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I Still Can't Say Goodbye

September 25, 2008 | 15 Comments

Dear Mr. Keillor,
I grew up listening to A Prairie Home Companion because my father was a big fan. For Father's Day this year, my brother and I purchased tickets for my parents to the show on Aug. 19 at Red Butte Gardens in Salt Lake City. My Dad has been fighting cancer for over a decade now and this last year has been especially tough. We took him to the show, and even though he wasn't feeling great, he laughed and enjoyed himself the entire time, as did we. You had my brother and I were in tears when you sang the song about your Dad.

Early in the morning on September 1, my father passed away. I am so glad that we were able to attend the Rhubarb Tour before he left this life. Thank you for the great show. Is there a recording of the Red Butte concert available for us to purchase somewhere? We would love to have a copy of it.

Thanks for the memory,

Natalie H.
Lehi, Utah

Oh Natalie. The mind reels at the thought of you and your dad at that show, after all you had been through. It was a light-hearted show for me — my wife and daughter were there, whom I hadn't seen for weeks — and I love that venue, outdoors, the buttes in the background, the arboretum nearby, the high desert sky, the audience sitting on the grass — and there you were looking for a little distraction from grief and suffering. I'm glad I didn't know about it that night — I couldn't have sung "I Still Can't Say Goodbye" — and I'm glad to know about it now. There were a couple of drunks in the audience yelling up at the stage that night, a rare hazard for our show, and there you were, too — different people in such different places on one patch of grass. I'll see if I can rustle up a copy of the show to send you, though it may not be a high-quality audio. As for the song, I sing it with my dad in mind but it wasn't written by me — it's by Bob Blinn and Jim Moore and you can find out about them and the song on YouTube. Merle Haggard recorded it, and I heard it from Chet Atkins who published the song twenty years ago and sang it everywhere he went, wearing a hat like his daddy wore. Chet's parents divorced when he was a kid and his dad moved down to Georgia and Chet spent some unhappy summers with him that he told me about once. He loved his dad and he also suffered around him. A common story. Chet found solace in the guitar, and when he sang that song, though he had sung it so many times, he was still moved by it, sometimes to tears.


Letters from people like
Natalie help all of us
keep our lives in perspective.
Your show speaks to so many;
male and female, young and
not-so-young,and everything in between.
Most days I spend my lunch 1/2 hour
reading these letters and browsing
the APHC site. The time spent is
a meditation of sorts.
Thank you.
San Clemente

I was moved by that song too. My Dad died June 13, 1996. I still miss him; I'm sure I always will. There were so many things we had left to do! Thank you, Garrison, for singing it -- I had never heard it before.

Well, there is entertainment and there is this, touching the very soul of people whether it be sitting at a show, singing a song or reading this letter.

Thanks for bringing back a lovely memory. I saw Chet perform this song in Canandaigua, NY, sitting on a beautiful hillside overlooking the lake. Garrison was there that night as well, probably 15 years ago now. There wasn't a dry eye on our section of the lawn. Looking back, it was a fluke that we were even there, with my young daughters and aging parents. Thanks again.

Mr. Keillor... I think you have a pretty good understanding about sons and their various fathers. Keep singin' that song, sir. You never know who's out there might need to hear it.

You are the BEST!..Just read your response to the woman who wrote the letter about her father and attending your show. God Bless You! for taking time to write such a personal, warm and caring letter to her..Just another example of your high quality and personal commitment to people...You are a wonderful example of the good Midwestern values and virtues of kindness and consideration...and isn't that what we need MOST in this world which seems to be tumbling before our eyes...
Thank You Again and GOD BLESS YOU!!
I NEVER MISS A SHOW..!and I try not to ever miss your personal response letters.. They are the BEST as well!
Tina Scherr
Fort Collins, CO.

Tommy Emmanuel also does a lovely cover of this song on his Endless Road cd. Thanks you, GK, for 'introducing' me to Tommy's music on your show.

Dear Garrison,
I was painting the house one Sunday afternoon this summer and heard a rebroadcast of you singing "I Still Can't Say Good-bye". Like all the others who wrote previous rattled my soul. I wondered at the time how many people hearing it were feeling the same poignant mixture of loss and gratitude. I imagine it to be a cast of thousands. Your answer to Natalie was pure GK and that's why we all are loyal, loving fans! You make us laugh, you make us cry but you always make us glad to be alive!
The not quite so "Dark" Norwegian,


My husband and I heard you sing that song at Meadowbrook in August. I watched quietly as a single tear rolled down his cheek. The song is poignant, and we have Chet performing it on cd, but there was something about your delivery and the lovely accompaniment from the Show Band, that touched his heart - and those of many people around us. Please keep on doing what you do, for as long as you feel inclined to do it. Sometimes you help the shy ones among us articulate what we would not be able to speak on our own.

Leslie Chadbourne
Portland, ME

That is a wonderful song. You can see Chet perform it on Youtube.

For me, the hayday of PHC was in the days that Chet Atkins and Johnny Gimble seemed to me to be almost regulars. I've listened nearly every Saturday since the beginning and try never to miss a show, but I do miss those shows.

Thank you, GK for all the joy you have brought into my life, lo these many years.

Ramon Selby
Allyn, WA

Dear Friend,

Garrison, for all these years, you have been on my list of Dear Friends. You've consistently made me cry and laugh, too, just like all the others. But most of all, as a writer myself, I pronounce that you've reached the Pinnacle of the Pen: that your writing has always touched people's inner core, made them remember past loves and past lives, given special comfort and encouragement by reminding us of the simplest, sweetest things. Every writer's goal is to touch people this way. You're a "hero" to me, Dear Friend.

I especially thank you for the golden rendition of "I Still Can't Say Goodbye" and for being there every Saturday night singing all the lovely old songs, for me, personally, for many years. Thank you, thank you.

Warmest Regards,
Barb Vasiljevich
Waukegan, IL - & now, New Port Richey, FL

I taped "I Still Can't Say Goodbye" just after my father died in May of 2005. I listened to it nearly every time I put on my computer as well since I had it on RealPlayer. The song has kept my father in my memory, the good one and the one I didn't always like. I, too, would like to thank Garrison for singing that song. It's very consoling.

Dear Garrison,

I can't tell you how much it has meant to me that you sing a song that I wrote called "I Still Can't Say Goodbye". You sing it with heart-felt emotion just like Chet did. I'm also very happy that so many people have been touched by it. Thank you.

Best wishes,
Bob Blinn

I guess I'm late to the party. Last night I watched a 1982 Chet Atkins performance of "I Still Can't Say Goodbye" on Alabama Public Television. That was the first time I had ever heard the song. I was so moved by the song itself, but more so by the way Chet Atkins performed it. I immediately started trying to find out more. I found the YouTube video of him singing the song and posted it to Facebook so that my family and friends could see it too. This morning, I continued my research. Now I know who wrote the song. Thank you, Bob Blinn and Jim Moore. You have touched my life through music.

I would like to amend my comment slightly. I was confused about the date of Mr. Atkins' performance. It was in 1987, and was apparently the first time he ever sang the song.

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