Archive Fun: The Hopeful Gospel Quartet

December 7, 2010

Hopeful Gospel Quartet

The Hopeful Gospel Quartet was formed when four friends discovered their shared interest in gospel music; they were standing around backstage before a performance of A Prairie Home Companion, and one of them began to sing. The others joined in. The quartet began with members Garrison Keillor, Kate MacKenzie, Robin & Linda Williams. With this lineup they performed numerous concerts across the country, recorded two albums, and appeared on Austin City Limits.


The earliest show in A Prairie Home Companion's online archive featuring the Hopeful Gospel Quartet is from 1997. Kate MacKenzie brought the following song written by Doc & Rosa Lee Watson to the group. It's a slow ballad featuring Kate on lead vocals along with some fine group harmony.

"Your Long Journey"

Robin and Linda Williams have been with A Prairie Home Companion since the early days of the show--back when there were 18 radio listeners and 12 people in the live audience. Since then Robin & Linda Williams and Their Fine Group have performed in a remarkable variety of venues, from coffee houses, churches and the Grand Ole Opry to concert halls, outdoor stages and Austin City Limits; over a year they'll put on as many miles as a lot of truckers. And no matter where they travel, their voices and harmonies still amaze.

"Wings of a Dove"

Kate Mackenzie was the lead singer for the bluegrass group Stoney Lonesome and later went on to a successful solo career culminating in a Grammy® nomination for her album Age of Innocence. In 1999, Kate got married and decided to retire from performing. Here is a tune from her last appearance.

"Long as I Can See the Light"

Kate MacKenzie served as the producer of Climbing Up on the Rough Side which gathered together some of the best performances of the original set of performers in The Hopeful Gospel Quartet. With Kate's retirement, the group took a small hiatus. They returned a few years later with Mollie O'Brien.

Hopeful Gospel Quartet 2

Mollie O'brien joined the group after making three solo appearances in 2001. Mollie O'Brien sings Jazz, R&B, blues, gospel, southern mountain and traditional music. She has recorded four solo albums, three albums featuring her with her brother Tim, and one album with the Hopeful Gospel Quartet. She has a strong voice and can belt out a tune.

Here is a song from her first appearance with the Hopeful Gospel Quartet and one from the following year.

"Dakota Wind"

"You Don't Knock"

And here's a song from Mollie's last appearance with the quartet in 2005. It is a fun song with Mollie singing lead.

"A Beautiful Life"

Hopeful Gospel Quartet 3

Carol Elizabeth Jones hails from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She has made her mark as a singer of traditional mountain music and as a writer of new songs in the old tradition. She has recorded several acclaimed albums of original material. Here are two songs from A Prairie Home Companion.

"He's Right on Time"

"I Couldn't Keep It To Myself"

"Let the Light Shine"

Prudence Johnson filled in as the fourth voice on the awesome song above for the Robert Altman-directed movie aptly titled A Prairie Home Companion. Prudence's 25-year career in music has taken her from nightclubs and honky-tonks to Carnegie Hall; from the theater stage to the silver screen (Robert Redford's A River Runs Through It); and from the Middle West to the Middle East.

"Done Found My Lost Sheep"

Heather Masse has filled in as the fourth voice recently. She grew up in rural Maine and currently makes her home in New York. She frequently appears on A Prairie Home Companion, often with her band the Wailin' Jennys or as a duet partner for Garrison Keillor. She ably fills in as the fourth voice as her very busy schedule allows.

"Count Your Blessings"

Even with some changes in the lineup, the Hopefuls keep making great music and entertaining listeners.

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

Available now»

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