Randy Newman was born in Los Angeles to a musical family—two of his uncles, Alfred and Lionel Newman, were legendary film composers. He began playing the piano as a child, and moved into songwriting and recording as a teen. While a student at UCLA, he cut his first single, "Golden Gridiron Boy." At about the same time, he started working as a professional songwriter, earning $100 a month as a staff writer for Metric Music. His songs were recorded by such artists as The Fleetwoods, Judy Collins, Manfred Mann, and Gene Pitney, before Reprise Records signed him as an artist in his own right in 1967. He released his self-titled debut album the following year. Randy Newman Live was recorded at New York's Bitter End in 1971 and included his humorous asides. While Randy Newman Live is considered to be his breakthrough, 1977's "Short People," from his Little Criminals album, was a #2 Billboard hit and brought both notoriety and controversy. While continuing to record, Newman first ventured into film music in the early '70s, as music director for Performance and composer for Cold Turkey. His score for the 1981 film Ragtime brought his first Academy Award nod, and the soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy. Subsequent film scores include The Natural, Parenthood, Awakenings, Toy Story (1 & 2), A Bug's Life, and Pleasantville. In 1996, his musical based on Faust premiered at the La Jolla Playhouse. Newman has received 12 Academy Award nominations, has won multiple Grammy and Emmy awards, and was the first recipient of ASCAP's Henry Mancini Award for lifetime achievement. Guilty: 30 Years of Randy Newman (Rhino Records), a four-CD retrospective featuring highlights of his album and cinematic work, was released in 1998, and the 35-song Randy Newman Anthology Songbook was published last year. 1999's Bad Love (DreamWorks Records) is Newman's most recent recording.
Nickel Creek started out as a quartet of musicians from two families—the Thiles and the Watkins. They began playing together in the San Diego area over 10 years ago, when three of the four were not yet teenagers. The line-up at that time included Chris Thile (now 19) on mandolin, Sara Watkins (now 18) on fiddle, Sean Watkins (now 23) on guitar, and Chris' dad Scott Thile on bass. The two families met at a pizza parlor where they went regularly to hear the Southern California band Bluegrass Etc. Chris and Sean had each been studying with the band's mandolin player, while Sara studied with their fiddler. For the sake of balance, Chris originally played guitar with the group, but as time went by, he yearned to get back to the mandolin. At about the same time, Sean developed an affinity for the guitar, so they switched instruments and have been happy with their decision ever since. In 1994, the band won the Southwest regional division of the Pizza Hut International Bluegrass Band Showdown. The group's members have had success individually as well. At 15, Sara won the Arizona State Fiddle Championship. Sean was a finalist in the National Flatpicking Guitar Championship at 16, and recently signed with Sugar Hill for a solo guitar album. Chris has recorded two solo projects for Sugar Hill, and has been a finalist for the International Bluegrass Music Association's Mandolinist of the Year four years running. The band's first album was the self-released Here to There. Their newest release is a self-titled CD on Sugar Hill produced by Alison Krauss. Dad Scott Thile has been cutting back on his appearances with the group, so bassist Kevin Hennessey joins Chris, Sean, and Sara for this afternoon's performance.
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.
Andy Stein (violin, saxophone) has far-flung musical leanings: He was a founding member of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen; he collaborated with Garrison Keillor to create the opera Mr. and Mrs. Olson; and he has recorded with dozens of artists, from Itzhak Perlman to Nellie McKay.
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.
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).