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Chris Thile Transitioning to Full-Time Host of A Prairie Home Companion

By Bradley Klein
June 28, 2015 - 9:00 am

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Chris Thile will transition to full-time host of A Prairie Home Companion

Chris Thile will transition to full-time host of A Prairie Home Companion

Cincinnati, Ohio — A mandolin player is about to assume one of the highest profile positions in public radio.

Garrison Keillor, long-time host and creator of the public radio show A Prairie Home Companion has hinted broadly in recent years that he was nearing the end of his tenure as host. But recently in a press interview and during a taping of the show, he has indicated that Chris Thile will be the stepping into that role, after serving as guest host on two occasions earlier this year.

Mandolin Cafe correspondent Bradley Klein confirmed the rumors, meeting with Thile after Saturday's Punch Brothers show in Cincinnati, Ohio.

"Everything Garrison said is true, and I'm really excited," said Thile.

Keillor is expected to retain an active role in the coming season and beyond, juggling the jobs of host, co-host, writer, and executive producer, over a lengthy transition.

Thile indicated tremendous respect for the program Garrison has built, and for its large and loyal audience.

He says that aspects of the show will evolve but that it will retain its important role in nurturing up-and-coming musicians.

Additional information

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Reader Comments

sgarrity
June 28, 2015 09:23 AM
Wonderful news but what does this mean for the Punch Brothers?
CES
June 28, 2015 09:48 AM
My thoughts as well. Life on the road is tough, and even more so when family is involved. Either way, I hope the PB keep making music together, even if the touring slows down.
Clement Barrera-Ng
June 28, 2015 09:49 AM
And I wonder if he may be relocating from New York to Minnesota.
journeybear
June 28, 2015 11:15 AM
I wonder. Theoretically the show could be relocated to somewhere more suitable to him, unless it's linked to Minnesota Public Radio. It might lose some of its character, though that is going to have to change, anyway. Also, I wonder about the effects this will have on the house band and the rest of the cast.

I don't think so. The website says: A Prairie Home Companion is produced by Prairie Home Productions, and distributed nationwide by American Public Media. The program is underwritten by Ford.

Distributed to NPR, not produced by it, or an affiliate. That's what I've got, so far.
Annette Siegel
June 28, 2015 11:42 AM
Quote from Clement Barrera-Ng: And I wonder if he may be relocating from New York to Minnesota. End Quote

Hiya Clement - I believe he currently lives in Portland, OR as his wife (actress) has a TV series (Grimm) filmed there...
nocol
June 28, 2015 12:33 PM
Garrison Keillor has been doing summer tours while A Prairie Home Companion goes into reruns for years now. I'd imagine Punch Brothers would be able to do the same.
greenwdse
June 28, 2015 12:49 PM
Great news. Wouldn't this be a great time for a piece of rhubarb pie?
journeybear
June 28, 2015 01:34 PM
Quote from greenwdse: Great news. Wouldn't this be a great time for a piece of rhubarb pie? End Quote

Hey bob-a-ree-bob! smile)

You know, as much as I'm a bit ashamed to admit it, I haven't listened to the show in years. :redface: Car Talk, either. That was my Saturday morning one-two punch for years, though. No, wait, wait, that's not right. It was Car Talk, followed by Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. PHC was/is on Sundays.

Anyway, the signal for the Miami station that carried these fine shows was/is weak, and there was/is a local Christian radio station at the same frequency that played havoc with my listening. I used to drive to the beach where the reception is better (so is the view) and spend a pleasant couple of hours enjoying the inspired silliness, fascinating information, absorbing dramas, and fine music these shows brought into this uncultured backwater. Somewhere along the line these became available via online streaming, and also available anytime. This led to me getting out of the habit of this ritual, and ultimately to the loss of interest. Also, yard sales here are on Saturday mornings, at the same time. Now this doesn't mean I don't love these shows, and support them in my own lackadaisical way, but it does mean I haven't been keeping up. I wish them well all the same. I have my doubts as to whether Chris Thile will able to be successful as the host - he has rather big shoes to fill, and during his forty years at it, Garrison Keilor and PHC have become virtually synonymous - but I wish him well, as I do in all his endeavors.
jasona
June 28, 2015 01:40 PM
Southern California boy stepping in for world's most fameous Minnesotan? He has a lot of lutefisk to eat to get up to speed. About once is all it will take ;)

Congrats Chris! Now use your powers to get the CBC to replace Vinyl Cafe with APHC
JeffD
June 28, 2015 02:40 PM
Congratulations of course, and it is interesting to consider the ways that Prairie Home Companion will change, perhaps fundamentally. I have no doubt it will be something just as interesting and fun to listen to.

