Paul Wilson: Garrison Keillor Keeps Romance Radio Alive @ Starlight

Keillor in crowd at StarlightThe Radio Romance Tour 2013 and its cast of colorful characters rolled into Starlight Friday…

Yet as much as I’d looked forward to this event, Friday was one of those ultra difficult days where nothing seemed to fall in place as it should have.

Arriving later than planned – because twenty minutes early is five minutes late in my world – I found myself standing with an usher, and not yet seated, when I heard those first few notes and the refrain that opens every Prairie Home Companion radio show;

“Oh hear that old piano, from down the avenue.”

Usually on my “NPR Saturdays” that line is trans-formative to my spirit.

But on this gruesome Friday, it was a question of who or what would win – the oppressive 90 degree heat (taken up a notch by the 90 percent humidity and not a breath of air), the $50.00 worth of margaritas from Starlight’s free flowing Jose Cuervo on tap, Keillor’s show, or my rotten attitude.

Happily, Keillor’s show prevailed.


Aoife O’Donovan

In a house three quarters full of NPR devotees, adjacent to a parking lot that looked like a Toyota Prius dealership, the cast took the stage. It was Garrison Keillor, the host for nearly 40 years, his singer for this portion of the tour, Aoife O’Donovan and a cast of regulars. Including Tom Newman, the most incredible old school sound effects man there is, Rich Dworsky, Pat Donohue and Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band featuring mandolin virtuoso Richard Kriehn.

At each location on the road, Keillor does a yeoman’s job of getting the local history, touching on issues and mailing current topics throughout the evening. He comes across as quite relevant to whats going on in your hometown, as if he was your neighbor.

He made the comment after the opening song that they arrived in two buses and pulled up to the hotel to find themselves surrounded by young, teenage girls cheering and giddy with delight. He played it off as the norm, but said he was thrilled to see the greeting awaiting them as he prepared to get off the bus with the crew. And he was preparing to greet his awaiting fans and sign autographs until….

Music_wallpapers_239It seemed the girls were looking past him and waiting for someone else to appear. It was then he noticed he’d apparently let them down as they were waiting for some boy band called One Dimension – to which the crowd gave a rollicking and approving ovation – both for the set up as well as the intentional wrong usage of the band’s name.

Keillor continued using the name couple more times until Aoife politely corrected him, “that’s One DIRECTION.”

“Oh, One DIRECTION, I see,” Keillor said thoughtfully, dismissing it as a non event.

The set moved into a medley of local and topical songs including, Kansas City, Abilene, and Kansas City Star. He proceeded straight from that into a song he wrote for Friday night’s show, which is pretty common when he’s on the road. But this song was particularly funny and well done.

It began, “Its great to be in Kansas City…the one in MISSOURI!”

That got a huge crowd reaction. Then Keillor further admonished the crowd to, “Praise the Lord, every day…. even if your highways are all under construction.”

Next the show moved through the regular bits, but this time, The Life Of The Cowboys featured “Whitey” instead of Dusty, his regular cowpoke partner for the bit. Keillor told the crowd Dusty couldn’t be there as he had gone to rehab, again, for whiskey use; something he does from time to time, so he can enjoy it “fresh all over again” when he comes out.


Iris Dement

Keillor has an affinity for former Kansas City singer Iris Dement who he frequently has on the show.

He made note that she briefly lived here – which I never knew – but also said she was born and raised in Southern Missouri when she was actually born in Arkansas. He did a duet of Dement’s song, “Our Town” with O’Donovan. And for those of you who haven’t heard Aoife O’Donnell, she has the voice of a Bluegrass/Country angel.

Then Keillor came off stage and waded into the crowd for his Lake Wobegon monologue. He walked through the crowd for 15-20 minutes, spinning yarns about his old home town, without a note in sight the entire night. It was all off the cuff and impromptu.

At the end of his story, Keillor informed the crowd it was time for his “standing intermission,” and took the opportunity to lead the audience in singing God Bless America, America the Beautiful, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, Amazing Grace and Good Night Ladies.

Then it was back to the stage for Guy Noir, Private Eye and more music with Ride, Baby Ride by The Shoe Band. After two hours and forty five minutes of old time radio like it used to be, Keillor brought the evening to a close with an introduction of the band, a couple of bows and they left as unassumingly as they’d entered.

As the house lights came up and I was walking out, I noticed some of the guys in the troupe had come back out and were standing at the edge of the stage visiting with the crowd.

prairie-home-companion-2Diss it all you want, but there is something incredibly refreshing and renewing to leave the real world behind for just a moment and relive how things used to be in a slower, more laid back lifetime. In a world today where we spend all our time calculating possessions and shallow accomplishments, a dose of old time family values with some spiritual overtones was more than a little refreshing.

 And to that end, a good time was had by one and all.
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28 Responses to Paul Wilson: Garrison Keillor Keeps Romance Radio Alive @ Starlight

  1. Frosted Flake says:

    Talk about CORN.

