Garrison Keillor is the host and writer of A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer's Almanac heard on public radio stations across the country and the author of more than a dozen books, including Lake Wobegon Days, The Book of Guys, Love Me and Homegrown Democrat. He was born in Anoka, MN, in 1942 and graduated from the University of Minnesota. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and daughter. He has two grandsons. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Letters and the Episcopal church.
|Guy's All-Star Shoe Band|
The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band is led by A Prairie Home Companion music director Richard Dworsky, a regular since 1986. He has been a studio musician for 30 years and has worked with the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, Al Jarreau, Kristin Chenoweth, and the Hopeful Gospel Quartet, and has recorded on the Windham Hill label. His latest CD is So Near and Dear to Me (Prairie Home Productions, LLP). Pat Donohue (guitar) is a National Fingerpicking Guitar Champion and a gifted songwriter (which is why the likes of Chet Atkins, Suzy Bogguss, and Kenny Rogers have recorded his songs). His latest CD is Profile (Bluesky Records). Gary Raynor (bass) has performed with Sammy Davis Jr., the Count Basie band, and the Minnesota Klezmer Band. He teaches jazz bass at the McNally Smith College of Music. Arnie Kinsella (percussion), a PHC regular for 14 seasons, has performed with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, The Manhattan Rhythm Kings, and Leon Redbone. Violinist and saxophonist Andy Stein collaborated with Garrison Keillor to create the opera Mr. and Mrs. Olson. He has appeared on Saturday Night Live and Late Night with David Letterman, and has performed with artists such as Itzhak Perlman, Eric Clapton, Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles and Bob Dylan.
Once a freckled-faced, snaggled-toothed kid making sounds behind teachers backs, Fred grew up at the foot of storytellers in small town Georgia. He eventually grew up and ventured overseas, working for awhile as a street busker, blacksmith and then carpet salesman. He tried to go legit, graduating Harvard Business School and working with Newsweek magazine, and was first heard on A Prairie Home Companion as a guest in 1980. Fred is the touring SFX-guy for A Prairie Home, and can be seen daily on public television's reading show "Between the Lions."
When Erica Rhodes first appeared on A Prairie Home Companion, the young actress had to stand on a box in order to share a mic with the other performers. Since then, she has grown up, studied at Boston University's College of Fine Arts, and is currently enrolled at the Atlantic Theater Conservatory in New York. She toured with the children's theater company TheatreWorks/USA in a production of Ramona Quimby, and on television, she has appeared on Film Fakers (AMC). Recently, she and some acting colleagues started a theater group. It launched in February of 2006 with a series of one-act plays at The Next Stage in Manhattan's West Village. Plans for a full-length play are in the works.
Tim Russell uses his many voices for radio and television commercials. He's heard weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. as Entertainment Editor on 830 WCCO Radio. He's been voted "Best Radio Host" by Mpls/St. Paul Magazine, and "Outstanding Broadcast Personality" by the Minnesota Broadcasters Association. This is his 10th season as a regular on A Prairie Home Companion.
A Prairie Home Companion cast member Sue Scott's connection with Minnesota Public Radio started 16 years ago when she was cast to perform multiple character roles for various local and national MPR broadcasts. When Garrison Keillor returned to St. Paul with A Prairie Home Companion in 1992, Sue joined the cast and has been there ever since. Sue has also performed on celebrated theater stages throughout the Twin Cities and the Midwest and is a veteran voice-over talent who can be heard frequently on radio and TV.
|Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin|
Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin sing and play a skillful blend of bluegrass, folk, and old-time country music. Their core sound is a unique and compelling vocal duet, enhanced by guitar, mandolin, banjo, and sometimes fiddle. The San Francisco-based duo have made quite a lot of recordings -- two of which were finalists for a Grammy award. Their influence on professional and amateur music makers around the world has been wide and deep and the fact that they're married is pretty much the frosting on the cake. Utah Phillips said, "Kate and Jody's music is miraculous. If the great swirling mass of folk music has a solid, persistant, unwavering center, that's who Jody and Kate are." Pete Kyukendall of Bluegrass Unlimited commented, "Their music captures the essence and core of traditional music. Their bare-bones approach to this art form ranks them among the legends."
