Early Performance of A Prairie Home Companion Featuring Garrison Keillor, Bill Hinkley, and Judy Larson, c. 1974
A new comedy, music, and variety show called A Prairie Home Companion made its first live radio broadcast on July 6, 1974. (It didn’t go national until 1978.) About a dozen audience members witnessed the initial performance at Macalester College’s Janet Wallace Auditorium. The show’s fan base has grown a bit since then.
Photo via A Prairie Home Companion
What was the APHC crew up to 37 years ago? Just finishing our last show from the Park Square Court Theater. GK said on that evening’s broadcast: “We are sorry to be leaving this building but looking forward to our new home in the St. Paul Arts and Science Center just up the hill and across the way in downtown St. Paul. … It’s a real high-class place. They’ve got real seats in there, you know, and lights and everything.”
The songwriters in the Lake Wobegon area have been commissioned by Jack’s Auto Repair to compose songs for the Jack’s Autoharp, which I have right here. Songs in which all the necessary chords are incorporated right in the lyrics so there can be no mistake about it. You know, it’s not an easy thing to play these three-chord songs.
We’re trying to incorporate chords like F and G7 into the lyrics. Well, it’s kind of a hard task, as you can understand. The possibilities are rather limited after you write ten songs about “A minor’s life, A minor’s child,” write songs like they wrote last week, “Hand Me Down that Augmented Fifth, Let’s Diminish it before we Go To C.” After you use up the really good ideas you get down to things like “Doe, a deer, a female deer, ray, a drop of golden sun…” By that time you’re climbing the wall.
Garrison talks about “the Autoharp Life” during our second broadcast — July 13th, 1974, live from the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN
Guests included Butch Thompson (“Butch Thompson, is that his name? What’s his real name? Shirt?”), Bill Hinkley and Judy Larson, the Sundowner String Band, and poet Keith Gunderson
GK signs off in the ‘70s, along with the Butch Thompson Trio (Red Maddock, Bill Evans, and Butch Thompson himself on piano)
What was the APHC gang up to 33 years ago? Getting ready for this Saturday, May 26th broadcast from The Fitzgerald Theater (back then it was still the World Theater). Guests included bluesman Red Gallagher, singer Ken Bloom and jazz group Rio Nido (with a young bass player named Gary Raynor).
Above: Garrison on autoharp with the Powdermilk Biscuit Band — Bob Douglas, Adam Granger, and Mary DuShane — sometime in the ’70s. (A little trivia: autoharp is the only instrument GK has ever played on the show.)
[Previously in From the Archives]
Garrison and Vern Sutton