A Prairie Home Companion, with non-other than, Garrison Keillor.
Arizona Public Radio, celebrating 50 years in Tucson this year, was proud to host a special live presentation of Minnesota’s own “A Prairie Home Companion” at the Tucson Convention Center tonight. Arriving in Tucson this past week, red socks and all, Garrison Keillor and all his friends from St. Paul, Minnesota spent the past week writing the show with some local talent, and getting the scoop on Tucson and all it’s current events and southwest ways. He’s a bit of a star in these parts, and especially Tucson, where so many Minnesotans choose to winter here. Don and I were introduced to this Grand Ole Opry style radio program, which airs on Saturday nights from frigid Minnesota, when a movie about the show was in theaters three years ago. All Donald needed to hear was that Meryl Streep was in it and it became a must see movie rental. (We never knew that Meryl had such a great singing voice till then. Of course, she went on to do “Momma Mia”, the Abba movie; a somewhat silly flick with great music, but Don wouldn’t have missed that either, or for anything. )
So…. thanks to our friends, Lena & Steve, we had tickets to see the live show tonight, and, as Keillor says, “with all the Minnesota frostbacks passing through Tucson on their way to Mexico”. A sold out show long before we arrived Tucson in November, it didn’t disappoint. A show unlike anything you would see back East; where time stands still for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. Where Dusty and Lefty come to Tucson to work for the O.K. Corral Condos and songs like "There’s No Rust in Tucson" play between The Weekly News From Lake Wobegon. (where the residents get cranky and eccentric as the winter drags on, and refuse to take telephone calls from warmer area codes.) It’s live radio with all the jokes, commercials, small town stories, and comes complete with all the sound effects by Fred Newman. And at the end of the show, everyone sings “Goodnight Sweetheart” and “I’ll Fly Away”.
Let the credits roll……….
I certainly hope everyone gets to see this in one’s lifetime, …… or will find one of those 590 radio stations on the radio dial some lazy Saturday afternoon. You will be hooked too!
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A little bit of history for the unacquainted.......
”If you showed up on July 6, 1974, at the Janet Wallace Auditorium at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota and plunked down your $1 admission (50 cents for kids) to attend the very first broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion, you were in select company. There were about 12 people in the audience. But those in attendance thought there were worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon, so Garrison Keillor and the APHC team went on to produce close to 500 live shows in the first 10 years alone. There were broadcasts from this venue and that, until March 4, 1978, when the show moved to The World Theater, a lovely, crumbling building that was one plaster crack away from the wrecking ball. (Now fully renovated and renamed The Fitzgerald, it is the show's home base.)
In June of 1987, APHC ended for a while. Garrison thought it was a good idea at the time, but only two years later, the show was back, based in New York and called American Radio Company of the Air. But there's no place like home. So in 1992, it was back to Minnesota and, soon after, back to the old name: A Prairie Home Companion.
There has been plenty of adventure in the past 30-plus years — broadcasts from Canada, Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, Iceland and almost every one of the 50 states; wonderful performers, little-known and world-renowned; standing ovations and stares of bewilderment. We've missed planes, coped with lost luggage, dodged swooping bats and hungry mosquitoes, plodded through blizzards, and flown by the seat of our pants.
Today, A Prairie Home Companion is heard by more than 4 million listeners each week on some 590 public radio stations, and abroad on America One and the Armed Forces Networks in Europe and the Far East. Garrison recalls, "When the show started, it was something funny to do with my friends, and then it became an achievement that I hoped would be successful, and now it's a good way of life."