Asleep at the Wheel
Back in 1973, Van Morrison told an interviewer, "There's some relatively unknown group around that I really dig." That group was Asleep at the Wheel, and 40-plus years later, music lovers around the globe are still digging these Kings of Western Swing. The band — which got its start in Paw Paw, West Virginia, but eventually landed in Austin — has dozens of albums and shelves full of Grammys to its credit. It's a Good Day (Bismeaux) is their latest recording. The current lineup: Ray Benson (guitar, vocals), Elizabeth McQueen (guitar, vocals), Dave Miller (bass), Eddie Rivers (steel), Jason Roberts (fiddle, vocals), Dave Sanger (drums), Dan Walton (piano).
Kat Edmonson wrote her first song when she was nine — inspiration struck on the bus during a grade school field trip. But by then, the Texas native had already been singing for more than half her life, and she had spent long hours soaking up classic movie musicals while her single mom was at work. Fast-forward two decades and this engaging singer-songwriter's jazz-inspired vocals have made her a favorite on the Austin music scene and beyond. Now based in New York, she has released two albums. The most recent is 2012's Way Down Low (Spinnerette).
The Texas Tornados first got together in 1989 and included Doug Sahm and Augie Meyers (founders of the Sir Douglas Quintet), Hispanic country star Freddy Fender, and accordion virtuoso Flaco Jiménez. Doug Sahm passed away in 1999, and Fender in 2006. Now Meyers and Jiménez have teamed up with Shawn Sahm (Doug's son) in the current version of this Tex-Mex super group. With their fusion of Mexican folk, R&B, blues, roots rock, country, and more, the band continues "crossing the barriers in musical culture." Their 2010 album is ¡Está Bueno! (Bismeaux).
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.
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).