Category Archives: Radio

Our Favorite spots

The other day as I was typing a comment here on the Trail, I inadvertently slipped into “pirate talk”. I’m not sure why, but I suddenly had Cap’n Billy of the Muskellunge on my shoulder. It didn’t last long, but it’s not the only time lately that I’ve spontaneously conjured up one of the regulars from TLGMS – The Late Great Morning Show – MPR’s varietal music wake-up show which aired between 1983 and 2008. For instance, Lloyd’s of Monday pops into my head whenever something goes awry on a Monday.

For the uninitiated who might wander onto this blog, here’s an excerpt from a 2006 article describing the show: 

“Fans of The Morning Show know they can expect to hear comic sketches, ad spoofs and other skits featuring characters such as Captain Billy, Bud Buck and Genway’s Dr. Larry Kyle. It all originates at Dale Connelly’s keyboard. “Basically, I create the characters in the scripts,” Dale says, ‘then I hand the scripts over to Jim Ed and he brings them to life in his own way.’

[The late Tom Keith, whose stage name was]  Jim Ed Poole is a master at doing various voices, dialects and characterizations. ‘There are so many different characters,’ Jim Ed laughs, “that some characters are starting to sound like other characters.”

I’ve been missing the Morning Show a lot lately – I’ll be cooking and want some music instead of the yammering of the radio’s talk shows. Or I’ll turn on the classical station, but they’re playing something weird, so I try Radio Heartland on my iPad. But they don’t play the old favorites any more (from what I can tell), and besides, RH doesn’t do the fun stuff like those fake sponsors and quirky character skits I used to laugh out loud at.

Dial it back several years

What were some of your favorite “spots” or characters from Dale and Jim Ed’s collection?

(If you click on the little magnifying glass at the top right of this page, and type in your favorite character or “sponsor”, you may find old blog posts on that topic from the archives.)

Radio In My Life

Today’s post comes to us from Steve.


I often think about the impact radio has had on my life. We all are shaped by different influences, but radio has been a major presence in my life.

When I was a kid, we had just one radio in our home. It was a gorgeous cherrywood console that graced our living room. Listening to it was often a family activity.

Then radios became less expensive and smaller, enough so that I had a radio of my own. That meant I could choose the music I heard, a major step in my personal growth. I’ll never forget that winter night in 1956 when I first heard Elvis sing Heartbreak Hotel. I was blown away by the angst it expressed, and from that moment on my taste in music diverged from the taste of my parents. I became a great fan of Top Forty pop music, something I listened to on a small Bakelite AM radio in my bedroom. Later the popular life was revolutionized by the availability of inexpensive, portable transistor radios.

When I began grad school, there was a radio station called WLOL broadcasting classical music. I planned my whole day around that station’s schedule. When Bill Kling launched KSJN as a classical music station in the Twin Cities, I became a listener on the first day it hit the air. That classical station had a weird eclectic show in the morning, weird because the host, Garrison Keillor, played an idiosyncratic hodgepodge of country, folk and world music. I was hooked. Keillor later began chatting with his studio engineer, Tom Keith, and I became fanatical about the show. It was the way I started my day, and that remained true when Dale Connelly became the host and whimsical voice of The Morning Show.

The only firm, fixed point in our family’s week was listening to Prairie Home Companion on Saturday nights. We made no plans that conflicted with that broadcast. My daughter grew up thinking of Garrison as something like a family member, a windy storyteller like her dad. She expected her birthday to be hailed by Dale and Tom.

When I joined an online dating service following my divorce I had to define myself so women could judge whether they were interested in talking to me. My personal description mentioned books and outdoor recreation and other activities, but I always felt the most concise and useful identifier was the three words identifying me as a “public radio guy.”

What memories do you have of radio? What has radio meant in your life?

The Find

This past Saturday morning, right before Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Husband and I decided to do a Deep Clean on an alcove right off the kitchen. This corner houses a tall shelf unit full of large items like crock pots and cookbooks, and a small chest of drawers. I had accidentally shoved something behind the tall shelves, noticed when trying to retrieve it that it was pretty dusty back there, and realized that space hadn’t been deep cleaned since we moved in 4 ½ years ago (!).

Well, you know how this goes. In the process of clearing everything off, you find stuff you’d forgotten you had – which gets returned to its proper place or tossed. Stuff piles up in the rest of the house for a while, but you promise you’ll put everything back before day’s end, and you roll up your sleeves. And you swear you won’t let the cleaning lapse for this long again.

Then you move the furniture out so you can sweep and swipe and clean everything in sight, and vacuum out the cobwebs and dust fuzzies. As the small chest was being moved away from the wall, I heard a “thunk” as something dropped to the floor, and discovered… MY CAMERA, which has been A.W.O.L. for about a year. I don’t own a smart phone, and luckily I hadn’t bought a replacement. I am so happy to have it back!

So, for the first time since last December, I’m able to submit a blog post AND supply the photo.

What have you found that was lost?  

What cleaning or clearing project are you likely to accomplish during self-quarantine?

We’ll Miss You John

I didn’t grow up with much folk music to speak of.  Neither of my folks was a big music fan; their idea of a great bit of music was Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.  Much of the music that I gravitated to as a teenager wasn’t appreciated, particularly by my dad.  He thought Bob Dylan and John Denver both needed nasal operations and he was sure that pretty much every single Simon & Garfunkle song was dirty.