|The Kosher Red Hots|
The Kosher Red Hots with Laurie Andres open the rich treasury of Jewish musicwhirlwind klezmer dance music from Eastern Europe, Yiddish musical theater and swing, and Spanish flavored love songs of the Sephardim. Their music is authentic but never sounds like a museum piece. The band plays with an enthusiastic love for their work and plenty of musical know-how. Vocalist Sheila Fox has performed at Klezfest in St. Petersburg, Russia, and with Clare Barry of the Barry Sisters at the Queens Yiddish Theater Festival in New York. Bassist and guitarist, Eugene Jablonsky, has played with jazz pianist Marian McPartland, Gunther Schuller's New England Ragtime Ensemble, and swing violin legend Johnny Gimble. Clarinetist Liz Dreisbach and accordionist Laurie Andres have crisscrossed the United States playing scores of dance halls with stops at the Hong Kong Folk Festival (Liz) and the Carrefour Mondial de l'Accordéon in Montmagny, Quebec (Laurie). Together, the Kosher Red Hots have appeared all the heck over at places like the Vancouver Folk Festival, Seattle's Bumbershoot Arts Festival, bistros, concert halls, nightclubs, and dinner theaters throughout the Pacific Northwest. This music is provocative and fun, and really quite contemporary while reaching back to its Eastern European and Mediterranean ancestries.
|Carol Elizabeth Jones|
Carol Elizabeth Jones is from Kentucky and now lives in the mountains of Western Virginia. She spent most of her life singing harmony and was delighted to make her first appearance with the Hopeful Gospel Quartet in November of 2005. Carol Elizabeth writes songs, plays guitar, and has many albums to her credit including two with Jones and Leva on the Rounder Label and most recently, two albums of country and bluegrass duets with Laurel Bliss. Rounder Records has featured Carol Elizabeth on several anthologies including the bestselling "O Sister Women In Bluegrass" collection. She has made music tours to Africa and Southeast Asia for the U.S. Information Agency and has performed and taught at festivals throughout North America. And according to Dave Higgs of Bluegrass Breakdown, "…Carol Elizabeth has one of the most haunting and honest voices in acoustic music."
Dan Newton (Daddy Squeeze) has been a full-time performing musician since 1980. He spends most of his time playing accordion with his group, Café Accordion Orchestra, performing French, American and Latin American music. He has been a regular guest on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. He also performs in a trio with guitarist Pat Donohue and bassist Gary Raynor. Dan leads a number of bands including: Jumbo Ya Ya (Cajun and Zydeco music), Rockin' Pinecones (Louisiana rhythm and blues), and Art Carnage (jug band music). He currently resides in St.Paul with his partner/manager Elizabeth, and son Walker.
The youngest of the Steele siblings, Billy, is consistently traveling with the Grammy Award winning Sounds of Blackness who has several CDs to their credit. Billy is currently serving as Assistant Director of the Sounds of Blackness and continues to write and produce for various recording artists including the family group, The Steeles. His voice has been featured on soundtracks with artists such as Rod Stewart, Luther Vandross and many more. Most recently, his work can be heard on the Disney soundtrack for Legends, the John Henry Story, narrated by James Earl Jones.
A native of Indiana, Jearlyn Steele first sang with her siblings (as The Steele Children) in churches, concert halls and on radio and television. After Jearlyn left home to attend the University of Minnesota, one by one the rest of the Steele kids followed, and they started singing together again as The Steeles. Now music is the family business. Fans still remember their participation in The Gospel at Colonus at the Guthrie Theater and on Broadway. Jearlyn has voiced many local and national commercials, and she has recorded with top acts including George Clinton and Prince. Her most recent CD is titled Steele Praising Him. Jearlyn Steele hosts Steele Talkin', a Sunday-night radio show that originates on WCCO in Minneapolis and is heard in some 30 states nationwide.
