Beyond Wobegon

By Derek Halsey (

Article Published: Apr. 11, 2013 | Modified: Apr. 17, 2013
Beyond Wobegon

Celebrated radio personality and author Garrison Keillor will perform April 16 at the Holmes Center in Boone, closing out Appalachian State University’s 2012-13 Performing Arts Series.

Photo submitted

Garrison Keillor is a flatlander.

The author, poet and radio host, who will be performing at the Holmes Convocation Center at Appalachian State University on April 16, grew up in the cold climes of Minnesota.

“I grew up along the Mississippi River,” Keillor said. “I learned to be very satisfied sitting and looking at water. I would enjoy sitting on a ship, looking at an ocean and not feel any need to do anything. I don’t think I could develop the knack of sitting and looking at mountains. I don’t think people do that in the mountains, do they? Just sit and look at them?"

Keillor said he prefers living in flat country, because you can see what’s coming.

“You can see the dust rising from a gravel road and know that somebody will be here at your door probably in 20 minutes to half an hour, so you have all that time to think of something to say. (As for the mountains), things roll down them, boulders and so forth. When the Rapture occurs, rocks are going to come rumbling down on people, whereas out here in the flat country, we might not even notice the Rapture. So, I’m a flatlander and a Northerner and make no pretense to being any more than that.”

Keillor, host and originator of the NPR show, “A Prairie Home Companion,” and author of bestselling books, such as “Lake Wobegon Days,” is billing the show as “Garrison Keillor: A Brand New Retrospective.”

It will feature stories about his many adventures over the years and will also highlight the music that has inspired him along the way; from hymns to pop tunes, from the blues and rock ’n’ roll to love sonnets and Beethoven. Joining him will be musicians Richard Dworsky, Rob Fisher and Christine DiGiallonardo.

On his radio show, he often showcases the Appalachian roots music that is intrinsic to this region of North Carolina. On one recent episode, he asked banjo players Bill Evans, Noam Pikelny and North Carolina resident Joe Newberry to play the standard bluegrass and old-time tune, “Arkansas Traveler.” As the trio begins the performance, Keillor exhorts the audience to recognize and remember this classic song written in the mid-1800s.

Still, Keillor said, one should not learn tunes like that on the radio. Instead, the better path would be to get out and be a part of people playing music locally.

“You should learn (songs like ‘Arkansas Traveler’) in a parking lot somewhere,” Keillor said. “You shouldn’t learn about it on public radio. Public radio is way too, I don’t know, way too ‘goody two shoes’ for its own good. It’s become very pious and stiff and sort of disconnected from the deep underground rivers of American culture.”

Keillor has visited this area in the past, but hasn’t been able to explore the High Country as he would like.

“I’ve been there to Appalachian State once before,” Keillor said. “We just travel around doing shows here and there. But I’ve never driven on my own through North Carolina. I’m not the master of my own life. I’ve been everywhere in this country and have seen so littleof it. I see airports and lower-priced hotels and back stages of old theaters and the inside of vans. So, it sounds like a much more adventurous life than it really is.”

Opening for Keillor will be local groups Joe Shannon and the Mountain Home Bluegrass Boys and the Forget-Me-Nots. The show begins at 8 p.m. April 16, and tickets range from $38 for general admission to $20 for students 6 to 18 years of age and $15 for ASU students.

Tickets are available at the Valborg Theatre box office, located behind the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts. To purchase tickets, or for more information, call (800) 841-2787, or visit

Additional Images

Celebrated radio personality and author Garrison Keillor will perform April 16 at the Holmes Center in Boone, closing out Appalachian State University’s 2012-13 Performing Arts Series.
Photo submitted

The High Country’s own Mountain Home Bluegrass Boys, featuring (from left) Steve Lewis, Scott Freeman, Joe Shannon and David Johnson will open for Garrison Keillor at his April 16 show at ASU.
Photo by Lonnie Webster

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