Special Guests
Saturday, September 3, 2005

Dirty Dozen Brass Band

This year-once again-The Dirty Dozen Brass Band won The Big Easy Award, honoring the best of what New Orleans has to offer in music and theater. No mean feat in a city so rich in musicians and musical tradition. The Dozen has spent nearly three decades bringing the brass band music of New Orleans-combined with jazz, gospel and soul-to the rest of the world.

Back in 1977, the New Orleans brass band was a dying custom. A few groups were carrying on the styles that had developed over as much as a century before. The Dozen's trumpeter Gregory Davis remembers: "[They were] all playing the standard repertoire of second-line jazz funeral and parade standards, mostly hymns and party tunes. But even for them, the opportunities to play seemed to be drying up. Bourbon Street had gone disco and country-western."

Davis got together with saxophone player Roger Lewis, Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen and others inspired by the traditional brass bands, but who also wanted to explore various forms of modern jazz, and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band was on its way. The first gig: a softball game. The pay: five bucks in tips over the course of about five hours.

Recent recordings include Funeral for a Friend (Artemis) and an anthology, This Is The Dirty Dozen Brass Band (Shout Factory Records).

Butch Thompson

Minnesota native and traditional jazz favorite Butch Thompson was just 18 when he made his first pilgrimage to New Orleans. He remembers his introduction to the Crescent City:

In June 1962, about eight weeks after joining the [Hall Brothers] band, I made my first trek to New Orleans, a 23-hour trip in [Charlie] DeVore's '57 Chevrolet. We rolled into the French Quarter in the early evening, checked into the Tom Sawyer House on Bourbon Street, and walked to Preservation Hall. The musicians were set up and waiting to play. I followed Charlie inside, and he introduced me to trombonist Jim Robinson. Minutes later, they hit the first number, and my education took a giant leap forward.

During that first visit, I met dozens of musicians, most of them born near the turn of the 20th century. Clarinetist George Lewis became my idol, and I tried for years to play exactly like him.

The New Orleans musicians were playing jazz, but it was like no other jazz I had heard. It was music for the sheer joy of it, meant to bring people together.

Now, in a career spanning more than 40 years, Butch Thompson has earned a worldwide reputation as a master of ragtime, stride, and classic jazz piano-not to mention his clarinet chops. His association with A Prairie Home Companion dates to the show's second broadcast in 1974. His recent recordings include 'Tain't Nobody's Business (Jazzology), with Duke Heitger and Jimmy Mazzy.

The Wailin' Jennys

When three solo performers with powerful voices joined forces for a one-time gig in 2002, everything changed. The collaboration was a huge success, surprising everyone including themselves. Dubbed The Wailin' Jennys, the three went on tour and within a few weeks the word was out: people were calling them "a bona fide Canadian sensation." The group's current members are soprano Ruth Moody, mezzo Nicky Mehta, and alto (and newest Jenny) Annabelle Chvostek. The Wailin' Jennys' critically acclaimed CD 40 Days won a 2005 Juno Award.

Prudence Johnson

Her 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), from the Midwest to the Middle East. She is a regularly featured guest on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, heard across the country on public radio stations. Her ten album releases include Little Dreamer, a collection of international lullabies, Moon Country, which features the music of Hoagy Carmichael, and S'Gershwin, a collaboration with pianist Dan Chouinard. She recently collaborated with four Minnesota composers to create A Girl Named Vincent, a presentation of the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay set to music, to be released on CD this year. She is a 2001 recipient of the McKnight Artists Fellowship for Performing Musicians and enjoys a steady schedule of concert appearances across the country.

Andy Stein

Violinist and saxophonist Andy Stein was a regular member of Guy's All-Star Shoe Band on A Prairie Home Companion from 1989 to 2001. He 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 such artists as Itzhak Perlman, Eric Clapton, Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, and many others.


Princess Kay of the Milky Way and members of her court.

Princess Kay is Rebekah Dammann of McLeod County, age 19

Her Court:
Sara Bremer, Dakota County
Stacey Brogan, Winona County
Carrie Hubbard, Freeborn County
Grace Phelps, Blue Earth County
Katie Sexton, Wabasha County


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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