A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION
CONTINUING THE LEGACY OF OLD-TIME RADIO
Garrison Keillor (foreground in dark suit) and his A
Prairie Home Companion Players on stage at the Fitzgerald Theater in
Saint Paul, Minnesota.
In the real Olden Days, before there was television (I can
almost hear the approaching dinosaurs) people would gather around the
living room and forget such problems as Prohibition, the Great
Depression, and World War II by listening to the radio. Some of the
shows you watch on television today actually got their start, at
least as a concept, on the radio. There were Westerns like
Gunsmoke, crime shows like Dragnet, and comedy-variety
shows like Bob Hope's Pepsodent Hour, and musical-variety
shows like Bing Crosby's Chesterfield Show. In 1974, radio
host Garrison Keillor revived the radio variety show with A
Prairie Home Companion, which he developed under the inspiration
of the Grand Ole Opry, a hold-over from the old radio days. In
the early days of A Prairie Home Companion, I would listen
ocassionally, but not very often. I was, after all, in my twenties,
and there were so many "other things" to do at that age, but would
always look up the schedule in the Sunday Pittsburgh Press
just to see who Garrison Keillor would have on that week, whether I
listened or not. Then, in 1987, it left the air, but returned to
Public Radio in 1992.
It is still hard to catch A Prairie Home Companion on
Saturday nights at 6:00 PM, but it is re-broadcast on Sunday
afternoons at 2:00 PM here. Frequently, I get to listen to Garrison
Keillor and his group of players perform their comedy sketches, and
Mr. Keillor let us know what is happening in "Lake Wobegone, my
hometown," while on a long-distance drive across Pennsylvania to
another job assignment. The show always makes the trip more
tolerable, despite road work delays, aggressive drivers, and
sometimes bad weather. A recent trip almost clear across the state
was made easier with a funny sketch about an egotistic opera tenor
(he even played the title role in Madame Butterfly) and the
singing of Johnny Cash's daughter, Rosanne Cash and jazz singer
Heather Masse. The singing was really outstanding, especially
Garrison Keillor and Heather Masse singing What'll I do?, an
old Big Band era standard.
Regular comedy bits include The Lives of the Cowboys,
Guy Noir: Private Eye, and Garrison Keillor giving us the
latest reports of the happenings around his old Minnesota hometown,
Lake Wobegone. Keillor's Royal Academy of Players include Tim
Russell, Sue Scott, and ace sound effects man Tom Keith, who does it
the same way they made sound effects in the old days of radio, and in
the MSM movie Radioland Murders. Guy's All-Star Shoe Band
provides the music.
Whether on a summer Saturday evening, or Sunday afternoon after
services, or in a warm living room in the winter, or driving across a
state just to go to work on Monday, A Prairie Home Companion
is good for what ails you. Maybe as good as "Bop-Bop-A-Re-Bop
A poster from the movie version of the radio show.
TIMELINE FOR A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION'S FIRST RUN 1974
Richard Nixon resigns as President over the
Watergate Scandal and pending impeachment.
The nation falls into recession after the 1973
oil embargo. Unemployment rises.
The popular music form known as Disco gets its
The fall of Saigon to North Vietnamese forces
ends the Vietnam War.
President Ford struggles with inflation,
recession, and survives bizarre assassination attempts.
Saturday Night Live debuts and The
Stepford Wives premieres.
America celebrates the Bi-Centennial of the
Declaration of Independence.
Jimmy Carter is elected President.
Elvis Presley dies. Saturday Night Fever
and Star Wars premiere.
Son of Sam serial killer David Berkowitz is
Menachem Begin is elected Prime Minister of
Jimmy Carter brokers a Mid-East peace deal with
Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Israel's Menachem Begin.
Mass Suicide at the Reverend Jim Jones' Peoples
Temple in Guyana.
Military dictatorship ends in Spain with the
passage of a Constitution.
The Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series over
the Baltimore Orioles.
Margaret Thatcher is elected Prime Minister of
the United Kingdom.
The Iranian Hostage Crisis begins.
Ronald Reagan wins election to Presidency over
A deep recession begins as Federal Reserve
Chairman Paul Volcker raises interest rates drastically.
As Ronald Reagan assumes the Presidency, Iran's
Ayatollah Khomeni releases the embassy hostages.
President Reagan responds to the air traffic
controllers' strike by terminating them.
Sandra Day O'Connor becomes first woman on the
Argentina invades the Falkland Islands, prompting
Great Britain to launch an invasion to retake them.
Israel invades Lebanon in retaliation for
Palestine Liberation Organization rocket attacks .
Michael Jackson releases Thriller.
The American Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon is
Korean Airlines Flight 007 is shot down by Soviet
Flashdance and Return of the Jedi
are hit movies.
Ronald Reagan wins landslide re-election over
former Vice President Walter Mondale.
The US Bell system is broken up.
The Apple Macintosh computer is released.
The Band Aid movement of popular singers to raise
money to aid famine victims in Ethiopia releases We Are
the World. Heaven Help Us is released to theaters.
William J. Schroeder receives the first
US Route 66 is decommissioned.
The "Hands Across America" celebration takes
place in May.
The Statue of Liberty is re-opened after
The Iran-Contra scandal erupts.
The Fox Broadcasting network is launched with
The Simpsons appearing in small segments on The
Tracy Ullman Show.
The October 26th Black Monday Stock Market crash.
Microsoft releases Windows 2.0.