Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN
TR (ANNC): A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets. But on the 12th floor of the Acme building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions: Guy Noir, Private Eye.
GK: It was March, and back in Minnesota someone had turned the timer on winter back to 'start'. Six inches of snow, which didn't bother me because I was in Nashville, the city of perpetual spring, on a call from a woman with big hair named LaDonna Mobile, a producer at Pickup Records. (CHICKENS)
SS (SOUTHERN): Git. Git offa there! (CHICKEN FLURRY) Sorry, Mr. Noir. Just trying to keep things real around here. You want an omelet or something? (CHICKEN RUNS THROUGH) Shoo! Git!
GK: Your phone message sounded urgent, Miss Mobile. You're worried about country music.
SS (SOUTHERN): Country music is on life support, sir, and I am not just whistling Dixie. You heard of this child from Canada? Seventeen-year-old boy and he's the biggest thing in country music today.
GK: You mean Justin LaFever?
SS (SOUTHERN): That is who I mean. This boy never heard of Hank, never heard of Lefty or Willie or Waylon ----- never worked on a farm, doesn't have a dog, never shot a gun. This boy is from Canada and he came up through webstreaming. Webstreaming!
GK: What's that? I only have dial-up.
SS (SOUTHERN): Listen--I've got his CD right here.
(MUSIC, POP ACCOMP) Listen. Is this what you'd call country music?? I don't think so.
(yeah-ee-yeah) People put me down 'cause I've got great hair But I don't care, it's just not fair and no one can stop me, I gotta be free I feel at home (when I've) got my comb ... (INSTRUMENTAL BREAK, FADE OUT)
SS: This kid is tearing up the charts. One Number One hit after another. Great country singers are playing county fairs, and this kid is filling hockey arenas around the country with thousands of screaming girls who will buy anything that has the name Justin LaFever on it. It's not right.
GK: You're talking like an old person.
SS: I know. But it's true. Listen.
Me - me -Me- me
(It's what I) want to be - just be me
It's my destiny, destineeee...
[INSTRUMENTAL BREAK, CD STOPS]
GK: Well, the public wants what it wants, ma'am.
SS (SOUTHERN): All this kid has going for him is a high voice and thick hair and he's going up the charts like a vacuum cleaner and my people can't catch a break. Like Alice Chalmers.
GK: Who's she?
SS (SOUTHERN): One of the greats. Listen to this.
(MUSIC, CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN)
SW (OLDER, DEEPER): I am tired, I am weary, I am sick and I am sad. Can't believe how I have suffered, and the bad luck I have had. I have toothaches, I have back pains, good health care I can't afford. Now I'm waiting to get to heaven and find justice with the Lord.
(INST, FADE DOWN)
SS (SOUTHERN): I can't find a single label who's willing to take a chance on her.
GK: Well, it's sort of what you might call a downer.
SS (SOUTHERN): So? (CHICKEN RUNS THROUGH) Oh now you git! Git!
GK: The American people are basically irrational optimists, ma'am. Opinion surveys have shown that over and over. Thirty-seven percent of the American people believe that they will not die and that their taxes will get lower and lower.
SS (SOUTHERN): But country music is not about irrational optimism. It's about trouble. It's about the problem of evil. Listen to this. Singer by the name of Hank Hankerchief.
(ELECTRIC GUITAR, SLOW BALLAD)
TR (SINGS, CASH-LIKE):
I sit here in prison thinking of you
Doing life for a crime that I did not do.
I'm in solitary and I'm going berserk
And today you'll be married to Larry that jerk.
You're living in luxury, pleasure, and bliss
I'm stuck in jail with psoriasis.
You're in a penthouse up in New York.
I'm cutting my wrists with a small plastic fork.
(INST AND FADE)
GK: I get the point, Miss Mobile. So what do you want me to do about it?
SS (SOUTHERN): I want you to make Justin LaFever suffer so he can mature into a true country artist, Mr. Noir.
GK: I'm not in that line of work, Miss Mobile. I'm sorry. I'm an information gatherer. I'm not a sadist.
SS (SOUTHERN): He's in town doing a concert, Mr. Noir. Staying at the Ritz. Penthouse suite. (BRIDGE)
GK: I left her office and went around the block and what should I see but a mob of pre-teens (GIRLS RUNNING PAST SCREAMING) tearing down the street and around the corner and a moment later I saw the lid of a garbage can move. I walked over and lifted it up and there was a head of perfect hair with sideswept bangs. ------ They're gone, Mr. LaFever.
FN: They're gone?
GK: They're gone. I chased them away. Come. (HE CLIMBS OUT) Easy does it. Easy. Let's go this way.
FN: Who are you?
GK: I'm your director of security, Mr. LaFever.
FN: I thought Jean-Claude was director of security.
GK: Jean-Claude came down with typhoid, Mr. LaFever, and that's why we're not taking you back to the hotel. We've got to fumigate the room. Let's go this way. Down the alley. (FOOTSTEPS CONTINUE…..) Tell me something, Justin. Why do you want to be a singer?
FN: I donno. I just like it, I guess.
GK: You like it you guess?
FN: Yeah. It's sort of cool. GK: You don't do it for the girls?
FN: Yeah, sort of.
GK: You don't do it for the money?
FN: No, my folks always had plenty of money.
GK: You don't do it because you're heartbroken and worn out and beaten down and you lost everything and the only thing left to do is sing about it? Huh?
