July 6, 1974, was the first
live broadcast, from the Janet Wallace Auditorium at Macalester College,
St. Paul, 4:30 PM. Sutton, Brunelle, Hinkley and Larson, Bob DeHaven,
a longtime familiar radio voice of the upper Midwest from WCCO radio,
accordionist Ernie Garven, and the Brescian String Quartet performed before
an audience of twelve in a 400-seat hall. Margaret Moos sold tickets ($1,
fifty cents for children).
The year 1974 saw the first appearances
of Butch Thompson, the Hall Brothers jazz Band, Peter Ostroushko (as a teenager),
and Charlie Maguire, singer-songwriter. In October the show moved to Variety Hall
Theater, 82 seats in Park Square Court across the hall from KSJN, where the newsroom
served as the backstage. October also saw the first road trip, to Fargo, ND, and
to Moorhead, MN, with Hinkley and Larson, Dakota Dave Hull, and poet Mark Vinz.
Vern Sutton, and Sean Blackburn played often this year.
First live broadcast road show, from St. John's University, Collegeville MN. The
National Endowment for the Arts began to support PHC, which moved to St. Paul-Ramsey
Arts & Science Center auditorium, 220 seats. To celebrate the move, they opened
a bottle of champagne. The
radio audience heard the cork pop, and seconds later, when that cork hit a six-year-old
kid in the head, a cry of pain. The kid, Ben Ellingson, didn't hold a grudge,
though, for he returned to the PHC's 20th anniversary show, where he was introduced
to the audience.
This year saw the first appearance
of Robin and Linda Williams. The December 20 show featured classical guitarist
Jeffrey Van plus Thelma Bucimer and the Minnesota Gospel Twins.
PHC broadcast from all over St. Paul and Minneapolis: the St. Paul-Ramsey Arts
& Science Center Sculpture Garden, Nicollet Island, the roof of the Walker Art
Center, Lake Harriet, and the College of Art and Design. Steve Gammel, Becky Riemer
Thompson, Janis Hardy, and Philip Brunelle performed often. This year saw the
first and second Mouth-Offs.
did a benefit for and with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra with William McGlaughlin
conducting his arrangement of the "Help Me Rhonda" Suite. Summer outdoor broadcasts
came from the St. Paul-Ramsey Arts & Science Center Sculpture Garden, continuing
through the summer of 1982. Vem Sutton, Philip Brunelle, Dakota Dave Hull, and
Sean Blackburn appeared frequently. The show came in September from the Guthrie
Theater, Minneapolis, with the Red Clay Ramblers and in November it moved to St.Thomas
College, St. Paul, a 600 seat auditorium.
collaboration with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, including the PHC-comrnissioned
"Weaver's Song and Jig" by Libby Larsen for the Powdermilk Biscuit Band and Orchestra.
In March, PHC moved to the World Theater on Exchange and Wabasha, St. Paul. Butch
Thompson was joined often by Claudia Schmidt, Papa John Kolstad, the Chenilles,
Bill Staines, Jerry Rau, and the Middle Spunk Creek Boys.
17: First national live broadcast, from 4,700-seat Northrop Auditorium at the
University of Minnesota. Carried on National Public Radio's "Folk Festival USA"
series, with a cast of more than a hundred. SRO. August 4: Outdoor live broadcast
from the Lake Harriet Bandshell, Minneapolis. Audience of 10,000 saw Vem Sutton,
Butch Thompson, Biscuit Band, Chatfield Brass Band, and Jack Curtis and Vvhitey
Evans and the Westerners. In December, Rich Dworsky made his first appearance.
2: Having bounced between 4:30 PM, 5:00; 5:30; then 5:00 and then 5.30
again, then 7:00, 5:30, 6:30, and 6:00 PM, the PHC broadcast time settled
at 5:00 PM, CST. Bill Hinkley, Judy Larson, Adam Granger, and the Butch
Thompson Trio were regular guests during the year. In March came the first
five satellite broadcast, from Crown Center, Kansas City, at a public
radio conference, with Butch Thompson, New Prairie Ramblers, Ken Bloom,
and Pop Wagner. In May, the national weekly broadcast began from the World
Theater, with the Red Clay Ramblers, New Prairie Ramblers, Randy Sabien
and Larry Baione, Spider John Koerner, and Butch Thompson. This year saw
the first appearance of Greg Brown, the release of the PHC fifth anniversary
album (a year late), and the October broadcast from Ames IA before an
SRO crowd of 2,500 that won the Peabody Award. MPR bought the World Theater.
Lonesome (with Kate MacKenzie), Jean Redpath, and Roy Blount Jr. made their
first appearances, and become frequent guests. Other guests this year included
Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers, Jimmy Driftwood, the Persuasions,
and the Red Clay Ramblers. The first live road show broadcast from outside
the Midwest came from the Boston Conservatory of Music.
