Sam Bush was just 11 when he got his first mandolin. By the time he was 17, he had won the title of National Junior Fiddle Champion for three years running. And he had made his recording debut, Poor Richard's Almanac. Founder of groundbreaking bands like New Grass Revival and Strength in Numbers, he has also been the go-to sideman for Lyle Lovett, the Flecktones and dozens of others. For five years, he led Emmylou Harris' Grammy-winning Nash Ramblers. The most recent of his many solo albums is Circles Around Me (Sugar Hill Records).
As a child, Stuart Duncan hung out in the California folk club where his father was the soundman. He was inspired by the music of Vassar Clements, Byron Berline, and others. At age seven, he took up playing fiddle. Now he has chalked up a career that includes two Grammy Awards and being named the International Bluegrass Music Association's Fiddle Player of the Year eight times. He was a founding member of the Nashville Bluegrass Band and is perennially one of Nashville's most sought-after session musicians. He recently collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile, and Edgar Meyer on The Goat Rodeo Sessions (Sony Masterworks).
Emmylou Harris and the Red Dirt Boys
When Emmylou Harris was a kid, she wrote a letter to Pete Seeger, concerned that if she was living a sheltered life at her parents' house and hadn't suffered enough, she couldn't be a folksinger. Pete wrote back, saying: "Don't worry. Life will catch up with you. You'll suffer. Don't go hop a freight." It worked out. With dozens of acclaimed recordings and countless awards, including 12 Grammys, Emmylou maintains a widespread and loyal following, whether she's singing folk, country, pop, or traditional tunes. This year, she celebrates 20 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Her latest CD is Hard Bargain (Nonesuch Records). The Red Dirt Boys are: Chris Donohue (bass) and Phil Madeira (guitar, keyboards).
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, Bird Song, was released in 2009 on Red House Records. The Jennys' latest is Bright Morning Stars (Red House).
Songwriter, vocalist Aoife O'Donovan grew up in a musical family in Newton, Massachusetts. In her teens, she took an interest in the American folk tradition, and she spent her summers in Ireland, studying music and dance. After graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music, she formed the progressive bluegrass band Crooked Still. With that group currently on hiatus, Aoife has turned to other projects, including plans to release a solo album later this year.
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, and Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny (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.
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."
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.
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).