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Garrison Keillor's farewell tour stops Oct. 20 at Hudson Performance Hall


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A Prairie Home Companion as it is widely known under the guidance of the steady-voiced wit of writer and humorist Garrison Keillor ended in July when he retired.

The widely popular, nationally syndicated Saturday radio program will continue under the guidance of new host Chris Thile, but many fans gave their allegiance to Keillor and the show’s format.

For the people of Oklahoma City, it doesn’t have to be good-bye just yet, at least not for one night. Keillor brings his farewell tour to Hudson Performance Hall, 2820 N. May Ave., on Oct. 20.

For years, people tuned in to hear Keillor’s humorous, satirical stories from the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. Other regular features include “Guy Noir, Private Eye” and regular advertisements from fictitious Powdermilk Biscuits, the best biscuit product ever made by Norwegian bachelor farmers.

A Prairie Home Companion was first broadcast in 1974, back when the unorthodox concept was groundbreaking on radio.

“Thank goodness Minnesota Public Radio was too poor to afford good advice,” Keillor said in 1999 as his show celebrated its 25th anniversary. “We only did it because we knew it would be fun to do. It was a dumb idea. I wish I knew how to be that dumb again.”

Keillor’s last show was recorded July 1 in front of 18,000 people at Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and aired the next day. The host decided to end his more than four-decade run to focus on his upcoming memoir and a movie set in Lake Wobegon.

“The memoir is about gratitude and the screenplay about loyalty, neither of which are natural to me,” Keillor said in an interview with USA Today. “To do them right, I needed to put the radio show behind me. It’s the sort of simple decision that the moment you arrive at it, you know it’s right.”

The show, however, will not end with Keillor’s departure. The host hand-picked Thile, known as a renowned mandolinist with country music trio Nickel Creek and the Americana-classical outfit Punch Brothers, as his replacement.

Thile’s first show as full-time host airs Saturday. He previously appeared several times on the show as a guest, making his program debut at age 15 in 1996. Thile had brief stints as a guest host on the show in each of the last two years.

Keillor’s replacement is tasked with making A Prairie Home Companion relevant to a younger audience. Some of his first guests include The White Stripes’ Jack White and multi-talented musician Esperanza Spalding.

“It’s an oft-uttered statement, but these are troubled times,” Thile told when asked about how his version of the show will be different. “I am all the more fervently seeking the beauty that human beings are capable of developing, and I want the show to be a place for those beautiful things. So that, quite frankly, is our great goal, our great challenge.”

It is certainly within Thile’s great talent to produce a worthy successor program, but he is also the first to admit there is no replacing Keillor. He might now be off regular Saturday radio, but Keillor’s trademark voice and the feelings they associate with his broadcast will never leave loyal fans.

“I don’t think radio is memorable,” he told USA Today. “I can remember radio voices, old baseball announcers, old newscasters. But what they specifically said, I cannot remember. People might remember a few jokes. They’ll remember ‘Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above-average.’”

Print headline: Home coming, Garrison Keillor stops in Oklahoma City as Saturday radio transitions to his absence.

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