For 12 years of his four-decade career, Butch Thompson was the house pianist on A Prairie Home Companion, beginning with the show's second broadcast in July 1974. As a soloist, he has earned a worldwide reputation as a master of ragtime, stride and classic jazz piano. Described by Jazz Journal International as "the premier player in traditional jazz today," Thompson also performs with his well-known trio, his eight-piece New Orleans Jazz Originals, and with symphony orchestras -- including the Hartford Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Cairo (Egypt) Symphony. Thompson's first recording, Butch Thompson Plays Jelly Roll Morton Piano Solos, has been re-issued as a Biograph CD. His latest recordings include 'Tain't Nobody's Business (Jazzology Records), featuring Butch on piano, Duke Heitger on trumpet, and Jimmy Mazzy on banjo and vocals; and At First Light (Turnagain Music), in which Butch teams up with the Miami Philharmonic and conductor Gordon Wright for a program of originals by Wright.
|Robin and Linda Williams|
Robin and Linda first appeared on our show in 1975, the year they recorded their first album for Flashlight Records, a Minneapolis label. Now, following a 15-year association with Sugar Hill Records, they have come full circle and are on the roster of Red House records, another Twin Cities Label. Their latest CD, titled Deeper Waters, has received enthusiastic reviews, like their albums do. Linda is from Anniston, Alabama and Robin was born in Charlotte, North Carolina; they've made their home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia for many years—in a fine elderly farmhouse with a driveway that can hold a semi. But they spend so much time on the road every year that we see them about as often as we would if they lived in South St. Paul. Which we think is a very good thing.
Conductor Gordon Wright is recognized as one Alaska's best-known musicians, having served as music director of the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra from 1969-1989 and as director of the award-winning Arctic Chamber Orchestra, which he founded in 1970. His international career includes concerts in places like Germany, Switzerland,
England, Norway, and the People's Republic of China and appearances as guest conductor of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and the Philomusica of London, along with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, which Mr.Wright founded in 1969.
Mr. Wright was born in New York City and earned degrees from the College of Wooster and the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He studied further at the Collegium Musicum in Berlin and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, and is now professor emeritus at the University of Alaska, where he taught from 1969-1989. Mr. Wright lives on a mountainside in Indian, Alaska, and is a dedicated outdoorsman. He has explored much of Alaska from the Southeast Panhandle to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Aleutian Islands. He has backpacked remote Alaska, floated the wild rivers, kayaked in Glacier Bay, bicycled the Alaskan highway system and camped with the grizzlies on Admiralty Island.
|The Redd Volkaert Band with Cindy Cashdollar|
From the Lone Star State and based in Austin, The Redd Volkaert Band plays its own Texas brand of honky tonk, swing, retro-billy, and guitar-fueled dance music.
The band consists of:
Redd Volkaert (guitar), Merle Haggard's lead guitar man for six years. Redd's long list of credits includes work with Roy Orbison, as well as Brad Paisley-with whom he was nominated for a Grammy in 2004 for "Best Country Instrumental Of The Year."
Cindy Cashdollar (steel guitar and Dobro) was for eight years a member of the western swing group Asleep At The Wheel. Since her departure in 2001, she has worked with a variety of acts, including alt-rocker Ryan Adams, the Cajun group BeauSoleil, and currently with Van Morrison on his 2006 USA tour dates. Cindy can also be heard on Bob Dylan's Grammy winning "Time Out Of Mind" CD.
Nate Rowe (bass) and Chris Gilson (drums) are Austin's premiere roots rhythm section, providing beats a person can't help but dance to.
|Rob MacDonald, naturalist|
Rob MacDonald is a Wildlife Biologist/Pilot for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Togiak National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Alaska. He has been a biologist in Alaska since 1988 and has studied resident and anadromous fish species, birds, and marine mammals. Rob is a sought-after speaker and regularly gives presentations on a variety of wildlife-related topics. Rob produces Bristol Bay Field Notes, a weekly radio show highlighting the natural history of the Bristol Bay area. He organizes public bird counts and has written numerous articles and technical reports documenting avian and mammalian biology. Rob is an avid outdoor enthusiast with great respect and appreciation for the natural world. He has traveled extensively throughout Alaska and enjoys viewing wildlife, flying, and coaching his daughter's hockey team. Rob holds an Associate's Degree in Ecology and Environmental Technology, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Wildlife Biology, and is a Commercial Pilot with Instrument and Single Engine Sea Ratings.
