Garrison Keillor's summer 'farewell' tour visits Chautauqua

Jul 31, 2015

A Prairie Home Companion is on stage at the Chautauqua Institution tonight. Garrison Keillor is on the road with his American the Beautiful Tour.  WBFO's Eileen Buckley had a chance to speak with Keillor after he announced last week that he will be retiring.

For more than 40 years, Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion has been entertaining radio listeners from a make-believe hometown in Minnesota called  Lake Wobegon. The program attracts four million listeners each week. It airs on 700 public stations including WBFO on Sundays. 

Garrison Keillor's American the Beautiful Tour.
Credit Photo from A Praire Home Compainion website.

Just before kicking off his summer tour Keillor announced plans to retire. But it has been something he has mentioned in the past. 

In 2011 Keillor spoke about retiring in an interview with AAPR saying he would leave his show in 2013. That never happened. Speaking with Keillor by phone this week, the host confirmed he will leave the show.

"That's true. Yes, yes," said Keillor. "It just sort of came to me that it was time to lead a different sort of a life."

Keillor turns 73 on August 7. He explains that he lives by a complicated broadcast schedule that has taken hold of a "large piece of his life" leading to his decision.

Keillor has selected musician Chris Thile to lead Prairie Home in September of 2016 as the new host and return the program to the way it started off, as a music radio show. Thile is 34 years old, but he has been working with the show since he was 15 years old. 

WBFO asked Keillor why he selected Thile to take over. "Because he's a brilliant musician," said Keillor    "He has a powerful enthusiasm for radio. He was my first choice. I think the best course for the show is to go back to what it was at the beginning. It was a music show -- a live musical variety show," Keillor said. 

Keillor's 'America the Beautiful' 30-city tour is now being called his 'farewell tour.' Then in September, he begins his final radio season with the live program.

"Well I'm going to enjoy every single week of it," said Keillor. "I'm going to become a writer again. That was my original intention."