  2. Interesting Fact says:

    But not CORNY like harley.

  3. paulwilsonkc says:

    (I had a feeling this would bring um out of the woodwork…)

    • Orphan of the Road says:

      Paul, we are in good company with this.

      My friend, Bob Walkenhorst, said he always thought country&western music and such were for squares.

      He realized one day, he was all right-angles.

      In my youth our cabin was filled with folks hunting and fishing. They would turn on the Grand Ole Opry as everyone went to sleep.

      As soon as I heard a few snorks in the darkness, I’d slip over and switch the radio to KAAY, The Mighty 1090 from Little Rock, Arkansas.

      About 3am they would play all the old radio shows. The cast of the movie The Petrified Forest doing it as a radio drama live.

      Thanks for the review. Too hot for me. Hot weather is hard on us fat boys.

      • paulwilsonkc says:

        Ahhh, the mighty KAAY! But before the radio shows came on, it was Clyde Clifford and Bleeker Street. What an innovative show that was. Growing up in Carthage, when the other stations left the airwaves at sunset, we could tune KAAY in starting around 7-8 depending to atmospheric conditions. That and WLS were staples, John Records Landecker.

        • Orphan of the Road says:

          Did you ever tune in early and catch The World Tomorrow with Garner Ted Armstrong telling the TRUTH?

          THAT was a trip too!

          Clyde Clifford still has an internet show I believe.

          “Gonna be a hooker on Bleeker Street…”

          • paulwilsonkc says:

            I absolutely have seen Ted! What a trip.
            I had the chance to meet and talk to Clyde back in the day. I read an extensive piece on him here while back; new about his Internet radio gig but have never tuned in. Without the little tinkling background sounds……it just wouldn’t be him. That was his trademark, wonder if he’s kept it?

        • jack p. says:

          KOMA, KAAY and WLS! Those were the days my friend……

          • paulwilsonkc says:

            KOMA wasn’t on my radar, Jack, but I lived by the other two. Listened to them endlessly; I didn’t much fit it in Carthage. My weekends were spent up here w my grandfather, Volker Park on Sunday and Cowtown.

    • mike says:

      Are you calling us termites?

  4. paulwilsonkc says:

    Mike, not “us”……mainly just you.

    • mike says:

      Hey! Don’t knock it. Wood is a great source of fiber. I’m probably more of a regular guy than you are because of it!

      • paulwilsonkc says:

        I stand corrected. But remember, I’m an old, loser, broke wanna be who fell down and never got up, so you know I live on Metamucil! You may not top me, but you’re a much more “regular guy” than our friend AssHat!

        • mike says:

          On the other hand, Asshat probably puts out more crap than both of us combined!

          • paulwilsonkc says:

            Why do I ever try to one up you?
            I have to go now, it’s near sunset in the Olathe ghetto, I have to arm myself and stand guard. If I can just make it till the 1st, my disability check will come….

  5. Sargent Shriver Stedenko says:

    The worst part of the show last night were all the people tripping on acid, spinning around in a circle and bumping into me. Phish-tour forearm shiver!

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Sarge, I wasn’t going to mention that for fear no one would believe me! It was the most terrified I’d ever been in a mosh pit! Those NPR Libs are brutal.

      • Orphan of the Road says:

        Word quickly filtered through the crowd, don’t take the brown Geritol.

        Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut
        by P.J. O’Rourke

  6. kcplumber says:

    Not quite like a Phish show, the crown was nothing close to what I saw at Sandstone in 98′. Had a good time and wasn’t bothered by any of the crowd.

    • the dude says:

      All those damn hippies smoking their herb and dropping pane at the keillor show should all be shot for burning their draft cards.

  7. jayindependence says:

    On your review of Garrison Keillor’s Friday night performance, I believe you meant to say FRED Newman, sound-effects guy. Tom Keith, another sound-effects guy on the show died last year.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Thank you Jay; I have no idea how I did that; I know his name as well and my own. Maybe I was writing too late, or too early, how ever you choose to look at it.

  8. legendaryhog says:

    I fucking hate this show. It is the fucking worst fucking thing about NPR. Seriously…and don’t get me started on when Paula Poundstone is on there…. or is that a different shitty show?

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Hog, I wish you could have been more direct about your feelings regarding Prairie Home Companion. Your lack of clarity may require a follow up comment just to clear things up.
      With regard to Poundsgtone, she appears on Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me. I assuming you think it’s suckage is on par with Garrison’s, so, absent of any other clarrification on that topic, I’ll assume I was correct.

      • the dude says:

        Let us know how you really feel hog, I can’t quite put my finger on your true feelings.

        • paulwilsonkc says:

          My point exactly, Dude, so I tried to respond as best I could based on supposition. That’s dangerous, as you could be wrong, unless you’re addressing Harlinator. Then you can be pretty sure it just doesn’t matter as you’re addressing one of Gods lesser creatures.

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