The only live music and variety show aired nationwide today, A Prairie Home Companion. Live every Saturday night from 6â€”8 p.m. ET, A Prairie Home Companion features comedy sketches, music, and Garrison Keillor's signature monologue, "The News from Lake Wobegon."
Garrison Keillor went to work for Minnesota Public Radio in 1969 on the 6 to 9 am morning program called A Prairie Home Companionâ€”named after the Prairie Home cemetery in Moorhead, Minnesota. It was after he began work on an article for the New Yorker magazine about the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville that he developed an idea for a radio show with musical guests and commercials for imaginary products. And on July 6, 1974, Keillor hosted the first live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion at the Janet Wallace Auditorium at Macalester College, Saint Paul. Producer Margaret Moos sold tickets for $1 for adults (50 cents for children), and the audience of 12 produced a total gate of something less than $8.
During its first 10 years, A Prairie Home Companion produced 477 live shows. On March 4, 1978, the show moved to The World Theater in Saint Paul, which at the time was boarded-up and expected to be demolished. The former World Theater, now the renovated Fitzgerald Theater, has been the program's home base ever since. The show ended for a time on Saturday, June 13, 1987, leaving the airwaves after a run of 13 years in Minnesota. Keillor said, "The decision to close is mineâ€”the sort of simple, painful decision that our parents taught us to make cheerfully. It is simply time to go."
However, two short years later after some time abroad, Keillor set up shop again in 1989 in New York at the Brooklyn Academy of Music as The American Radio Company. The show gathered momentum and stations (over 200 public radio stations carried the program), and on March 28, 1992, Keillor announced that the program would return to Minnesota. In 1993 the show resumed the name A Prairie Home Companion.
Today, A Prairie Home Companion is heard by over 4 million listeners each week on over 580 public radio stations, and is heard abroad on America One and the Armed Forces Networks In Europe and the Far East. Keillor remembers, "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."
A Prairie Home Companion is produced by Prairie Home Productions, and distributed nationwide by American Public Media. The program is underwritten by Toyota and Select Comfort.