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Stephanie Davis is a fourth-generation Montanan who spent several years fine-tuning her singing and songwriting skills in Nashville, and having her songs recorded by artists like Garth Brooks, Roger Whittaker, Martina McBride and Shelby Lynn. Davis not only sings and writes music, she also plays multiple instruments and has released two self-produced albums, River of No Return and I'm Pullin' Through, on her own label, Recluse Records. Davis has worked with her friend Garth Brooks and his touring band on several occasions and in 1994 she opened all of his shows for the year. Davis often appears at festivals, cowboy poetry gatherings and concerts throughout the west and later this year she will be touring in Chile and Ireland. Davis has plans to release another album later this year and is currently working on an illustrated story-poem book called The Icy Blue Norther.
By the time he reached his teens, Donald Hall knew that he wanted to write for a living. And that's what he's done—dozens of books of poetry and prose, including The Painted Bed, Without, The Best Day the Worst Day, String Too Short to Be Saved, and the children's stories Ox-Cart Man and When Willard Met Babe Ruth. From 1984 to 1989, he served as New Hampshire's poet laureate, and in 2006, the Library of Congress appointed him the nation's poet laureate. Donald Hall's latest book of poetry, White Apples and the Taste of Stone, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2006. His 2007 book Eagle Farm (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin) brings together all of his writing on Eagle Pond Farm, the ancestral home in Wilmot, New Hampshire, where Hall has lived for more than 30 years.
A recognized authority on American music and musical theater, Rob Fisher spent four seasons leading the Coffee Club Orchestra for Garrison Keillor's American Radio Company. He is creator and artistic director of the annual Lyrics and Lyricist series at the 92nd Street Y. For his work as music director and conductor of the Tony Award-winning Encores! series at New York's City Center, he was presented the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Special Achievement. As guest artist, he has led major symphony orchestras coast to coast.
Born Ruth Weston in Portsmouth, Virginia, soul singer Ruth Brown started singing at the local church, where her father was choir director. In 1945, she ran away from home to go on the road with singer-trumpeter Jimmy Brown, whom she soon married. After a one-month stint singing with big-band leader Lucky Millinder, Brown found a job singing at the Crystal Caverns, a Washington, D.C. club operated by Blanche Calloway, sister of Cab Calloway. Brown's appearances at the Crystal Caverns eventually landed her an audition with a new label called Atlantic Records. In 1949, she recorded the soon-to-be-hit "So Long," which was followed by chart-toppers such as "[Mama,] He Treats Your Daughter Mean," "Oh, What a Dream," and "Mambo Baby." By the mid-'50s Ruth Brown had become one of the biggest-selling black female recording artists and her star continued to rise with songs like "Lucky Lips," before walking away from the spotlight in the '60s to become a fulltime mom. In 1976, Brown's old friend, Redd Foxx got her to move to L.A. to play Mahalia Jackson in Selma, a civil-rights musical that Foxx was producing. She got back into the world of song and screen, and was cast in the sitcom Hello Larry by renowned television producer Norman Lear and in the cult film Hairspray by director John Waters. Brown has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and awarded with a Tony for her performance in the musical Black and Blue, and a Grammy for her album Blues on Broadway. In 1990, her hometown of Portsmouth re-named Second Street in her honor: it's now known as Ruth Brown Avenue. Brown's much-publicized legal battle with Atlantic Records over back royalties led to an amicable settlement that established the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. Brown, with writer Andrew Yule, penned Miss Rhythm: The Autobiography of Ruth Brown, Rhythm and Blues Legend (Penguin Books, 1996). Her newest CD is Ruth Brown live at Ronnie Scott's in London (Jazz House/Magnum Records), recorded at the prestigious Euopean jazz nightclub. Joining Brown tonight are Bobby Forrester (keyboards), Rodney Jones (guitar), and Akira Tana (drums).
Most kids badger their parents for the latest games and toys. Not Philip Brunelle. When he was six, he wanted the vocal score to Handel's "Messiah." Now an internationally renowned conductor, choral scholar and performer, he is the founder and artistic director of the acclaimed VocalEssence Ensemble Singers — core of the full VocalEssence Chorus, 130 voices in all. The Minneapolis-based group has received the ASCAP/ Chorus America Award for adventurous programming of contemporary music an unprecedented five times, and was awarded the Margaret Hillis Achievement Award for Choral Excellence. They just returned from a tour of England, part of the celebration of their 40th season. The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass (Clarion) is among their recent recordings.
Garrison Keillor was born in Anoka, graduated from the University of Minnesota ('66), and lives in St. Paul. He is the author of numerous books, including Life Among the Lutherans (Augsburg Books) and Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance (Viking), and the editor of several anthologies of poetry, including Good Poems: American Places (Viking).
The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band
The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band is led by A Prairie Home Companion music director Richard Dworsky. Keyboard player, composer and improviser in any style, he also writes all the script themes and underscores. His latest CD is So Near and Dear to Me.
Chet Atkins called Pat Donohue (guitar) one of the greatest fingerpickers 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.
One minute he's mild-mannered Tim Russell; the next he's George Bush or Julia Child or Barack Obama. We've yet to stump this man of many voices. In other roles, Tim played the part of Al, the stage manager, in the Robert Altman film A Prairie Home Companion and a detective in the Coen brothers' A Serious Man.
On APHC, Sue Scott plays everything from ditzy teenagers to Guy Noir stunners to leathery crones who've smoked one pack of Camel straights too many. The Tucson, Arizona, native is well known for her extensive commercial and voice-over work on radio and television, as well as movie and stage roles.
Sound effects man Fred Newman is an actor, writer, musician, and sound designer for film and TV. He is author of the book (and CD/CD-ROM) MouthSounds. Fred admits that, growing up, he was unceremoniously removed from several classrooms, "once by my bottom lip."
Is that water dripping? Footsteps coming this way? Car tires spinning on an icy driveway? Nope — it's sound effects wizard Tom Keith. With vocal gymnastics and a variety of props, Tom has worked his magic on APHC since the mid-1970s. Starting out as a board operator at Minnesota Public Radio, Tom never expected that his career would take such a turn.
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).