Atkins and Jethro Burns made their first appearances. Humorist Howard Mohr
began a stint of several years as a regular guest. Other guests this year
were Odetta, Queen Ida, Sharon Isbin, and frequently, Pop Wagner. The
Family Radio album was released. The eleven-minute "Thanksgiving
Cantata" by Vern Sutton and Philip Brunelle, was composed from notes
of thanks written by members of the audience. A fourteen-year-old kid sneaked
every Saturday into the World Theater to watch rehearsals. After a few weeks,
Ray Marklund handed him a camera, saying he should make himself useful.
He continued hanging around, later became an usher, and even later helped
package Powdermilk Biscuit posters for mailing. He stayed around through
college, and now David O'Neill works as a PHC production assistant and MPR's
special projects manager and archivist.
and Greg Brown became weekly regulars. In August the "Dept. of Folk
Song" began as a regular feature. The Tourists album and the
News from Lake Wobegon four-cassette "butter-box" were
released. During the year the Butch Thompson Trio, Claudia Schmidt, Stoney
Lonesome, Charlie Maguire, and Jean Redpath played often.
20, plaster fell from the ceiling of the World, necessitating a swift
move to 1,650-seat Orpheum in St. Paul. "Dept. of Folk Song"
Clearance Show, fifty-one songs received from folks, including "Great
Green Gobs," Junior Birdmen," "Amphioxus," Calorie,
Calorah," and "Joe's Got a Head Like a Ping-Pong Ball."
July 6-7, observance of tenth anniversary of PHC, including a live broadcast
with both the mayor of St. Paul, George Latimer, and the Governor of Minnesota,
Rudy Perpich, in the theater. This year saw the Yale Russian Chorus, BeauSoleil,
the Canadian Brass, the Tannahill Weavers, Claudia Schmidt, the Boys of
the Lough, Peter Schickele, Bobby McFerrin, Manhattan Transfer, and Doc
Watson among others. Tapes of older shows were broadcast in Australia
magazine discovered PHC and put GK on its cover. In the summer the show
moved to Red Wing MN, and in the fall broadcast from Atlanta, Baton Rouge,
Laramie, Seattle, Claremont CA, and Hawaii. They returned to Cottonwood
MN to a blizzard. Johnny Gimble and Chet Atkins played this year, and
often afterward. The Barrett Sisters, the Paul Winter Ensemble, and Emmylou
Harris performed. Howard Mohr appeared often with his "Raw Bits"
and "Minnesota Language Systems" spots.
Rich Dworksy had replaced Butch Thompson as the "house pianist."
PHC move back to the World Theater in March, and had a grand reopening
there in April. The show traveled to Alaska and Hawaii in July. The July
12 broadcast from Juneau is remembered as the "Just Say Goodnight"
show. GK got caught up in his monologue and almost ran our of time. Stagehand
Steve Koeln came on stage with a note, "Three minutes to end of show,"
and then another "90 Seconds," and finally he handed GK a slip
of paper that said, "Say Goodnight." PHC broadcast from the
Grandstand at the Minnesota State Fair in August, where engineer Scott
Rivard enjoyed using the sound system of the band Alabama.
On February 14, GK announced that PHC would cease in June. The last eighteen
shows from February 14 to June 13 ran in an edited, time-delay version
on television on the Disney channel. The Farewell broadcast was the first
and last broadcast to run over its time, by forty minutes. Bob and Ray
(Elliott and Goulding), Bobby McFerrin, and cowboy singer Glen Ohrlin
(who'd been a guest in 1976), the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, New Grass
Revival, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, the Yale Russian Chorus, Pat Donohue,
and Yo-Yo Ma performed this year.
were broadcast during most of the year. The Farewell had been so fun GK
decided to do a Second Annual Farewell, a tour culminating in a show from
New York's Radio City Music Hall in June. In November the "Prairie
Home Folk Song Show" with Ray Stevens and the Judds broadcast from
Vanderbilt University in Nashville; in December, "An American's Christmas
in Copenhagen" was broadcast, complete with the Cathedral Choir of
Copenhagen, a visit to other English-speaking residents, and a cookie-baking
old shows were rebroadcast in February. "A Pretty Good Night at Carnegie
Hall" aired on radio and on the Disney channel. In May and June,
the "Third Annual Farewell Tour" took shows to eleven states.
In November the show resumed as the "American Radio Company of the
Air" with broadcasts from the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Rather
than broadcast fifty shows a year, the season ran for twenty-five shows,
and in subsequent years, ranged from thirty-four to thirty-two shows.
The Broadway Local Theater Company began its run (to continue through
June 1994) with actors Ivy Austin, Pamela McLernon, William Parry, Richard
Muenz, Walter Bobbie, Lynne Thigpen, Paul Binotto, Tom Keith, and also
Alice Playten, Sue Scott and John McDonough.