A more interesting question for me is what will this do to the popular conception of the mandolin. The show is much much more popular than the mandolin, and who ever was going to take its helm is destine to become a figure in the entertainment world. Chris will become much more of a household name than he could through mandolinning. And the mandolin will become much more of a recognized item because of it.

Very interesting developments are likely in our corner of the universe.
BradKlein
June 28, 2015 03:39 PM
Thile, Punch Brothers, and friends turned me on to so many of my favorite musicians. I'm hoping that this news is a very good thing for them too, and I think it will be!!
speedread
June 28, 2015 04:17 PM
I would be very upset if this meant the demise of the Punch Brothers, as much relieved as I am to see Keillor finally realizing he has overwelcomed his stay (pun intended) and never really learned how to sing. Radio is a hard medium in which to stay competitive and needs to use fresh approaches to keep listeners active. Wishing Chris the best in this undertaking.
JeffD
June 28, 2015 06:23 PM
I don't think Thile's playing or his recording projects will be affected much. I really don't. I think Prairie Home Companion may make a slow transition to something different - equally as great, but different. Mandolin Home Companion?

I will miss Keillor. A lot. I am in fact sad to see him go. But it is exciting to see what will happen next.
TonyP
June 28, 2015 10:50 PM
Wow, Chris just keeps on surprising me... I never know what he's going to do next! I haven't seen him on PHC but I'll bet he'll be a good host as he's funny and very quick witted. It might be a very cool fit. :popcorn:
Glennly
June 29, 2015 07:23 AM
I listened to the shows that he hosted, and he was quite entertaining. Nevertheless, any time spent on this is time that he is not further expanding the scope of what mandolin music can be. The MacArthur Grant was not for "News from Lake Woebegone."
BradKlein
June 29, 2015 07:57 AM
Quote from Glennly: I listened to the shows that he hosted, and he was quite entertaining. Nevertheless, any time spent on this is time that he is not further expanding the scope of what mandolin music can be. The MacArthur Grant was not for "News from Lake Woebegone." End Quote

On the contrary! I suspect that nothing would make the foundation people happier than if Chris were able to extend the franchise of one of the most important showcases of 'less well-known' musicians in the American media landscape.
Scott Tichenor
June 29, 2015 08:08 AM
MacArthur Fellow Program statement which clearly answers any concern over whether Chris is using it properly. I'd say it's exactly what they encourage.

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. In keeping with this purpose, the Foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.

Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential. Indeed, the purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.

The Foundation does not require or expect specific products or reports from MacArthur Fellows, and does not evaluate recipients' creativity during the term of the fellowship. The MacArthur Fellowship is a "no strings attached" award in support of people, not projects. Each fellowship comes with a stipend of $625,000 to the recipient, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years.
JeffD
June 29, 2015 09:27 AM
Quote from BradKlein: On the contrary! I suspect that nothing would make the foundation people happier than if Chris were able to extend the franchise of one of the most important showcases of 'less well-known' musicians in the American media landscape. End Quote

And I think such a show is timely.

In an earlier thread I mentioned my fantasy of a Chris Thile radio show. But this is way easier for Chris. The popular culture has already made room for PHC, given it a place in the landscape, and the world will be listening to see what Chris does with it.

Exciting times ahead.
JeffD
June 29, 2015 09:29 AM
Quote from Scott Tichenor: MacArthur Fellow Program statement which clearly answers any concern over whether Chris is using it properly. I'd say it's exactly what they encourage.
End Quote

I didn't know the details of the fellowship, but I figured it was something like this.
Richard J
June 29, 2015 09:45 AM
Chris & Peter Ostroushko (a regular player) on the same stage should be interesting.
Todd Neel
June 29, 2015 09:54 AM
This may mean that we see less of CT with the Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek and others, but it will give him a huge platform to to broadcast his ongoing musical experimentation and to invite others who have something original to perform. We may see less of him, but we'll hear more of him, and live, like Nick Forster and E-town.
JH Murray
June 29, 2015 11:16 AM
PHC goes on summer hiatus, which is summer festival season for musicians. I am sure they will be able to work around any touring he may want to do. I think a lot of artists will want to come on PHC for the chance to collaborate with him, which will be the main attraction.
journeybear
June 29, 2015 12:35 PM
Aha! So when this goes into effect (Thanks, Brad, for getting confirmation), it won't be until the fall, or even later. That will give everyone plenty of time to sort it all out. smile
JeffD
June 29, 2015 12:37 PM
Quote from Richard J: Chris & Peter Ostroushko (a regular player) on the same stage should be interesting. End Quote

Could be wonderful!
Dawg
June 29, 2015 01:20 PM
Congratulations to Chris! It will be a great vehicle for his wit and musical sensibilities, as well as a breath of fresh air for the show. Regardless of what anyone thinks of GK's abilities as a radio "personality" or writer, here's what I remember about the last time I appeared on the show with the Retrograss Trio which included myself, Mike Seeger and John Hartford who was nearing the end of his battle with cancer.