|Natalie Springuel and Rich MacDonald, naturalists|
Natalie combines her passion for the marine environment and coastal heritage with a love for teaching and adventure to help people discover the natural world. Natalie's love for Alaska came to life when, as an 18-year-old, she spent four weeks in the Inside Passage studying bald eagles and marine mammals by kayak. She currently works for the Maine Sea Grant College Program, where she creates and delivers programs on the ecology and culture of marine environments, sustainable nature-based tourism, and working waterfront issues. Natalie is a Master Maine Guide for Sea Kayaking and Recreation, and has led thousands of visitors (many of them cruise passengers) on land and sea-based adventures. She is an avid expedition sea kayaker, having paddled a month in Southeast Alaska in 1989, 850 miles around Nova Scotia in 1996, and 1500 miles around the Gulf of Maine in 2002 with fellow naturalist and husband Rich MacDonald. A long-time resident of Bar Harbor, Maine, Natalie holds a MS in environmental communications and a BA in human ecology.
Rich shares a passion for adventure, natural sciences, and outdoor education with his wife Natalie. Whether exploring rocky northern coasts by sea kayak or telemark skiing the steep slopes of montane forests, Rich spends as much time in the great outdoors as possible. And wherever he is, you can be sure he can list a dozen species of birds he has heard in the previous 15 minutes. Discovering birds at age of 10, his ornithological pursuits have taken him from New York's Adirondack Mountains to the Dominican Republic. During the summer of 2002, along with Natalie, he spent five months kayaking the shores of the Gulf of Maine, where he paddled 1.5 million strokes and tallied 199 species of birds along the way (Natalie claims he did not talk the last week as he vainly looked for number 200). Rich has also studied the effects of acid rain on high elevation forests and has worked on the science staff of The Nature Conservancy. Since 1989, he has been an outdoor educator, serving as a sea kayak and canoe instructor and leading natural history field trips ... with an emphasis on birds, of course. He is currently pursuing a Master's in Philosophy at College of the Atlantic.
|Michelle Kissling, naturalist|
Michelle Kissling is a Wildlife Biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Juneau, Alaska. In 1994, armed with a B.S. in Marine Biology from Pennsylvania State University, she fulfilled a lifelong dream of moving to Alaska. During the early years, Michelle spent her summers working for the Alaska Raptor Management Program, locating bald eagle nests, surveying for peregrine falcons, and monitoring seabirds at sea and, in the process, visited nearly 90% of the coastline and all communities of southeast Alaska. Michelle received a M.S. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Idaho in 2003. In recent years, she launched several bird research projects in southeast Alaska. She initiated abundance and productivity surveys for Kittlitz's murrelets along the Outer Coast of southeast Alaska and in Icy Bay, approximately 90 miles north of the community of Yakutat. Michelle also began (in conjunction with Steve Lewis) a citizen-based nocturnal owl-monitoring program in 2004. She has been working near Petersburg, Mitkof Island, radio-tracking western screech owls and northern saw-whet owls to quantify nesting and foraging requirements. An avid traveler, Michelle spends her free time searching for rare birds in unlikely places around the world, though her affection for the people and landscapes of southeast Alaska will likely keep her calling this fascinating place home for many years to come.
|Steve Lewis, naturalist|
Steve began watching birds in his backyard west of Philadelphia in the early 1980's. After graduating from the Pennsylvania State University in 1992, he moved west to the northern Rockies and over the next four years spent time in Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming studying various wildlife, like wolves, northern goshawks, songbirds, and owls. Fieldwork associated with a Master's of Science brought him to southeast Alaska in 1998 to study the breeding season diet of Queen Charlotte goshawks. Steve completed his graduate work in 2002 and began working with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Wildlife Conservation, as a Research Wildlife Biologist. Steve's current research projects involve brown bears, goshawk ecology, and forest owls. The bear work involves capturing bears to attach GPS collars that provide detailed information on bear locations throughout the year. He's also working on refining techniques to generate bear population estimates using non-invasive techniques (i.e., those that do not require capture of the bear). The owl work (in conjunction with Michelle Kissling) is attempting to learn about the abundance and distribution of owls in the forests of Southeast Alaska. When not at work in the wilds, Steve enjoys photography, fly-fishing, and bird watching.
