Jearlyn and Jevetta Steele
Growing up in Indiana, Jearlyn and Jevetta Steele sang with their siblings as The Steele Children. One by one, they moved to Minnesota and started singing together again. Now music is the family business. Jearlyn also hosts Steele Talkin', a Sunday-night radio show on WCCO, Minneapolis. Her most recent solo CD is Jearlyn Steele Sings Songs from A Prairie Home Companion. Jevetta's performance of "Calling You," from the film Baghdad Café, was nominated for an Academy Award. Her solo albums include 2006's My Heart.
Funny how things come together. Born in Rome, Italy, to parents from Minnesota, Hilary Thavis grew up loving music — especially folk music — from Woody Guthrie to Italian folk singers like Fabrizio De André and Francesco De Gregori. But it was the blues that ultimately captured her attention. Trouble & Truth is the 2011 recording from her band Gaia Groove. Now making her home in the Twin Cities, Hilary is working on a solo album of original songs.
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 (Red House Records), a collaboration with guitarist Pat Donohue.
When Willie Watson was about 12, he happened upon a recording by Leadbelly. "As soon as I heard that record, I was hooked," he says. His interest in folk and blues and old-time music would eventually lead him to be a founding member of the string band Old Crow Medicine Show. Since leaving the group a couple of years ago, he has launched a solo career. His debut solo album, Folk Singer Vol. 1, features 10 songs ranging from folk standards to obscure gems. It will be released in May on Acony 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 O, What A Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound (Grove Press), and the editor of several anthologies of poetry, including Good Poems: American Places (Viking).
The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band
Keyboardist, composer, and arranger Richard Dworsky is music director for A Prairie Home Companion. He has also accompanied Garrison Keillor on U.S. and European concert tours and has collaborated with numerous other performers, including Al Jarreau and singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth. Among his many CDs is So Near and Dear to Me (Prairie Home Productions).
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.
When Richard Kriehn turned 10, his mom bought him a mandolin; at 19, he'd won the Buck White International Mandolin Contest. He went on to play with the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble and bluegrass group 1946. On the classical side, he has performed with numerous orchestras and was principal second violin for the Washington/Idaho Symphony.
Guitarist Dean Magraw studied at the University of Minnesota and the Berklee School of Music in Boston. His first recording, 1994's Broken Silence, won the NAIRD award for Best Acoustic Instrumental Album of the Year. Dean has since turned out an array of dazzling albums. For his latest, he joined forces with Hungarian guitarist Sándor Szabó to produce Reservoir (Acoustic Music Records).
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.
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).