Decades Cannot Improve…
Take a trip through A Prairie Home Companion‘s 40 years for a look at a few of the major and not-so-major milestones, backstage stories, and “firsts” from the show’s history.
Have a favorite memory of the show? Send it our way and we’ll add it to the timeline!
• March 15: Onward and Upward
• July 6: Our Very First Broadcast!
After three test shows at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis earlier in the year, the very first live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion hits the airwaves from the Janet Wallace Auditorium at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Admission was $1 (50 cents for kids) and guests included Vern Sutton, Philip Brunelle, Bill Hinkley and Judy Larson, broadcaster Bob DeHaven, accordionist Ernie Garven, and the Brescian String Quartet.
• July 20: Butch Thompson
Our second live broadcast, also from Macalester College, featured the first visit from pianist and clarinetist Butch Thompson.
• September 14: Peter Ostroushko
Peter Ostroushko appears on the show for the first time, at the Janet Wallace Auditorium at Macalester College
• February 22: Live from the Road
The first live broadcast outside the Twin Cities, from St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN
• May 6: The Powdermilk Biscuit Band
The first appearance of the Powdermilk Biscuit Band’s original lineup: Bob Douglas, Adam Granger, and Mary DuShane
• October 4: Robin & Linda Williams
Robin and Linda Williams appear on the show for the first time
• November 17: North to Dakota
APHC’s first non-Minnesota show, recorded for broadcast in Fargo, North Dakota
• May 21: Introducing Lake Wobegon
The first time Garrison said “It’s been a quiet week out in Lake Wobegon this last week…”
• March 4: Welcome to The World
APHC’s first show at the World Theater
• February 17: Coast to Coast
APHC’s first national live broadcast, from Northrop Auditorium in Minneapolis as part of NPR’s "Folk Festival USA" series
• April 29: Women, Children and Men First
The first time Garrison used this familiar line to close a monologue: “Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”
• August 4: Land of 10,000
A live broadcast from Minneapolis’ Lake Harriet Bandshell draws over 10,000 people
• February 2: Live at 5
Having bounced between 4:30 p.m., 5:00; 5:30; then 5:00 and then 5:30 again, then 7:00, 5:30, 6:30, and 6:00, the APHC broadcast time settles at 5:00 p.m.
• May 31: Greg Brown
Greg Brown appears on the show for the first time, at the St. Paul-Ramsey Arts and Sciences Center
• October 11: Distinguished Achievement
APHC broadcasts from the Iowa State University Auditorium in Ames, Iowa — a show that would later win a Peabody Award
• November 3: Rich Dworsky
Rich Dworsky appears on the show for the first time
• December 20: Fred Newman
Fred Newman appears on the show for the first time, a few months after the release of his book MouthSounds
• May 15: Chet Atkins
Chet Atkins appears on the show for the first time, at the World Theater
• November 20: Doc Watson
Doc Watson appears on the show for the first time, at the World Theater
• May 13: New York, New York
APHC’s first show in New York, at The Town Hall
• July 7: 10 Years
APHC celebrates its 10th Anniversary with a live broadcast and holds its first Street Dance on the state capitol lawn in Saint Paul
• November 4: Let’s Hear it for Lake Wobegon!
“Keillor clearly has touched people with something more than a deft comedian’s cleverness. Maybe they are transplanted Midwesterners, hoping sentimentally that the small towns are still there. Maybe they think that even if the nation is curling up and turning brown at the edges, the great Heartland still endures and is strong. Whatever the case, to be a Midwesterner, or to know someone who is, suddenly is almost fashionable.” Read the full article at Time’s website →
Thank you to Time for providing access to this article as part of our 40th anniversary celebration.
• March 22: Pat Donohue
Pat Donohue appears on the show for the first time. He plays “Beetle Bomb Boogie” and (with Pop Wagner) “Knockin’ Down Windows and Tearin’ Down Doors”
• April 26: In Living Color
APHC’s first TV special (recorded for broadcast an hour after the live show finished) celebrates the grand re-opening of The World Theater
• August 30: A Night at the Fair
APHC’s first show at the Minnesota State Fair
• February 14: Straight to Video
The first of 18 edited, time-delayed shows airs on The Disney Channel, leading up to the "final" show on June 13
• May 16: The Everly Brothers
The Everly Brothers join the show for the first time, at the World Theater
• June 13: So Long, Farewell
APHC’s farewell show from The World Theater
• November 25: Trying Something New
After a two-year hiatus, the show moves to New York and acquires a new (temporary) name: American Radio Company of the Air.
• May 31: Joan Schauer, Houston, TX
Heard Garrison describe Memorial Day in Lake Wobegon — it was exactly the same as in New London, WI. Garrison nails it every time.
• October 10: Sue Scott
Sue Scott appears on the show for the first time, at the World Theater in Saint Paul
• October 16: The Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band
The first appearance of The Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band
• February 5: James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones appears as a guest on the show
• May 13: Home at the Fitz
The World Theater changes its name to the Fitzgerald Theater.
• May 28: Tim Russell
Tim Russell appears on the show for the first time, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert hall in Portland, Oregon
• October 1: Ready for a Brand-New Beat
The first street dance after the show returns to Saint Paul
• July 19: Going Digital
APHC’s first website goes live, as part of Minnesota Public Radio’s online presence
• October 14: Jo Zider
I was working on the floors of my new studio, and listening to the radio. I laughed until I almost rolled on the floor listening to your spoof of "The Nutcracker."
• October 28: Let’s Chat
Garrison hosts a live chat (via email) from backstage at The Fitzgerald Theater, with additional chats held the following winter and spring
• February 24: Crossing the Border
APHC’s first non-United-States show, at the Queen Elizabeth Theater in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
• October 5: Casting About
APHC’s first "web cast" (featuring regularly updated photos from cameras around the venue) goes live from The Fitzgerald Theater
• October 5: Live Online
For the first time, live broadcast audio is available on the APHC website
• April 19: Gillian Welch
Gillian Welch visits the show for the first time, at the Fitzgerald Theater
• April 17: T-TUTT
The overwhelming response to APHC’s first live online vote (for the fourth annual Talent from Towns Under 2000 contest) crashes the web servers
• May 13: Randy Newman and Nickel Creek
Both Randy Newman and Nickel Creek appear on the show for the first time, from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California
• April 27: Kristin Chenoweth
Kristin Chenoweth makes her first appearance on the show, at The Town Hall in New York City
• February 15: Old Crow Medicine Show
Old Crow Medicine Show visit APHC for the first time, at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee
• August 20: All Aboard
APHC’s first cruise departs from Boston, returing seven days later after a stops in New England and the Canadian Maritimes. Eight more cruises follow over the years.
• April 8: Brad Paisley
Brad Paisley makes his first appearance on the show, at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis
• June 9: On the Silver Screen
• June 9: Martin Sheen
Martin Sheen makes his first appearance as a guest on the show, at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, California
• February 4: Live in HD!
APHC’s first Cinecast, broadcast to some 500 theaters across North America — another follwed on October 21.
• January 15: Hey, Let’s Give the Kid a Chance
For the first time since anyone can remember, GK takes a break from his weekly radio duty and Sara Watkins fills in as guest host
• June 8: Lily Tomlin
Lily Tomlin appears on the show at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, California
• July 4: Diane and Chris
We enjoyed an amazing 4 hours of great music and entertainment celebrating 40 years of A Prairie Home Companion! We will treasure the lovely evening spent on the Great Lawn of Macalester College for the rest of our lives. Thank You!
• July 5: Back Where it All Began
APHC celebrates 40 years of radio with a special 3-hour live broadcast from Macalester College in Saint Paul