Few students may know that Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) first aired in Collegeville on Jan. 22, 1967 as KSJR Radio, the St. John’s radio station at the time.
Fewer may know that Garrison Keillor, the starring host of the popular ‘Prairie Home Companion’ variety show, began his career at this same station.
Keillor is speaking at Escher Auditorium at CSB on April 25 for his inagural Gratitude Tour during MPR’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Hilary Thimmesh, OSB, was at SJU during the beginning of KSJR and remembers when Kellior first came to campus as a classical music announcer.
Having a radio station on campus was the idea of Fr. Colman Barry who reached out to SJU student Bill Kling ’64. Kellior joined in 1969 after KSJR had become Minnesota Educational Radio (MER).
“What he was supposed to be doing was just announcing classical music, however, he was up there all by himself,” Thimmesh said. “After a while he started putting in little commercials of his own about ‘Jack’s Auto Repair’ that were quite clever and totally typical Garrison. From then until now he hasn’t changed.”
After the radio station made the move to the Twin Cities, Kellior made the move as well. Several years into his relationship with what would eventually become MPR, Kellior began hosting a variety show titled ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ and has since been a prominent name to MPR listeners.
Kellior’s Gratitude Tour comes after a year of retirement from his position at MPR.
CSB senior Mandy Furru, previous MPR intern elaborates on Keillor’s reason for gratitude.
“I think this really is Keillor’s project for his whole concept of gratitude, he wants to show that he is grateful for everything that has happened in his life,” Furru said.
In addition to St. Joseph, Kellior will be visiting four other cities on his tour including: Bemidji, St. Peter and Moorhead.
With discounted tickets opening up for students and staff on Tuesday, Jan. 31, tickets sold out the first day they were available to the public. The event will be held in Escher Auditorium seating 1,078 people.
Furru also adds that day one fans of Keillor’s show are assumed to be excited for Keillor’s upcoming event.
“I think, most of the audience will probably be older adults, because the show started in the 70s,” Furru said, “But I think it’s great that this event is coming to St. Joe and is putting the school on the map. You know for such a nationally recognized program, it’s good to see that the school is getting recognized in the tour.”
According to Thimmesh, radio is still relevant today regardless of age.
“I do think though that culturally [MPR] is an important resource and continues to be an important resource in this region and nationally because there aren’t that many classical music stations that are still operating in this country,” Thimmesh said. “It was part of the genius of Bill Kling to come up with a way that it could be funded and continue to be funded.”
Feature photos courtesy of Prairie Home Productions and CSB/SJU Archives. ILLUSTRATION BY JILLIAN SCHULZ • [email protected]