FN: Gosh no. I mean, I'm like Canadian.
GK: You're like Canadian? Or you are Canadian?
FN: I don't understand.
GK: Listen. I've got like an idea. Let's go. Taxi!!!! (BRAKES SQUEAL) ----- Suddenly Justin slumped down and fainted and I caught him in my arms. You okay--------
FN: I can't stand that sound.
GK: Squealing tires?
FN: It's like the sound of my fans. It makes me pass out.
GK: Oh. Okay. (BRIDGE) We got in the cab and I gave the cabdriver a hundred bucks and told him to step on it. TR: Hey. You bet. (ENGINE REV, SQUEAL OF TIRES)
GK: He took the corner at 45 miles an hour (SQUEAL) and Justin heard the sound of the tires and he collapsed in my arms and onto Broadway we went (SQUEAL) and the kid was out cold and I happened to have an electric razor on me and (SQUEAL) as we made our way to the venue where Justin was to perform that evening (SQUEAL) I gave him a haircut like what the U.S. Marines give (RAZOR, SQUEAL OF TIRES) and for good measure I took a Sharpie and wrote Merle on his forehead and pulled up to the stage door (SQUEAL) and pushed him out ----- (FN SEMI-CONSCIOUS STAGGER) ----- Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, driver.
TR: You got it. (SQUEAL, REV, BRIDGE)
GK: That night Justin went out onstage wearing a big old cowboy hat and he seemed dazed and disoriented and his fans got quieter and quieter and after twenty minutes he sang a new song that I found the next day on YouTube and it had 279 hits. Two-hundred and seventy-nine people had watched it. I was the 280th.
(ELECTRIC GUITAR, LONESOME VALLEY)
You are young but you're getting older And you'll be 35 before you know it And you'll have to be a customer representative Instead of being a songwriter poet
You're going to marry someone who drives you nuts You'll lose your hair and get big jowls You won't think about love anymore You'll think about your prostate and moving your bowels.
GK: His fans sat there silent and one by one they got up and walked away.
Your car is going to develop weird problems And it'll take three years for your house to be sold And you'll have kids and they won't like you Cause you are sad and pale and wrinkly and extremely old. (BRIDGE)
SS (SOUTHERN): Nice job, Mr. Noir. I don't know what you did but whatever it was, you saved country music. Hank Hankerchief has a big hit now.
TR (DEEP, CASH-LIKE):
I'm living in the backseat of my car. It's smelly and disgusting but that's just how things are. Thank goodness I don't have to travel far It's parked in front of my favorite bar.
GK: That's great.
GK: So I headed back to St. Paul, and who should I meet in the airport but a young man in a baseball cap, a young man with very short hair and the word Merle on his forehead. ----- Hey, Justin.
FN: Hi. ---Do I know you?
GK: Nope. Just a big admirer of yours, that's all.
FN: Your face is familiar.
GK: Just a fan. I love your music.
FN: Maybe you can help me ---- I don't know how to do this ---- never used to have to go through airports before. They want me to stand in line to show my ID and boarding pass? Nobody ever used to ask for my ID. What am I supposed to do? GK: Justin, you see those people in uniforms and the conveyor belt and the little rectangular doorway that people are walking through?
GK: Those people are so bored, doing that job all day ---- they need some entertainment.
FN: Like what?
GK: They'd love it if you'd run through that doorway waving your arms and yelling "Canada, Canada, down with Milwaukee, we can beat you playing hockey" ----
GK: I think it'd be one of the best things you ever did for yourself. Finally people would take you seriously.
FN: You're sure?
FN: Okay. CANA---- (HAND CLAPPED OVER MOUTH)
GK: Wait a minute. I'm going to slip around the corner so I can watch this on TV. Okay? Count up to 30 and go-----
FN: Okay. One two three four five---- (FADES, INTO BRIDGE)
GK: I walked away. And sure enough in about 30 seconds (KLAXON, SIREN, P.A. VOICE: Code blue, code blue. Checkpoint 4. Checkpoint 4.) the place went crazy ----- police cars pulling up to the terminal, one after another (SIRENS) ----- the K-9 squad was there (DOGS BARKING) ------ a police chopper landed in the parking lot (SFX) and a SWAT team arrived (MARCHING FEET, COMMANDS) ----- and I could smell tear gas and pepper spray and then the TV crews arrived (CROWD CHAOS) and a news chopper was overhead--- (CHOPPER) and it was quite a show. I got back to Minnesota and it was on CNN as I walked through the terminal.
TR (NEWS ANCHOR): The former pop star Justin LaFever had a mental breakdown in the Nashville airport today and was arrested by the FBI and held on fourteen felony counts of attempted terrorism-----
GK: And it was on Fox News as well-----
TR (SOUTHERN ANCHOR): Justin LaFever, the singer from Canada which has socialized medicine, demonstrated the Obama administration's neglect of airport security as he came close to overwhelming T.S.A. agents and hijacking a jet airliner -----
GK: And when I got into my car, there was Alice Chalmers on the radio.
(GUITAR, YELLOW ROSE)
What goes up is coming down, what's in is going out
The world is always changing and that's what life's about
So if you're riding high right now, better listen to my song
And work on your social skills so you can get along.
TR (ANNC): A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets. But on the 12th floor of the Acme building, one man is trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions: Guy Noir, Private Eye.
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).