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Keillor the Radio Star

Published: August 7, 2017

Last year Garrison Keillor recorded his final show as host of Prairie Home Companion, the little variety radio program-that-could. Keillor conceived the radio show in 1974 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, featuring musical acts and folksy sketch comedy.  

The Post’s 1986 article “Lake Wobegon: The Little Town That Time Forgot,” describes the first recording of A Prairie Home Companion in the Janet Wallace Auditorium at Macalester College in Saint Paul: “There was an audience of 12 in the 400-seat hall, and the total gate ($1 for adults, 50c for children) was less than $8.” For those still unfamiliar with the nationally-broadcast program — likely a minority, especially among public radio listeners — Keillor’s two-hour-long, weekly production weaved live music with tales of “Guy Noir, Private Eye,” “News from Lake Wobegon,” and “The Lives of the Cowboys.” Keillor wrote several collections of stories about the fictional Lake Wobegon, “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average,” starting with Lake Wobegon Days in 1985.  

Keillor’s last show was recorded at California’s Hollywood Bowl to an audience of 18,000 people on July 1, 2016. Companion continued, though, on October 15th with its new host Chris Thile of musical groups Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers. Garrison Keillor still produces the radio program, and he began writing a column for The Washington Post in 2016.  

We caught up with Keillor last year, and he gave Post writer Jeanne Wolf his thoughts on the presidential election, retirement, and the dividing country.

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