The artist's dressing rooms for PHC were in the basement, down an extraordinarily steep flight of stairs. As John was in an extremely weakened condition, I asked if Mr. Keillor might share his dressing room with him as it was the only one on the same level as the stage. This request was refused and it was painful for me to watch one of America's great musical geniuses struggle up and down those stairs.

I know that Chris will treat his guests better than that and it will be a wonderful thing for the mandolin and music in general to have such an exceptional musician host this popular show.
Spruce
June 29, 2015 01:53 PM
Quote from Dawg: This request was refused... End Quote

Tip of the iceberg as far as GK stories go...
Seems to be not cool to go there...

Congrats to Chris, and hopes that he'll fire the James Michenor impersonator who has been going by the name of Sara Bellum for all these years...scheech.

Whoa whoa whoa whoa...
mtndan
June 29, 2015 02:14 PM
I think this is fabulous. Chris has a bit of vaudevillian, Jethro-ish, Apollon-esque quality to him. He's really an entertainer. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPh9jbUC2VI

Can't wait to see how this plays out.
Ryk Loske
June 30, 2015 06:54 AM
Dawg's sorry tale of GK's lack of concern jibes with stories i've heard from musicians i've played with who were part of the Powder Milk Biscuit Band. Keillor is just not a nice guy. Through being "on the inside" of public radio for a bit, his reputation as such goes back to when he was still known as Gary.

A bit of caution for those of us celebrating Chris' ascension ..... it may be short. GK is a micro managing control freak who is "transitioning" out of his role and will have control over who does what for a time after Chris or whoever takes over GK's place in the broadcast. As intelligent and as talented as Thile is he may get to the point of "Who needs this ####!" Perhaps quickly.

Ryk
FleaCircus
June 30, 2015 07:25 AM
No doubt PHC needs an infusion of new wit and wisdom. GK is stale.

There I said it!
Tom Hart
June 30, 2015 07:58 AM
Hopefully, GK doesn't play Jay Leno to Chris's Conan. If memory serves, years ago Keillor said he needed to step away from the show to live a quiet life in Sweden....then came back.
I'm thrilled for the show and Chris. I hope Garrison has a fulfilling retirement.
mtm
July 01, 2015 12:28 PM
I keep checking the date, but it continues NOT to be April 1.....
Omer
July 01, 2015 01:46 PM
The last two times I've heard Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor seemed cynical and short tempered. Maybe just nights off, who knows. Chris Thile is a good choice, he's smart and entertaining but quite different I think. Mr. Thile may take the show in a new direction which is overdue, really.
BradKlein
July 21, 2015 08:27 PM
Now that the news is officially out, here's an interesting analyses from the Atlantic: HERE

BradKlein
July 25, 2015 05:17 AM
And news directly from Lake Wobegon, here in Notes From the Host.

"And in Chris Thile, we've found a successor who has it all: brilliance, enthusiasm, love of radio, and a good heart."
BradKlein
April 13, 2016 06:00 PM
A NEW PRESS RELEASE from the distributer of Prairie Home Companion - with a Thile interview, and hints of future plans!
JeffD
April 13, 2016 07:47 PM
Within a year of the program, maybe sooner, Chris will finally have a name as well known as his wife's.

I know a ton more general public people who know of or heard of Claire Coffee than who know Chris. Or which instrument is a mandolin. But I think that will change.
michaelcj
April 13, 2016 10:50 PM
Chris has done a good job of MCing the shows he's done this year and I'm looking forward to the "new generation"….
journeybear
June 17, 2016 09:53 AM
There's a very nice article about Garrison Keillor scheduled to be published in the New York Times Arts & Leisure section this Sunday (judging by the date in the url). But since it's available online now ... here 'tis. It mentions Chris Thile, but only in passing.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/19/arts/the-garrison-keillor-you-never-knew.html?_r=0
BradKlein
June 17, 2016 01:58 PM
The new NYTimes story mentions, but does not link to, Garrison's scathing review of Bernard-Henri Lévy's travelogue. It's really worth reading if you enjoy that sort of thing, and gives an important insight into Garrison's mind and mindset. HERE
Kennedyland
June 26, 2016 09:11 AM
American Public Media is part of Minnesota Public Radio.
BradKlein
October 12, 2016 04:47 PM
A nice new interview HERE
http://www.scpr.org/programs/offramp/2016/10/11/52623/new-prairie-home-companion-host-chris-thile-i-don/

Looking forward to show #1 !
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