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Keillor’s Last Show in Bemidji

By Kelsey Jacobson

On Saturday, November 7th, the doors of the Sanford Center opened up at 4 p.m. for the live radio broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion. At 4:30 p.m. the Sanford Center brought in a big enough crowd to fill up the entire parking lot, and had guests in search of street parking to attend Keillor’s final live broadcast in Bemidji, MN.

Lines were forming outside of the Sanford Center to see Keillor up front and personal. Once everyone quickly found their seats, Keillor was among the crowd with his white tux and his signature red sneakers singing songs that everyone can remember back in the day, such as “My Little Sunshine.” The audience of all ages came together to sing songs and laugh while Keillor shared with the audience the latest from Lake Wobegon.

Keillor mentioned how the crowd has changed since he had been up in Bemidji when he first started his career broadcasting for A Prairie Home Companion. More young men and women are going to his live shows now instead of just the older folks, Keillor mentioned.

His first skit was from a mother and son talking to one another on the phone. The mother was played by Sue Scott, the over protective type who tried to convince her son to do something with his life other than writing novels that never get published. The skit also consisted of Keillor talking to his dad on the phone, played by Tim Russell. His father, a man who doesn’t voice his concern but tries to make excuses for his wife’s actions, tried to console his son while his mother was trying to make sense of her son’s life, played by Keillor.

His second skit consisted of a man, Guy Noir, who meets a wonderful girl played by Sue Scott from Bemidji, who has seen and been to various places. He musters up the nerve to talk to her at the café, however, he has been having a rough day due to his heat in his apartment getting turned off as he forgot to pay the bill. The waiter at the café won’t give Noir his regular cup of black coffee, due to not being able to pronounce the size of the cup right. Guy Noir is left behind when the girl bumps into her ex and leaves with him instead.

Some other skits included one regarding the presidential debates where Keillor made fun of some candidates, such as Jeb Bush, who was played by Fred Newman, and Donald Trump, played by Tim Russell. Keillor also talked about living in Canada where you can essentially get away from the presidential debates on television and where elections only last for a short period of time.

He made the audience laugh frequently on Saturday night when he talked about retirement, and how this would be his last show in Bemidji while performing his latest skit on Lake Wobegon, where a lady, played by Sue Scott, travels up to Bemidji from Minneapolis, MN.

She sees the Mississippi Headwaters and interacts with Babe and the Blue Ox. She then makes her way to the Lutheran Church where she tastes lefse for the first time and ends up at the liquor store to get the taste out of her mouth.

As the show went on, Keillor sang songs about life in Bemidji, where people take to the woods to go deer hunting and in the beginning of November everyone finds themselves wondering when the snow is coming and struggling to be on time for church due to Daylight Savings time.

After each skit Keillor took a break and the live band brought the whole audience to life with the help of Elvin Bishop, Bob Welsh on guitar, and Willy Jordan Jr. on drums.

Elvin Bishop grew up in the 1950’s where he would listen to WLAC in Nashville. He then fell in love with the blues while listening to his favorite radio show. He has since moved to the bay area and has carried his music career into the fifth decade by going solo in 1968. Bishop used to be known back in the day as a founding member of Chicago’s Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

Bishop played a few songs including, “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.” Dakota Dave Hull also performed live where he broke out his guitar and played his western swing and ragtime music to the audience, which left them wanting more as the show went on.

Keillor also had his live band with him, producing music that filled the air and made the audience clap their hands and stomp their feet to the beat of the music. His live band was made of not only keyboardist, but composer, and arranger, Richard Doworshy. Doworshy brought the show to life with his directing abilities.

Keillor’s live band consisted of Bernie Dresel who received his first drum kit at the age of two, Larry Kohut who clearly knows his way around a bass guitar, Richard Kriehn who enjoys playing his violin, and Chris Siebold who can pick up any instrument.

Keillor finished his show with another one of his Lake Wobegon stories, which included a fire and a brimstone preacher who was near death and refused to pay any health insurance, while his wife secretly paid for it anyway.

He ended the skit just like any other Lake Wobegon story, “Where all the woman are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

At the end of the show, Keillor sang a final song for the audience to which he received a standing ovation. This was Keillor’s 1,441 show of A Prairie Home Companion.