Clarinet and sax man Kim Cusack developed a love for reed instruments when his fifth-grade band director introduced him to the clarinet. By eighth grade, Kim was part of the school dance band. He's been up to here in music ever since, known for his long association with James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band and the Salty Dogs Jazz Band — a group his mom first took him to hear in 1955. He remains a fixture on the Windy City jazz scene.
Metropolitan Opera baritone Nathan Gunn has appeared in renowned opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Royal Opera House (Covent Garden), Paris Opera, and the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. He is also a professor of voice at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, his alma mater. His new recording, Once Upon a Christmas, also features actress Jane Seymour and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. At the piano: Julie Jordan Gunn.
Trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso has lived and breathed music since his childhood in Detroit. At 11, he was already doing big band work. And by the time he was 17, he had played alongside famed cornetist Wild Bill Davison. Over the years, he has performed with groups such as the New McKinney's Cotton Pickers, J.C. Heard's Orchestra, James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band, and Vince Giordano's Nighthawks.
Since moving to Athens, Georgia, almost a decade ago, Lera Lynn has launched a successful career as a singer-songwriter, including taking top honors in the country category of the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Competition. Of the winning song, "Bobby, Baby," American Songwriter magazine wrote, "Not only can this Athens songstress write a damn good song, but she can also tell a damn good story." Lera's debut album is Have You Met Lera Lynn? (Slow Records).
Peter Sagal's career has included stints as a playwright, screenwriter, stage director, actor, extra in a Michael Jackson video, travel writer, essayist, ghostwriter, and staff writer for a motorcycle magazine. But public radio listeners know him best as host of NPR's hugely popular quiz program, Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! He is also the author of The Book of Vice: Naughty Things (and How to Do Them) (HarperCollins).
Butch Thompson has earned a worldwide reputation as a master of ragtime, stride, and classic jazz piano. For 12 years, he was A Prairie Home Companion's house pianist, dating back to the show's second broadcast in July 1974. His first album, Butch Thompson Plays Jelly Roll Morton Piano Solos, has been reissued as a Biograph CD. And his most recent recording is Vicksburg Blues, a collaboration with guitarist Pat Donohue.
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 and Vicksburg Blues (a collaboration with Butch Thompson) are the most recent of Pat's 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.