Vocalist Topsy Chapman is certainly one of New Orleans' living musical treasures. Born in Kentwood, Louisiana, the 15th of 16 children, she started singing in church. After high school, she formed a gospel group called the Chapman Singers, taking the stage at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and other local venues. Topsy was an original cast member and vocal arranger for the Off-Broadway hit One Mo' Time. She has toured across the globe and recorded with other jazz greats. Her recordings include My One and My Only Love (GHB Records).
Butch Thompson and His New Orleans Orphans
Pianist and clarinetist Butch Thompson has a worldwide reputation as a master of ragtime, stride, and classic jazz. Born and raised in Marine-on-St. Croix, Minnesota, Butch was already playing Christmas carols on his mother's upright piano by age three, and he led his first professional jazz group as a teenager. For 12 years, he was A Prairie Home Companion's house pianist, dating back to the show's second broadcast, in July 1974. His most recent recording is Vicksburg Blues, a collaboration with guitarist Pat Donohue.
When it comes to New Orleans jazz, cornetist Charlie DeVore is a walking encyclopedia. In the Navy and stationed in New Orleans in the 1950s, he heard the likes of George Lewis, Kid Thomas Valentine, and Percy and Willie Humphrey — musicians who went on to form the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. It was a turning point for the young sailor. He took up the cornet and eventually found himself sitting in with his idols. After returning home to Minnesota, he teamed up with Russ and Stan Hall to start the Hall Brothers Jazz Band, a favorite at the Emporium of Jazz in Mendota from 1966 to 1991.
Dave Graf has joked that trombone players are the Rodney Dangerfields of the band. Not so in this case. Twin Cities jazz fans have plenty of respect for the likes of Dave. After spending most of fourth grade making "diving aircraft noises" with the instrument, he branched out to a variety of styles — jazz, Dixieland, big band, salsa, Brazilian, and more. With that kind of versatility, no wonder he's the go-to trombonist for almost any type of gig. His debut recording as leader, Just Like That (Artegra), was released in 2005.
As a youngster, trumpeter Duke Heitger was fascinated with his dad's collection of jazz records, and he'd sit in with his father's Cake Walkin' Jass Band, a Toledo institution. By the time he was 12, he was playing professional jobs. Still in his teens, he left home and went to New Orleans to join Jacques Gauthé's Creole Rice Jazz Band. Since then, he has become a fixture on the international jazz scene, working with Dick Hyman, James Dapogny, Butch Thompson, and others. Recent recordings include Doin' the Voom Voom (Arbors 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 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.
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).