Gary Edward “Garrison” Keillor, born on August 7, 1942 in Anoka, Minnesota to Grace Ruth (Denham) Keillor and John Philip Keillor, was one of six children.
Keillor started on Minnesota Educational Radio, the forerunner of Minnesota Public Radio, in 1969 on The Morning Program. The show’s eclectic music was a major divergence from the station’s classical fare. He resigned in February 1971 in protest to what he attributed as interference with his musical programming. As part of his protest, he played nothing but the Beach Boy’s “Help Me, Rhonda”.
The show returned in October, renamed A Prairie Home Companion. It now included live musical performances in the cramped studio and ran until 1987 when he decided to end it.
“What?” you say – it’s still on the air. He worked on several other live radio programs including “The American Radio Company of the Air”, which maintained nearly the same format as A Prairie Home Companion.
In 1993, he reintroduced A Prairie Home Companion receiving no credits except under the nom de plume, Sarah Bellum. As a Funny Names enthusiast, I love the shout out to his cerebellum.
The program goes on the road regularly with live broadcasts from venues around the United States incorporating skits with local flavor.
I saw him live in Seattle and found out that as a female Seattleite I could chop a cord of wood and catch a salmon all before breakfast. Then after breakfast head out to the University of Washington to attain my PhD, I was thrilled. (Note—the only PhD’s I possess are the letters on my keyboard, but I did catch a salmon before breakfast once.)
I don’t know about you, but his distinctive voice and story telling style makes me want to curl up in a flannel blanket with a hot cup of cocoa, lean back, and learn more about his fictitious sponsors like the Ketchup Advisory Board, a sample of which might be obtained at Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery, “because if you can’t find it at Ralph’s, you can probably get along without it”.
He’s been married three times to women with impressive names as well: Mary Guntzel, Ulla Skaerved, and current wife, Jenny Lind Nilsson.
On November 1, 2006 he opened “Common Good Books — G. Keillor, prop.”, an independent bookstore located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Painted on the shop’s window below “Classics, all sizes”, is listed “Quality Trash” and “Midwestern Lit”. Doesn’t that make you want to go there?
Keillor is a prolific author as well with over 100 written or recorded works.
My hats off to you, Mr. Keillor, for giving us Lake Wobegon, “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”