Special Guests
Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mark Benninghofen

Mark Benninghofen got into the ad biz by way of acting. After joining the Guthrie Theater company in the 1980s, this voice-over artist and president of Shout Radio Productions — a Minneapolis agency specializing in radio advertising and more — branched out as a writer and producer of commercials. Look familiar? You may have caught him on TV shows like Frasier, Chicago Hope, and The Larry Sanders Show.

BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet

In the 30-plus years since Michael Doucet changed his mind about graduate school and turned his attention to Cajun music instead, BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet — and David Doucet, Billy Ware, Tommy Alesi, Jimmy Breaux and Mitch Reed — has been dedicated to preserving the Cajun style, and blending elements of zydeco, New Orleans jazz, Tex-Mex and more into a tasty musical mix. The group has recorded 29 albums. They released their first, The Spirit of Cajun Music, in the late 1970s; their latest CD, Alligator Purse (Yep Roc Records), came out just last month. During the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Bob Dylan was asked what he thought of BeauSoleil. Dylan replied, "That's my kind of music!"

Roswell Rudd

The New York Times called Roswell Rudd "...a trombonist of such sweeping power and majesty that he transcends all styles." While at Yale in the 1950s, Rudd played Dixieland with Eli's Chosen Six, before moving on to a series of associations with avant-garde musicians like the New York Art Quartet and soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. His collaborations have also paired him with musicians from around the world, including the Mongolian Buryat Band, Malian kora player Toumani Diabate, and cuatro master Yomo Toro. The Roswell Rudd Quartet's latest album, Keep Your Heart Right, was released last year on Sunny Side Records.

Heather Masse

Heather Masse grew up in rural Maine and currently makes her home in New York. She has appeared on A Prairie Home Companion a number of times, usually with her band the Wailin' Jennys. Now, while the Jennys take a break from touring, Heather is keeping busy with other projects. She performs regularly with her Brooklyn-based outfit, Heather and the Barbarians — a group that first formed when the members were students at the New England Conservatory of Music. Their album Tell Me Tonight was released in 2007. Look for a solo recording from Heather later this year.

Vern Sutton

Tenor Vern Sutton remembers his first applause—in first grade, for his performance in the role of Baby Bear in Goldilocks. From that day on, he was hooked on show business, appearing with many major orchestras, opera companies, and musical groups and earning an international reputation for his work with the BBC, the New Opera Theatre of New York, the Wolf Trap Festival and more. He spent 36 years as a faculty member at the University of Minnesota School of Music, heading up the opera program and serving as director of the School of Music. He has directed plays, operas and musicals all over the Midwest. Vern was a guest on the very first broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion.

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 masterful keyboard player, composer and improviser in any style, he writes all the script themes and underscores, and he has accompanied guests from James Taylor to Renée Fleming. His latest CD is So Near and Dear to Me.

Chet Atkins called Pat Donohue (guitar) one of the greatest finger pickers in the world today. And he writes songs too — recorded by Suzy Bogguss, Kenny Rogers and others. Freewayman (Bluesky Records) is the most recent of Pat's nine albums.

Gary Raynor (bass) has performed with the Count Basie band, Sammy Davis Jr. — with whom he toured for several years — and the Minnesota Klezmer Band. He teaches jazz bass at the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul.

Peter Johnson (percussion) has played klezmer music with Doc Severinsen and jazz with Dave Brubeck. He was a drummer for The Manhattan Transfer and for Gene Pitney. He has toured the world, but he always comes back to home base: Saint Paul.

Andy Stein (violin, saxophone) definitely has far-flung musical leanings. He collaborated with Garrison Keillor to create the opera Mr. and Mrs. Olson, and he has performed with artists such as Itzhak Perlman, Eric Clapton, Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles and Bob Dylan.

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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