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Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.

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May 15, 2007 | 3 Comments

Post to the Host:
I'm just now discovering that you wrote some of my favorite songs from your shows and recordings. We never see you playing an instrument, so how do you go about writing such beautiful melodies? Do you play any instruments, or sight read music?

Just for the record, I thought the beard made you look younger.

Have a good summer. Hope to see you in Iowa or Nebraska some time soon. Your most recent trip to the Iowa State Fair was perfect.

Eli H.
Omaha, NE

The Iowa State Fair was perfection itself and it was fun to walk around and see it. I suddenly felt disloyal to Minnesota but Iowa's struck me as nearly perfect. As for songwriting, you'd be amused if you could see a Friday band rehearsal when I walk in with a fresh lyric in hand and sing it to Rich Dworsky and he tries to notate it. It wobbles around a lot, and usually it winds up either sounding like "Blue Bells of Scotland" or "When Last I Roam'd Through Tara's Halls" or some other fragrant old chestnut. And it's almost always in the key of C. So Rich plays it and then I sing it differently from the first time and he revises his notes and then I sing it yet a third way. Accompanying me at the piano is trying to hit a moving target. But sometimes the results aren't bad. Rich's song to his mother "Shirley World" last Saturday was a real gem, though. My offering was a parody of "Mama Tried" by Merle Haggard which the audience found puzzling, and then the little opening paean to mothers, "Almost Everybody Is Trying To Be Nice" which I wound up doing acapella because I couldn't remember how I'd sung it in rehearsal and so did a new version which was a mystery to the band. The audience was so taken aback that when it ended, they forgot to applaud. You'd think a show would be better prepared, wouldn't you?


Back in the days of the full black beard and floppy white hat, GK would cradle an autoharp, so he's not fessing up completely. I'm not saying he was any good at playing it, but knowing a few guitar chords might make life easier for Dworsky. Or maybe GK would become even more self-indulgent of his limited musical abilities. It's great that he likes to sing and enjoys music so much, but as a singer, he's a great writer and comedian.

I know you said that "Mama Tried" puzzled your audience, but I was in the car with my mother on our way to Mother's Day brunch, and she LOVED it, as did I.

beleve me the beard is no good.your not the same with it. take it off. please.i love the show and you there is nothing like it anywere on radio god bless

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