St. Paul, Minn., April 12, 2016 – One of the most popular public radio programs will begin a new chapter this fall as musician Chris Thile takes over for Garrison Keillor as the new host of A Prairie Home Companion®, bringing a fresh approach to an audience favorite. Beginning on October 15, 2016, Thile will host a 30-week season, including live broadcasts, produced shows and repeats on public radio stations nationwide.
The only live music and variety show aired nationwide today, A Prairie Home Companion is a Saturday night staple for radio audiences everywhere. The show features a unique blend of musical performances and comedy. For 42 years, the program has built a large and loyal audience, with nearly 3.5 million fans tuning in to enjoy the show each week.
The show will continue to be broadcast live on Saturday nights from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, as well from venues across the country, including The Town Hall in New York, and will showcase unparalleled guests and new digital content. The next version of A Prairie Home Companion is expected to draw new, younger audiences while still engaging longtime fans. Each of the new live shows will feature a mix of well-known and up-and-coming musicians, humor with sketch comedy and spoken word, plus an original ‘Song of the Week’ composed by Thile.
Initial response from the programs Thile has guest hosted have been overwhelmingly positive, with the show’s social media channels lighting up with praise for the new host. In fact, Thile’s Super Bowl-inspired original song during his last guest host appearance, “Omahallelujah,” became the most-watched clip on the show’s YouTube channel.
“We’re making a bold investment to reinvent A Prairie Home Companion and create something that appeals to an even broader audience, while still staying true to the spirit of the show,” said Jon McTaggart, president and CEO of American Public Media Group. “Chris is an incredible talent who brings enthusiasm, creativity and the ability to connect with many different musical tastes. Both live and radio audiences are in for a treat.”
Last summer, Keillor announced that Thile was his choice to take the reins as host. “He’s a brilliant musician,” Keillor said about Thile. “He’s just an amazing musician. The show will have a solid musical foundation. We started out as a music show and then other things were added to it. And this new incarnation will evolve in the same way.” He added in another interview that selecting Thile as host was “the best idea I’ve had since Powdermilk Biscuits.”
For Thile, who has been a long-time guest on the program, this was the opportunity of a lifetime. “I was raised with (and to a certain extent, on) A Prairie Home Companion and I love it with all my heart,” Thile said. “The template Garrison created is infinite in its capacity to surprise, delight, and comfort, and is as malleable as it is sturdy. Being able to explore what can be done with it on a weekly basis is as thrilling a prospect as I can possibly imagine.”
In addition to the new Thile-hosted shows, stations also will carry repeat A Prairie Home Companion shows, hosted by Keillor.