GK: I grew up, as you know, on a potato farm near Park River, N.D., because my dad, who was from Goteborg (TR SWEDISH), believed that the End of the World was imminent and so he wanted to live in a flat place where he could see it coming- and so we raised pigs (SFX) and waited for the end and life was hard except at night when we turned on the Philco radio receiver on the kitchen table and listened to the shows that came to us from New York City------
(NIGHTHAWKS MANHATTAN THEME)
TR (ANNC): Live from New York's famous 44th Street, home of the Algonquin Round Table, it's time for The Dorothy Parker Show.......with Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman and.....Vince Giordano and his Nighthawks---- brought to you by Santana, toothpaste........
SS (NYER): Thank you, Jimmy. Men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses, and that's why I don't mind being half-blind....ha ha ha ha ha.....How are you, Robert?
TR (NYER): Aside from the occasional heart attack, I'm just fine, Dorothy.
SS (NYER): Me too. Well, I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.
TR (NYER): Ho ho ho ho. People say I'm a writer with a drinking problem. I say, I'm a drinker with a writing problem.
SS (NYER): Hey, I said that!
TR (NYER): Well, the only ism I believe in is plagiarism. (BRIDGE)
GK: When you spend your day with pigs and chickens, it's so exciting listening to sophisticated repartee from the Great White Way. All the great radio shows came from New York and we sat glued to our Philco receiver, spellbound by each one.
(NIGHTHAWKS THEME: ADVENTURE)
TR: Once again it's time for the Adventures of ---- The Waiter From Decatur. Starring Roy A. Blount as Billy Joe Bob, the aspiring young actor who waits table at Manhattan's exclusive Copacabana while waiting for his big break on Broadway----- (RESTAURANT AMBIENCE, TABLEWARE, MURMURS)
RB: Two more hours and my shift is over and I can go home to 145th Street and work on my accent. Meanwhile, I look around the room and see famous producers and directors who could give me my big break were I only impolite enough to importune them here ---- but I shan't do it. I was not brought up to beg. All things come to him who waits. That must be my byword. Unceasing courtesy and kindness in the face of crushing disappointment. ----Well, there's John Huston waving to me, wanting another plate of oysters. If only I had the temerity to promote myself, instead of serving in the shadows. Oh well. Tomorrow is another day
GK: We lived for those radio shows as we struggled through the mud and the slime (FOOTSTEPS IN MUD, PIG, CHICKENS) and did our chores, knowing that after the sun went down, we'd be transported to New York and the life of elegance and privilege enjoyed people handsomer and more clever than ourselves......
(NIGHTHAWKS, ELEGANCE THEME)
TR: And now from the Tom-Tom Room of the Oglallah Hotel in New York City, it's The Vince Giordano Show starring handsome society bandleader Vince Giordano, the heartthrob of mature women, and his Nighthawks Orchestra, brought to you by Santana Toothpaste.....
VG: So many of you kids have written in to ask how you can become musicians like me and start your own band ---- and the answer is ---- Be true to your dream and never give up. Here it is, 1954, and so many bandleaders have abandoned jazz for the easy money of rock-and-roll, but not I. ---- You will never find us Nighthawks gyrating to "Rock Around The Clock" or anything of that ilk. You can support us with your Nighthawks Membership Contribution ---- for a patron membership of $100 we'll send you the Nighthawks Decoder Ring ------ the ring that tells you instantly what key the band is playing in. Join now, won't you----
GK: There we were in North Dakota, struggling to survive through duststorms (SFX) and a disease that wiped out half our chickens (CHICKEN COUGHING) and our Dad who we did not understand at all (TR SWEDISH) - and through it all, my closest friends were the folks I heard on the radio from New York.
(NIGHTHAWKS THEME, SENTIMENTAL)
TR: And now, from New York, Bridgeport Brand Bromides, the magic medicinal crystals that calm stomach acids caused by overexcitement, brings you ----- LITTLE EVA ----- the heartwarming story of an orphan girl and her twin sister Esther who make their way singing on the streets of the big city, while hoping to meet the father they never knew---- (TRAFFIC)
HM: It's so bitterly cold. The wind is like a knife. Let's go into the lobby of that hotel and warm up until they kick us out.
AO: No, Esther. We might miss him. Our father whom we never knew. He might come walking along in his tuxedo and top hat and his diamond watch fob and we'd miss our only chance to attain our rightful social class and attend Mount Holy Smoke college for women.
HM: But how do we even know he exists?
AO: Because Mother, as she was led away to the poorhouse, called out his name. It was Vince something.
AO: I forget the last name. It was Italian.
HM: Okay. Let's stand on this grate---- there's some warm air coming up ---- and we'll sing one more song---- (ACCORDION)
HM & AO (SING):
I am a singer here on Broadway
Trying to make it....in an odd way
I have no manager, no agent
No promotion, just frustration
I am an orphan girl.
GK: When I finally made it to New York, all those people I knew from the radio were gone, except for one.....the glamorous bandleader, my hero, the man who I imagined knew all about fine wines and how to talk to glamorous women and how to dance the tango, and how to tie a bowtie yourself rather than suffering the embarrassment of wearing a clip-on. I searched for him all over New York and I finally found him ----- out on Rikers Island. (STEEL DOOR OPEN)
TR: He's in there, kid. The guy in the striped suit.
GK: That's him?
TR: That's him.
GK: He sure doesn't look like his publicity pictures.
TR: Nobody does. You going in or not? I don't have all day.
GK: I'm going in. (SLOW FOOTSTEPS ON STONE, GRITTY, AND STOP) Hi, Mr. Giordano.
VG: What you want, kid?
GK: My name is Wyler, Mr. Giordano. Carson Wyler. I'm a huge fan of yours. Your music was the light of my life through my long dreary childhood in North Dakota and I just want to thank you. From the bottom of my heart.
VG: Thanks. It's sort of a dreary time in my life, kid. I guess the tables have turned. I was riding high, living the dream, and then----
GK: And then what?
VG: I don't want to talk about it, kid.
GK: They say it helps to talk about it. No?
VG: I donno. It was two years ago. I was playing the Victrola Room of the Edison Hotel ---- riding high ---- limousine ---- bouquets of flowers in the dressing room ---- house in Easthampton ---- eighty-seven pairs of shoes in my closet----
VG: And then a man walked up to the bandstand and asked me to play "Bei mir bist du schoen" ---- and I looked and it was Henry Kissinger. And I said, "I wouldn't play that song for you if it was the only song I knew." And I poked him in the snoot.
GK: Because you thought he was a war criminal?
VG: I don't care for Germans. Never did. It's something about sauerkraut. Anyway, I called him some names and now I'm doing two years in jail for hate speech.
GK: What about your famous band, The Nighthawks.
VG: A rocknroller named Ronnie Hawkins took them over and they changed their name to The Band and they moved to Woodstock and made some basement tapes with Bob Dylan and became famous and earned a ton of money.
GK: I've got a record of the old Nighthawks with me. Would you mind autographing it?
VG: Awww. My autograph isn't worth anything. What record is it, kid?
GK: It's a recording of __________.
VG: Ah. Not a bad tune.
GK: It got me through some lonely nights in North Dakota, I'll tell you. Want to hear it? I brought a record player with me.
VG: It's up to you, kid. Whatever.
(SCRATCH OF NEEDLE ON DISC, THEN MUSIC)
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).