A program that has been a fixture of American culture for decades has come to a moment of transition. “No more ‘Guy Noir, Private Eye.’ No more tales of Dusty and Lefty, the luckless cowboys. And no more weekly ‘News From Lake Wobegon,’ the imaginary Minnesota town famous for strong women, good-looking men and above-average children,” the AP reports. “Those signature comedy sketches will vanish from the airwaves when humorist and best-selling author Garrison Keillor retires as host of his popular public radio show, ‘A Prairie Home Companion,’ this summer.”
Keillor will hand over the reins of “A Prairie Home Companion” to Chris Thile, a mandolin master who is well-known in bluegrass circles and who currently tours as frontman for the progressive bluegrass outfit Punch Brothers. Keillor’s last show tapes July 1 at the Hollywood Bowl.
A 2012 MacArthur Fellow, Thile first gained notice in the early 2000s as a member of the acoustic trio Nickel Creek, but quickly established himself as a mainstay of the bluegrass festival circuit, winning the International Bluegrass Music Association award for Mandolinist of the Year in 2001. He has gone on to numerous musical collaborations, including projects with Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Mike Marshall, Edgar Meyer and Michael Daves.
Thile, 35, will take over as “A Prairie Home Companion’s” first full-time replacement host in October. Said Keillor, who launched the program way back in 1974: “I thought that the show should press the restart and not try to replicate what it has evolved into, but go back to the beginning and revive itself as a music show with comedy add-ons.”
The AP adds: “The show’s name will remain ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ (for now), its home base will stay at the 1,000-seat, elegantly restored Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul, and the live show will keep its two-hour Saturday evening time slot. Keillor says he will remain as executive producer and ‘a remote, benevolent gray eminence who phones in his thoughts every so often.'”
Here’s a sample of Chris Thile, on the right, jamming with Mike Marshall a few years ago. Hang onto your seat starting around the 4:56 mark …