It was Aunt Stella's banjo that first caught Robbie Fulks' attention. He was seven. From there, it was Aunt Mildred's fiddle, his dad's guitar, and any other instrument that crossed his path. Before he was out of high school, he was playing local coffeehouses. For more than 30 years, this guitarist/singer/songwriter has called Chicago home. His singular brand of music may be hard to pigeonhole, but across the board his fans agree: once you've heard it, you're hooked. The most recent of his dozen-plus albums is 2013's Gone Away Backward (Bloodshot Records). Guitar: Robbie Gjersoe.
Singer-songwriter-science geek Lynn Peterson is a native Minnesotan whose career took her to New York City, where she spent eight years as a performer, composer, and studio vocalist, before returning to the Twin Cities. And the science geek part? She studied chemistry as an undergrad and now continues graduate work focused on chemistry and sustainability. Her Norwegian roots and love of Norway are inspiration for an upcoming recording project: Songs of the Sognefjord.
While still a student at Juilliard, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Rivera was invited to join the roster of the New York City Opera. And after winning their prestigious Debut Artist of Year award, she went on to sing many roles with the company, including Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Hansel in Hansel and Gretel, and Nerone in Handel's Agrippina. She has sung in major opera houses across the globe, from the Lyric Opera of Kansas City to Ópera de Colombia in Bogotá. A native of California, she makes her home in New York City.
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.
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; O, What A Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound (Grove Press); and The Keillor Reader (Viking). He is also the editor of the Good Poems anthologies.
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).
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.
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.
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).