When Danny Carvalho was just nine, his parents gave him an old guitar. Before anyone could say "slack key," he had learned 80 songs — just by listening to CDs. His first composition was a sweet, sad song that has since become known as "Booboo's Lullaby" — named for his pet dog. In 2004, he became the first slack key artist to perform on National Public Radio's From the Top. Danny's most recent album is 2008's Somewhere (Lava Rock Music).
Slack key guitar and ukulele master Led Kaapana grew up in the village of Kalapana. With no electricity, no TV, and no radio, playing music was the chief form of entertainment. By the time he was in his teens, he had formed the band Hui Ohana with his twin brother and a cousin. Since launching a solo career, he has been one of Hawaii's most influential musicians. In 2011, he was named a National Heritage Fellow, the most prestigious honor bestowed on traditional artists by the National Endowment for the Arts. His dozens of recordings include Force of Nature (Jus' Press Productions), a 2009 album with 12-string virtuoso Mike Kaawa.
Growing up in rural Maine, Heather Masse sang hymns and folk songs around home with her family. Now based in New York, this New England Conservatory of Music alum is a one-third of the Juno Award-winning Canadian trio The Wailin' Jennys. Her solo album, Song Bird, was released in 2009 on Red House Records. The Jennys' latest is Bright Morning Stars (Red House).
Guitarist Jeff Peterson remembers being a five-year-old in Makawao — Maui's Old West-style town — and listening to his father — a paniolo, or Hawaiian cowboy — and others sitting around the fire and playing music. Now, Jeff is recognized as one of Hawaii's most versatile musicians. His latest solo CD, Maui on My Mind (Peterson Productions), won a 2010 Hoku Award for Best Slack Key Album of the Year.
Known to many for her popular Web series "Upstairs Girls," Erica Rhodes has also appeared in motion pictures, including Go West, Javatown, and the 2008 indie horror film Plague Town, which was shown at festivals and in theaters nationwide. Among her recent projects are the movies Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt and the soon-to-be-released Big Sky.
A Paganini caprice played on ukulele? Chick Corea's "Spain"? "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"? Why not? For uke virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, no style is off limits — jazz, blues, funk, classical, bluegrass, flamenco, rock, you name it — and fans worldwide are taking notice. Born and raised in Hawaii, he took up the instrument at the age of four; once he strummed his first chord, he was hooked. The most recent of his nine albums is Peace, Love, Ukulele (Mailboat Records).
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 Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance (Viking) and A Christmas Blizzard (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. Nobody's Fault (Bluesky Records) is the most recent of Pat's 10 albums.
Gary Raynor (bass) has performed with the Count Basie band and Sammy Davis Jr., with whom he toured for several years. He was first call for dozens of touring Broadway shows, including the first presentation of The Lion King. Gary teaches 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.
Richard Kriehn is principal second violin for the Washington/Idaho Symphony. But it's not all classical all the time; he is equally at home playing bluegrass fiddle and mandolin. He was a member of the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble and the bluegrass group 1946.
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."
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).