Jack and Molly on “A Prairie Home Companion”–Guest Blog Article

Image634866820951476492Preface:  Jack and Molly Tuttle competed last weekend on the annual Prairie Home Companion Duet Singing Contest where they placed second.   Jack Tuttle wrote this guest-blogger article for Prescription Bluegrass.

Playing on A Prairie Home Companion was a dream come true for both my daughter Molly and myself! It all started when we entered the contest via an online upload of a song – we used our version of Kentucky Waltz, from our duet CD. During the week of IBMA we got a call from PHC letting us know we had made the cut – we were one of six duets coming to the show. We'd be hanging out with Garrison Keillor, one of America's greatest humorists!

Since Molly goes to school at Berklee in Boston and I'm in the S.F. Bay Area, we had to rehearse separately by practicing with the recording. But the staff at PHC made it clear that we needed to be flexible as to what would be required of us on the show. “Have a few things ready” was about all they would say. “Garrison probably won't know how the show will be structured until the last minute”. So we prepared I Wish You Knew, also from our duet album, but one that we had never performed live. Beyond that, we figured we'd just wing it. As it turned out, we needed to do two snippets for skits, so we sang a few lines of Rocky Top and Lonesome Road Blues in duet form.

The PHC staff was really on top of everything – arranging our flights, shuttles, hotel, meals, etc. Everything was paid for and no details were ever missed. We all arrived at the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul early Friday afternoon, the day before the show, and we rehearsed for the better part of two afternoons, before going on air at 5pm on Saturday.

Everything went by quickly at the rehearsals, mostly out of necessity. Garrison was writing and adjusting on the fly, so things were continually changing, but it was clear all the musicians and voice actors from the show were used to operating this way. As for the duet contestants, there was no sense of competitiveness. We were all in this together, and clearly all of the acts brought something unique to the show. Everyone was just happy to be there.

At about 3:30pm on Saturday, after our afternoon rehearsal, we had a catered lunch in the basement of the theatre.Jack Quote I had a chance to talk to Garrison for quite awhile. He's very inquisitive, so much of our conversation was about me – not just musically, but all of my background and such. And he's very quick (not shy!) with opinions. My band - The Tuttles with AJ Lee? “Seems to me that's a little too descriptive for a band name” pronounced Garrison.

At 5:00pm the show began and went off without a hitch. Garrison is very good at drawing out funny little exchanges and not much is prepared. I had a little fun talking with him during our intro, which helped me relax as Molly and I played our Kentucky Waltz for the contest, with voting by the in-house audience and on the internet. Luckily, no freezes on our part as we rendered the song just as we'd hoped to.

All of the contestants sat or stood in the back and side of the stage area watching the show, and to me the most impressive part of the night was watching Garrison deliver his “News From Lake Wobegon.” It's the one part of his show that uses no notes of any kind. He just wanders the stage in deep thought, much of the time looking back away from the audience, delivering his lines. A story telling genius!

With about 15 minutes left, Garrison came out and announced the winners. We finished in second place – good enough to allow us to get to play our up-tempo version of I Wish You Knew. The well-deserving winners were a female duet called MaMuse, from Chico, CA.

All in all, a really fun show to see from the back, and a great experience playing in an absolutely beautiful theatre as well as on 500 radio stations. Afterwards, Garrison hosted a party at his house. We gathered around his piano and played, mostly focused on songs Garrison could sing along with. As you might guess from hearing his show, he loves to sing and didn't ever seem to want to stop! He asked Molly to sing a Hazel Dickens song, so they sang Won't You Come and Sing For Me together. More of a sing-along jam than bluegrass, but we got a few picking things in. At around midnight things came to a close and we all headed off to our hotel, basking in the memories of a most amazing weekend!

Listen to Jack and Molly on PHC  Garrison Introduces them about 7 minutes after the start of the 2nd half.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fascinating behind the scenes account. My wife and I were in the audience, 3rd row, first balcony. We bought tickets the day they went on sale back in July, and had no idea what musical acts would be performing. It wasn't my first time seeing PHC at the Fitz, but I was nervous, perhaps projecting what I thought the 6 duets might be feeling. All 6 were great. As we walked down the sidewalk back to the parking garage, I overheard lots of other audience members commenting on the show. The consensus was that while winners were voted on, all 6 were winners. Myself, I didn't even fill out the ballot or turn it in, I was just happy to be part of a great show.