Saturday, September 2, 2006
The Del McCoury BandWhen Del McCoury was growing up in York County, Pennsylvania, he learned music from his mother, Hazel, a church organist who also played guitar, piano and harmonica. And he never missed a chance to tune in to the Grand Ole Opry. But when his older brother bought a 78-rpm record of Flatt and Scruggs, that sealed the deal. Del started playing bluegrass and, a half-century later, has never looked back. In 1963, Bill Monroe asked McCoury to join his band, The Blue Grass Boys. Del played guitar and sang lead vocals with Monroe and traveled with him for a year before quitting the band and getting married. After a brief stint in California with the Golden State Boys, McCoury ended up back in Pennsylvania, working at a sawmill and playing music on weekends. As his boys got older, they began playing with their dad in his band, the Dixie Pals. Ronnie joined the band in 1981 and Rob followed in 1988. The Del McCoury Band formed in the early 1990s. The group has won numerous honors from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), including being named Entertainer of the Year eight times (nine, if you include Del's solo win). This year, after six nominations since 1983, the Del McCoury Band won a Grammy Award for their 2005 album The Company We Keep (McCoury Music). The Promised Land, an all-gospel album, came out earlier this year. The band: Del McCoury, guitar; Ronnie McCoury, mandolin; Rob McCoury, banjo; Jason Carter, fiddle; Alan Bartram, bass.
Tommy MischkeIt didn't take much back in the '80s to get a twentysomething Tommy Mischke hooked. On a whim, the young freelance writer and delivery van driver put a quarter in a pay phone and called in to a Twin Cities radio station. A few seconds of airtime proved so alluring that Mischke continued calling for the next year. The staff of Don Vogel's KSTP radio show dubbed him the "Phantom Caller," and six years later he was finally hired as a regular on Vogel's program. In 1994, the station gave Mischke his own nighttime show, The Mischke Broadcast. Mischke was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. As a teenager, he honed his writing chops by penning articles for the community newspaper his dad owned. The kid who was voted "best sense of humor" at Highland Park High went on to study journalism in college, but he soon found that writing didn't necessarily make for a lucrative living. He spent some time traveling around, usually hopping freights, and wound up living in Butte, Montana. But he missed Minnesota, so he returned to St. Paul, where the radio venture began. After years in his late-night, anything-goes radio slot, Mischke now broadcasts Monday through Friday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Despite the tendency to get a different breed of caller during the daylight hours, Mischke's show is the same freewheeling, up-for-grabs fun his listeners count on. A piano player, singer and songwriter since childhood, Mischke released Whistle Stop, an album of his own songs, in 2004. Accompanying him on A Prairie Home Companion: Michael Loonan, vocals, guitar; Jared Rush, keyboards; Casey O'Brien, bass; Aaron Barnell, percussion; Tara Carroll, vocals, acoustic guitar; Matt Novachis, drums.
Becky SchlegelBecky Schlegel took piano lessons all through her childhood. She sang in choir and, while still in junior high, she joined her mother's professional country band, The Country Benders. Then a college friend gave Becky Schlegel three Reno and Smiley albums, and the die was cast: She became addicted to bluegrass music. She left South Dakota, her home state, and moved to Minnesota. That was a dozen years ago, and since then, Becky has become a big favorite in the Upper Midwest's bluegrass, country and acoustic rock scenes. Becky formed the band True Blue in 1997. The following year, they released their debut CD, This Lonesome Song, which was nominated for 1998 Bluegrass Recording of the Year by the Minnesota Music Academy. The group then won Minnesota's Bluegrass Band of the Year award for 2000. Becky's second CD, Red Leaf, came out in 2001. That year, Becky was awarded Bluegrass/Old-Time Artist of the Year at the Minnesota Music Awards. She repeated the honor in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Last year, she was selected to perform at the International Bluegrass Music Association's Songwriters' Showcase. Becky's most recent CD is Drifter Like Me, released in 2005. It was included on the top-10 lists of a number of Twin Cities reviewers. Look for a new Schlegel recording early next year. Brian Fesler is Becky's accompanist.
Andy SteinAndy Stein (violin, saxophone) 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.
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).