|Holly Harden, Writer|
Holly Harden began writing at age 10 in the back seat of her grandmother's car on the back of an A&W root beer stand receipt and has been writing ever since. She grew up in Fall Creek, Wisconsin, where the school mascot was a cricket and she spent summer afternoons jumping off the railroad bridge into the pond. At St. Olaf she majored in English and Education and met Scott Westphal, who would one day make her a pastor's wife. Then came three babies, a stretch of years teaching English, more than 15 moves, three congregations, a Master's in Writing from Hamline, and a veritable plethora of cream corn casseroles. Her work has appeared in Utne and Fourth Genre, and Holly now finds herself working happily as a freelance writer for A Prairie Home Companion, teaching writing classes, leading Bible study on Sundays, and planning road trips she may never take. When she tucks her children into bed at night, she often whispers to them the words of her Great Aunt Wanda Frankowski, "You can't be a beacon if your light don't shine."
Born and raised in Northfield MN, John Saucke worked long hours on the family farm. After marrying Debra Beck, John decided he wanted more than corn and soybeans on his resume and moved to the Twin Cities where he now happily sells furniture at the once Daytons/ now Marshall Field's/ soon to be Macy's Warehouse. Whenever John moves a table or loads a sofa, he's reminded furniture is a lot easier to handle than livestock.
John is a piper in the MN Police Pipes and Drums Band. As no one in the family had ever before shown an interest in bagpipes, John's parents no doubt worried a bit over why their son might want to wear a skirt and play such an alien instrument. John's favorite explanation is that he plays the pipes as a penitence for his Danish ancestors.
Being in a pipe band exposes one to single malt Scotch, for which John is an enthusiast. In 2000 he began annual visits to Scotland usually to partake in the Islay Malt and Music Festival and has since toured 36 distilleries. Scotch tastings have become a favorite venue for John to share his enthusiasm. "It is a thrill to meet someone who doesn't like Scotch and introduce them to a single malt they rather enjoy. I don't expect everyone to like all single malts, but I like to believe there's a single malt somewhere out there for everyone. Helping one look for one's single malt is great fun."
|Michael Trask, Tai Chi instructor|
Michael Trask has "played" Tai Chi for 11 years and is returning this year as our on-board Tai Chi Instructor. He has been well-received as Tai Chi Chuan instructor in the Creative Activities Program at The Ohio State University and the McConnell Heart Health Center, and has taught Tai Chi Principles to both people of age and to Parkinson's Disease sufferers. In 1998 he earned First Place trophies in Push Hand Championships in Indianapolis and Cleveland.
The basis of Michael's study is intensive course work with Sifu Nathan Menaged at his Chinese Martial Arts Institute in Columbus, Ohio, in the style of William C. C. Chen's "60 Movements." Many hours of study were taken with Sifu Nathan's teachersGrandmaster Tao Ping-Siang of Wu Liu Shan Yin, Chi Yang, China, and with Grandmaster William C.C. Chen of Chekiang, China. All of this work is in the tradition of Great-Grandmaster Cheng Man-Ching. Workshops with Professor Cheng's daughters and with Grandmaster Ben Lo, another Professor Cheng student, filled up Michael's free time on weekends. Michael holds a BS in English Education from The Ohio State University, which makes him, yes, an English Major.
|Scott Westphal, Lutheran Pastor|
Born and raised in NE Minneapolis, Scott Westphal grew up a city boy and rode away on his motorcycle to St. Olaf College to study political science. Seven years later he graduated from Luther Seminary in St. Paul and became an ordained Lutheran pastor. This is his twelfth year of being a pastor in a small Minnesota town and he likes it. Predictably, he works an hour a week and spends the rest of his time biking, reading, and watching cheap reality TV. He is married to Holly Harden, who joins their three children Hayley, Graham, and Olivia in the front pew, right side, every Sunday.