A Prairie Home Companion began as a morning show that ran from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. on Minnesota Public Radio.
In 2014, Garrison and Prairie Home Companion celebrated 40 years with a huge party on the campus of Macalaster College. It was so much fun to have "front row" seats on the lawn for this 2-day celebration.
Garrison recently announced his imminent retirement from the show however PHC will continue with a new host.
“Minnesota is a state of public-spirited and polite
people, where you can get a good cappuccino and eat Thai food and find any book
you want and yet live on a quiet tree-lined street with a backyard and send
your kids to public school. When a state this good hits the jackpot, it can
only be an inspiration to everybody.” ~ Garrison Keillor
The original Prairie Home Companion radio program bears little resemblance to the current Saturday evening show.
Garrison Keillor's interest in doing a radio variety show was sparked while he was doing research for an article about the Grand Ole Opry.
The first live broadcast took place on July 6, 1974 in the Janet Wallace Auditorium of Macalester College in St. Paul. Twelve people showed up, mostly children.
The second show featured the first performance on PHC by Butch Thompson, who became house pianist. Thompson stayed with the program until 1986, and still frequently performs on the show. If you are coming for the show, here are hotel deals in the Twin Cities:
In 1978, the show moved to the World Theater in St. Paul, which was renovated in 1986 and renamed the Fitzgerald Theater in 1994.
A Prairie Home Companion is "sponsored" by a number of fictitious products. The most well know of these imaginary products are "Powdermilk Biscuits" which was also the name of the show's original house band.
Music is a strong feature of the program; the show is a significant outlet for American folk music of many genres, especially country, bluegrass, blues and gospel, but the show also has guest performers from a wide variety of other styles of music including classical and opera and from a number of different countries.
It was so much fun to attend the Prairie Home Companion 40th Anniversary weekend on the grounds of Macalaster College where the first show was performed.
We enjoyed three days of wonderful music, food and fun. A highlight of the weekend was the community singalong on Sunday afternoon.
A special moment was getting to sing along with Garrison Keillor through all verses of Amazing Grace.
One of the show's best known features is Keillor's News from Lake Wobegon, a weekly story-telling monologue, claiming to be a report from Keillor's fictitious hometown of Lake Wobegon, "the little town that time forgot and the decades cannot improve ... where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."
The opening words of the monologue: "Well, it's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, my hometown, out on the edge of the prairie." Keillor often pokes fun at the large Scandinavian-American community in the northern parts of the Midwest, with Minnesota being a primary example, and so many of his fictional characters have names that reflect this.
PHC has long been one of the most popular attractions on Minnesota's arts and culture scene.You can relive much of the show's history, and read the writings of Garrison Keillor, as you peruse a large library of Prairie Home Companion DVDs, books and movies.
Many of the PHC shows originate from St. Paul, however the show often travels to other cities around the U.S. and overseas. Venues include The Town Hall in New York City, Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts, Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia, Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, and the State Theater in Minneapolis. There is also a show each year at the Minnesota State Fair.
The Prairie Home Companion movie began filming on June 6, 2005 and was released on June 9, 2006. The film is a fictional representation of behind-the-scenes activities on a long-running radio show that has unexpectedly been cancelled. The film does not follow the exact format of the radio show and, notably, excludes any reference to Lake Wobegon.
This fictional film about the real radio show was written by, and starred Garrison Keillor. It also stars Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly, Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan, Lily Tomlin, Maya Rudolph, Woody Harrelson, Virginia Madsen, Tommy Lee Jones, and L.Q. Jones.
Robert Altman directed the film...the last film he directed before his death.
A Prairie Home Companion is distributed by Minnesota Public Radio to more than 500 public radio stations in the United States as well as other outlets. Approximately 3.9 million U.S. listeners tune in each week as well as many listeners from outlets around the world.