When he was a kid, John Lithgow wanted to become a painter — a watercolorist — but he has definitely made his mark in acting. By anyone's measure, he has carved out a stellar acting career — from television (3rd Rock from the Sun, How I Met Your Mother) to film (Terms of Endearment, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes) to Broadway (Requiem for a Heavyweight, M. Butterfly) and more. And in addition to his eight acclaimed children's books, Lithgow has a brand-new memoir: Drama: An Actor's Education (HarperCollins). "My first stab at a book that weighs more than three ounces," he quips.
Mandolinist/composer Peter Ostroushko grew up listening to tunes played at family get-togethers in the Ukrainian community of northeast Minneapolis. It's the music that provides the basis for many of his compositions. His first recording session was an uncredited mandolin set on Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. Since then, his works have been performed by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Kremlin Chamber Orchestra, among others, and his music is featured on public television specials such as the Ken Burns film The National Parks and Minnesota: A History of the Land, for which Peter won an Emmy. An all-instrumental CD, When the Last Morning Glory Blooms, was released last year on Red House Records.
Calling themselves Storyhill, acoustic duo Chris Cunningham and John Hermanson are longtime musical collaborators, dating back to high school days in Bozeman, Montana. Their 2007 album — simply titled Storyhill — was named Best CD of the Year by the Indie Acoustic Project and led to their winning the prestigious Kerrville New Folk Songwriting Competition. Their latest recording is Shade of the Trees (Red House Records).
For 12 years, Butch Thompson was the house pianist on A Prairie Home Companion, dating back to the show's second broadcast in July 1974. As a soloist, he has earned a worldwide reputation as a master of ragtime, stride, and classic jazz piano. He also performs with his trio, his eight-piece New Orleans Jazz Originals, and with symphony orchestras around the globe. Among Butch's many recordings is the holiday favorite Bethlehem After Dark (on the Daring label). His first album, Butch Thompson Plays Jelly Roll Morton Piano Solos, was recently reissued as a Biograph CD.
Four-time Grammy winner Steve Wariner is acclaimed for his instrumental abilities, his singing, his producing, and his hit songwriting. He has charted some 30 top-10 singles and has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1996. His early career was propelled by his musical hero, Chet Atkins, about whom he says: "Try to do what he does technically. Then try to do it with his touch, tone, and feeling, and you're reminded that you can't out-Chet Chet. He was something else." Wariner's latest CD is Guitar Laboratory (SelecTone 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, 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.
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.
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 A Prairie Home Companion since the mid-1970s.
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).