American Radio Company broadcast from BAM and from Lamb's Theater in New
York City. Regulars included the Broadway Local Theater Company and Rob
Fisher and the Coffee Club Orchestra. Other guests this year included
Maureen McGovern, Tito Puente, Pete Seeger, and Flaco Jimenez. The Mark
Twain show came from Mark Twain's house in Hartford CT on December 1.
came from Seattle, San Diego, the Bronco Bowl in Dallas (where people
had to go through the bowling alley), Chicago, Lexington KY, Memphis,
Nashville, Milwaukee, and London. In New York, PHC broadcast from Lamb's
Theater, Symphony Space, and the New York Public Library. The show also
went to Willa Cather's hometown, Red Cloud NE, and then to Burlington
VT for three weeks. Among this year's guests were Carl Perkins and the
Appalachian Association of Sacred Harp Singers. A live broadcast from
London in March 1991 began at 11:00 pm. After
the show the cast and crew, hungry at 2:00 pm, could find an open restaurant.
In March, GK announced a return to Minnesota. Broadcasts came from the
World Theater (six), and eighteen other locations, including a "PHC
Hymn Sing" from Concordia College in Moorhead, a Buddy Holly show
from Clear Lake, IA, and a Walt Whitman show from Brooklyn. Mr. (Fred)
Rogers appeared this year, as did Robert Bly and Allen Ginsberg.
Shows broadcast from the World Theater, Birmingham, in a blizzard, St.
Louis, Tulsa, Fort Worth, Lincoln NE, Seattle, San Jose, Madison, Chicago,
Cincinnati, and Town Hall in New York. In October the show resumed the
Prairie Home Companion name. Rich Dworsky played piano, and guests this
year included the Turtle Island String Quartet, Toby Twining Music, Marilyn
Horne, and Lyle Lovett.
Tim Russell made his first appearance. Other guests in the year included
Cokie Roberts, Vince Gill, Iris DeMent, and, on the 20th anniversary show,
Ernie Garven, who had appeared on the first broadcast. One of the audience
for the first show, Anee Ulmer, came back to attend the 20th Anniversary
show. In October, the World Theater became the Fitzgerald. The show toured
in February, May, June, July and November. The year ended with two New
Year's Eve shows from St. Paul.
year opened with six shows at the Fitzgerald, and then February, March
and April broadcasts came from Baton Rouge, Amherst, Nashville, and St.
Paul. May, June and July broadcasts came from Hartford, San Diego, Concord
CA, Salt Lake City, Jackson MS, Chautaugua NY, and Interlochen. Summer
vacation extended from July through September. Fall season guests included
Janis Hardy, Maria Jette, Jearlyn Steele Battle, Elizabeth Comeaux, James
Galway, and Joel Grey, the latter signing a Yiddish parody of "Home
of the Range." Other guests this year were the Mormon Tabernacle
Choir, John Prine, Gil Shaham, R. Crumb and the Cheap Suit Serenaders,
Eric Bogle, and Jack Lemmon playing the piano.
broadcast from St. Paul, Vancouver BC (with a translator turning English
into French), Anchorage, Chapel Hill, Columbus OH, Billings, San Antonio,
Savannah, Interlochen, Town Hall in New York, Ann Arbor, and Memphis.
"Where Do Jokes Come From, and Where Do They Go?" in April was
the first of the annual joke shows. James Earl Jones made his second appearance,
and September 28 was the F. Scott Fitzgerald show.
from the Fitzgerald, from Dallas, Muncie IN, Norfolk VA, Columbia MO,
Ithaca NY, Akron, Miami Beach, Oklahoma City, Seattle, Yellowstone Park,
Chicago, and New York City. The Polka Show came from the ballroom in Gibbon
MN. At a show in June, in Woodville WA, a Seattle suburb, the GAS band
had been on a break, and were called back for additional rehearsal. Greg
Hippen leaped onto the stage, not seeing the business end of a large boom
stand in his landing path. His forehead struck the counterweight of the
boom stand, putting a deep gash just above his left eye, about two hours
before show time. The paramedics cleaned him up and took him to the hospital,
three miles away. The emergency room had a long waiting list, as this
was a Saturday. The nurse on duty said Greg had eight hours before his
injury before his injury would heal too much for them to stitch it. The
driver took Greg back to the stage and he peformed with a large bandage
on his forehead, and returned to the hospital after the show to have the
injury cleaned and stitched.
from St. Paul, San Francisco, Portland OR, New York, Canton NY, Austin,
Durango, Portland ME, Spokane, Kansas City MO, and Atlanta. The year's
guests included writers Ian Frazier, Billy Collins, and Rita Dove; Frederica
Von Stade, Dave Frishberg, Tish Hinojosa, and Iris DeMent.
Shows from St. Paul,
Peoria IL, Minneapolis, and in the summer, Butte MT, Greeley CO, Reno,
Knoxville, and Wolf Trap in VA. The Tannahill Weavers, the Boys of the
Lough, Gillian Welch, Geoff Muldaur, Keb' Mo', Garrick Ohlsson, Al Franken,
and Robert Bly appeared. PHC celebrates its 25th anniversary.
And return to
2000 Minnesota Public Radio and Garrison Keillor.