A Mountain Home Companion
It was a full house on Dec. 1, when Joe Shannon hosted the 16th
annual Appalachian Christmas benefit concert at Grace Lutheran Church in Boone.
The show, featuring music from the Mountain Laurels and the Mountain Home Bluegrass Boys, raised money for the Hospitality House and Santa’s Toy Box charities.
As the concert progressed, however, Shannon made some news as he announced that he and the Mountain Home Bluegrass Boys will perform with Garrison Keillor when the legendary radio host brings his live show to Appalachian State University April 16, 2013. Also tapped for the program is the High Country old-time and Celtic band, the Forget-Me-Nots.
Shannon is the founder of Mountain Home Music, an organization that has hosted yearly bluegrass, old-time and Appalachian roots music concerts in the region for 19 years now. In an interview this week with The Mountain Times, Shannon explained how the opportunity to perform with Garrison Keillor came about.
"When I first started Mountain Home Music in 1994, (Appalachian State University) was big-time behind us, because there wasn’t anybody doing traditional, bluegrass or old-time music here,” Shannon said. “It just wasn’t happening in this community at all. So, I started the organization, and then ASU, particularly the vice chancellor, Dr. Clinton Parker, said, ‘Joe, this is a great idea. If you want to, we’ll film it and run your shows over the local access ASU television channel. That way, a lot of people will get to know about your show.’ They did that for a couple of years, and it was great, and we kept moving to larger and larger venues to house the crowds partly because of ASU’s support.
“But eventually, the vice chancellor left, and ASU’s support faded. Then, for a while there was very little contact between ASU and Mountain Home Music. But that has changed within the last couple of years, and I am glad. The ASU cultural arts department has been reaching out to the traditional arts community, specifically Denise Ringler, who is the director of the arts and cultural programs there.”
Ringler put a call out for high-quality local bands to be considered as guests on Keillor’s show in Boone. Shannon put together some live recordings of the Mountain Home Bluegrass Boys and sent them off to Keillor’s people, and the band, along with the Forget-Me-Nots, were added to the lineup.
The members of the Mountain Home Bluegrass Boys include Scott Freeman, David Johnson, Josh Scott and Steve Lewis, along with Shannon. The Forget-Me-Nots features Willa Finck, Maura Shawn Scanlin, Ledah Finck and David Finck.
“I think that what a performance is about, whether it is a music performance or a storytelling performance, it’s about connecting with people,” Shannon said, when asked about his thoughts on Keillor.
“A lot of Garrison Keillor’s stories don’t even have a real plot. But what he does do is he tells stories of people being in vulnerable positions, and he fills them with humor and sometimes with tragedy. But he makes you feel like you know them, because he creates the characters so vividly. He connects with people, which is what every musician and storyteller and writer wants to do, and he is supremely good at it. And then, the people that he hires to surround him with the music, they are people who share his philosophy. They have the ability to connect with an audience and to be able to jive with him and have his free, creative spirit.”
Keillor will perform Tuesday, April 16, 2013, at 8 p.m. at the Holmes Convocation Center on the ASU campus, as part of the university’s 2012-13 Performing Arts Series.
Tickets cost $38 for general admission, $35 for faculty, staff and senior citizens, $20 for students and $15 for ASU students. To purchase tickets, visit http://pas.appstate.edu or call (828) 262-4046.
About Garrison Keillor
Keillor hosted the first broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion” in St. Paul, Minn., in 1974. Now broadcasted on more than 450 public radio stations nationwide, the show draws more than 3 million listeners each week.
Keillor is also the author of numerous books, including “Lake Wobegon Days,” “The Book of Guys,” “The Old Man Who Loved Cheese” and “Life Among the Lutherans,” among others. His recording of “Lake Wobegon Days” earned him a Grammy Award, and he’s also received two Cable ACE Awards and a George Foster Peabody Award.
In 1994, Keillor was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame at Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications.