A Prairie Home Companion: An Outstanding Achievement in Public Radio

By Jess |

Garrison Keillor laughs onstage with The Time Jumpers, a Western swing ensemble from Nashville, Tennessee in May 2013. Source: American Public Media.

In 1974, a local broadcasting station, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), gathered a small audience in a college auditorium for its first broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion. The auditorium in Saint Paul, Minnesota, had an audience size of less than 15 people as Garrison Keillor hosted the variety show. Today, that small audience has grown to 4 million listeners each week.

In its first 10 years, Garrison Keillor and the A Prairie Home Companion team went on to produce 500 shows. The broadcast has traveled to all 50 states, introducing new audiences to comedy skits, music from a variety of genres and artists, and Garrison Keillor’s story-telling.

After 40 years, A Prairie Home Companion is broadcast on 600 public radio stations and continues to host shows throughout the country. The broadcast, which is still based in Minnesota and distributed by MPR, is the only live music and variety show aired nationwide today. Though the show continues to feature popular artists, such as Brad Paisley, it remains a stage for lesser known musicians, singers, and actors in Minnesota.

Despite changing times and the evolving media landscape, the old-timey appeal of A Prairie Home Companion endures and thrives. The small variety show that got its start in a college auditorium quickly became a community favorite and a national treasure.