By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
COOPER, Iowa, July 2, 2016 — At our house, we’ve got the schedule cleared between 5 and 7 p.m. this evening so we can tune-in to the final broadcast by Garrison Keillor on “A Prairie Home Companion” on public radio.
I’ve been listening to Keillor since his earliest nationwide shows, have read several of his books, interviewed him a couple times, saw him perform live in Iowa several times, sent my son to be an intern on his staff 20-plus years ago, and have loved his music, commentary and storytelling.
My favorite line about him came from Andrew Offenburger, after he returned to Buena Vista University following his internship with the Keillor show. His whole life, Andrew had been listening to Keillor, mainly because I did, and he was very much aware that none of his own friends listened. “The thing about Keillor,” Andrew said, “is that everybody over 30 thinks he’s a genius, and nobody under 30 has ever heard of him.”
Bump that figure up to 50 now, and it’s probably still true. Sorry, young ‘uns, for all you’ve missed.
Garrison Keillor, in a photo from “A Prairie Home Companion.”
In the ’90s, after I’d come to know Keillor a little bit, I wrote him a letter and suggested he come to Iowa, ride a bicycle across the state with us on RAGBRAI, and do a live show from one of our host towns. He wrote right back, answering, “Ride a bicycle all the way across Iowa? Why would I do that? Don’t you people realize what a wide state Iowa is?”
Another fun Iowa connection Keillor has is our folksinger laureate Greg Brown, who wrote and still sings the beautiful “Iowa Waltz.” But it was when Keillor had Brown as a guest on “PHC” and encouraged Brown to sing the “Waltz” on nationwide radio, that the song really took off. The rest of his career, Keillor has frequently mentioned that Greg Brown’s “Iowa Waltz” should be made the official state song of Iowa, and I agree.
Garrison Keillor retires now as a true American classic, bigger than H.L. Mencken, bigger than Will Rogers, bigger even than Mark Twain.
Thank you, Garrison, for a lifetime of mostly great entertainment.
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