Discover more from A Prairie Home Companion Newsletter
California, Here We Come - a show from May 13, 2000
Randy Newman, Nickel Creek
Cheerfulness by Garrison Keillor — click to purchase (softcover book available for shipping May 13).
Last year, A Prairie Home Companion lost a part of our musical family. Bob Douglas passed away on December 1st and this tribute appears in Garrison’s upcoming book, Cheerfulness.
Bob Douglas was cheerful, the mandolinist in the Powdermilk Biscuit Band in the early days of A Prairie Home Companion, who loved gospel songs, having grown up with them, even “It’s G-L-O-R-Y to Know That I’m S-A-V-E-D,” and he dove into bluegrass and swing tunes and played a driving backbeat on the fiddle standards, a dedicated devotee and serious folkie, but audiences get restless and earnestness only goes so far, and Bob’s ace card was playing spoons. He kept them in his back pocket, ordinary kitchen spoons. No silver spoons, the tone was clanky. He held two spoons back to back an inch apart in his right hand, did elaborate rolls against the spread fingers of his left hand, and the rickety-tickety-bop glittery-flibbertigibbet shave-and-a-haircut drove the crowd wild. It never failed.
He worked hard to master a complicated instrument, the mandolin, but it was the parlor trick of spoonerism that blew them away — there’s a lesson in humility here.
Bob wasn’t eager to play the spoons, he was a mandolinist, not a clown, but he did it when it was needed and did it with a beautiful big smile, syncopating around, percussing hand-to-knee and off his forehead, bopping on the guitarist’s shoulder, rapping on the knees of a kid in the front row, then the kid’s father, he made solemn hippies whoop like third graders. Sometimes he’d switch to wooden spoons for the clackety tone. It was cheerfulness at work.
SONG LIST: Irish Fiddle Tunes Is It Time Canaan’s Land Going Up Home to Live in Green Pastures There’s No Hiding Place Down Here Anchored in Love
This week, the show travels back to the year 2000 with a show from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California, featuring guests including Randy Newman and the bluegrass group Nickel Creek.
Highlights from the show include a medley about cars and talk about the weather, plus the hilarious “Sushi Yucky” song performed/written by Pat Donohue, and the “Chicken of the Seas” sketch featuring sound effects guru Tom Keith. Nickel Creek plays “Ode to a Butterfly” and “Reasons Why,” Randy Newman plays “I Miss You” and “Sail Away,” and some of the show sketches include Guy Noir, Rhubarb, and Bertha — plus the latest News from Lake Wobegon. Join us on Facebook at 5:00 p.m. CT this Saturday. Or if you can’t wait, click this LINK now
Randy Newman is one of America’s greatest singer-songwriters and film composers. He was born to a musical family in 1943 and became a professional songwriter seventeen years later. In 1968, he released Randy Newman, the first of many acclaimed albums. He is known as a pop singer for acerbic hits like “Short People,” “I Love L.A.,” and “It’s Money that Matters,” and as a composer of the scores for dozens of films, including Ragtime, The Natural, Forrest Gump, Pleasantville, and Seabiscuit. His work in film has resulted in 22 Academy Award nominations and two wins, including his 2002 win for “If I Didn’t Have You” from Monsters, Inc. He has also written a full-length musical based on Faust, which premiered in 1996. In 2013, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
More than three decades ago, three Southern California youngsters started a band. Nickel Creek released a half-dozen albums and garnered a boatload of honors, including a Grammy and a couple of IBMA Awards. In 2007, the trio took an “indefinite hiatus,” and Chris Thile (mandolin), Sara Watkins (fiddle), and Sean Watkins (guitar) each went on to acclaimed careers in music. Their 2023 reunion resulted in Celebrants, the group’s fifth studio album and accompanying spring tour.
A few questions for Sara Watkins:
Who were your early musical influences and what did you learn from them or by listening to them?
When I was little, my parents listened to a lot of folk music, some classical, early rock and roll, and ’80s country music. I’d listen to lyrics and would act out, in my imagination, the story of a song as it played.
The music that really sunk in at that time were things like Linda Ronstadt’s Greatest Hits (vol, 1), the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and early George Strait, and I’m still a sucker for a good groove with a little recklessness thrown in there. It makes me want to move! Another record that has stuck with me from that time was Trio. That’s how I came to love harmony. Even as a little kid, their singing of those songs made me stop and listen.
How is recording and touring solo different from your time with Nickel Creek?
I was a little intimidated at first at the task of taking on everything by myself, but I also knew this was the right time. I’d been playing shows in LA whenever I could and sort of began exercising new musical muscles and, thanks to some terrific opportunities (not the least of which was 19 years in a Nickel Creek), I wasn’t as uncomfortable heading up the charge to a solo career as I’d thought I would be.
The late Chet Atkins called Prairie Home house guitarist Pat Donohue “one of the greatest fingerpickers in the world today.” This spirited album of blues classics and originals showcases Donohue’s virtuosity in songs recorded live with the Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band during A Prairie Home Companion broadcasts. Cuts include “Frisco Town," “Mudslide," “Statesboro Blues," and the highly requested “Road to Kingdom Come.” Here is “Mudslide.” Click here to purchase.
This gem of wisdom from Leaving Home, Garrison Keillor's best-selling book of Lake Wobegon stories, is for every parent, grandparent, and teacher — anyone, really, who cares deeply about children. Without a doubt, the eight simple words are a big reason all children in Lake Wobegon are “above average.” Quotation is etched on a substantial glass weight and packaged in a lovely gift box. Made in the USA. Click to purchase.
A collection of merchandise curated by Garrison Keillor & Staff relating to Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion, and The Writer's Almanac.