. It isn’t what I planned to be doing for forty years but luckily for me my plans went awry. It’s a good show. People have grown up listening to it and now they are middle-aged and still like it.” – Garrison Keillor

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Garrison Keillor sings with the Powdermilk Biscuit Band—Mary DuShane, Bob Douglas and Adam Granger—in the mid-‘70s

Special guests coming together to play on various stages, including the 3-hour extended Anniversary Broadcast, are friends who have appeared on the show over the last four decades -- some from the very first show. A partial list includes Old Crow Medicine Show, Iris DeMent, Robin & Linda Williams, The Wailin’ Jennys, Butch Thompson, Jearlyn & Jevetta Steele, and members from the original Powdermilk Biscuit Band, along with Richard Dworsky and the Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band and the Royal Academy of Radio Actors – Sue Scott, Tim Russell and sound effects man, Fred Newman.

Hear the three hour broadcast special Saturday evening July 5 beginning at 6:00pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3.   Please note the normal two hour broadcast will air on Sunday at noon. 

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