When I moved to the Twin Cities and discovered the Late Great Morning Show, it was like doors opened up into a whole new world.  Although I didn’t know much of the music to start with, I loved it all.  And, of course, John Prine was in the mix from the beginning and I always loved his down to earth humor.  His passing leaves a hole in my life that I doubt can be filled.

This isn’t actually my favorite piece of his, but it seems appropriate today:

 

Do you have a John Prine favorite??

Narration

This was one of the poems last week on Writer’s Almanac.

The Cross of Snow

In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
A gentle face—the face of one long dead—
Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died; and soul more white
Never through martyrdom of fire was led
To its repose; nor can in books be read
The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
And seasons, changeless since the day she died.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Although I’ve never been a huge Longellow fan, I had been thinking of Rhiannon right before I clicked on the site, so this poem really spoke to me.

Of course, I had to look up “benedight” (it means blessed) and that led me down a rabbit hole where I eventually found this spoken version on YouTube.

The poem is read by Jean Aked, but I found it a little off, partly because it’s a woman’s voice narrating a poem from the point of view of an older man, but also because of her English accent; Longfellow was such a quintessential American poet.

Several years ago I might not have really noticed this, but listening to lots of audiobook has made me a bit of a voice “connoisseur”.  There are quite a few book narrators whose voices I recognize when I hear them and I have favorites: Simon Vance, Robert Bathurst, Jayne Entwhistle.  I usually like it when authors narrate their own books (like Bill Bryson) because they bring a special nuance to their own material.  Occasionally I don’t like a narrator at all, which can actually sour an audio book for me.  One of the most prolific audio book narrators is George Guidall.  Unfortunately, the very first audio book that I heard him narrate was something I just couldn’t stand.  So even after several years, every time I hear his voice it takes me right back to that dreadful book and I have to really concentrate to get past my negative feelings.  But he is a very good narrator so I continue to try to get past this.

All this leads me back to the Longfellow poem.  I’ve heard two narrators read it now and I think I’ll stick with the Garrison Keillor version!

It’s the story of your life.  Who would you like to narrate it?

Baboon Podcasts

Husband commented the other day that he thought the Baboons should make podcasts because we have so many  things to talk about and say to one another. It is an interesting idea. I don’t listen to podcasts. I probably would listen if I had a longer commute, but it takes me less than 5 minutes to get to work, and when I am at home I decompress by listening to music. I know that the topic has come up on the Trail before, and that  Baboons listen to them.

What podcasts do you listen to?  What sort of podcasts can you imagine Baboons creating?

Read It or See It?

In ye olden days, the LGMS was my radio anchor, beginning at home through my morning drive time. After the show’s demise, I did Trial Balloon at home and in the morning hours of work.  But since then, I haven’t really found a radio show that strikes my fancy and have drifted away from radio to…  I know this will be shocking for some of you… books.  The first hour or so in the morning, I listen to an audiobook and then in the car, books on CDs.  I sometimes run out of books on CDs and so spend some time browsing the audio shelves at the library.  This leads to some interesting results, sometimes fabulous, sometimes not so much.

I’ve admitted here before that I like the Hallmark Mystery Movies, so last week, while browsing, my eye was caught by the first Aurora Teagarden mystery sitting on the audio shelf. I had been a little curious about the books, especially since my favorite character left the series; I was curious if the movies were true to the books.   So I was a little surprised right off the bat that while most of the characters bear the same names, most of them did not bear the description or personalities.  The most disappointing was the main character, Ro.  In the book she doesn’t have any drive to solve the mysteries and in the final chapters is rescued by the men in the story.  This is completely different from the movies, in which Ro is rabid about solving the mystery and it is her ingenuity that not only solves the crimes but saves her life (and often the man’s) in the end.

This made me think about the few instances in which the movie better than the book.  So rare.  Princess Bride, Romancing the Stone, Julie & Julia, Clue, Bladerunner.

There might be more but for my determination not to see movies when I have adored the book. I don’t want Hollywood messing with the pictures in my mind’s eye (Wrinkle in Time, The Martian, Uprooted, ANY of the Louise Penny books).  And, of course, the number of movies much worse than their books is legend.  Including Legend!

When were you last surprised about how a book turned out when adapted to the big screen?

Mind Games

Jacque mentioned yesterday that she thought Husband’s challenge for imaginary dinner guests was the result of filling time during Great Plains travel. She wasn’t far off.  Travel out here is tedious. People at the conference I attended were somewhat surprised to hear that we drove to Minneapolis, since it was “only” 500 miles from our home.

I listen to classical music on the radio, either streamed from MPR at home or at work, or else the Symphony Hall station on our car radio. I challenge myself to identify the composer and/or the name of the piece before the announcer says them.  I pretend I am in a competition. I listen to music whenever I can, so I do the challenge quite a lot. I have  a really good auditory memory, and I recognize pieces quite quickly. (I can always tell if it is the Concordia Choir on the MPR Choral Stream just by the sound.)  It is coming up with the name of the piece and the composer that is tricky. I find that the more pieces I recognize, the harder it is to sort out exactly what the name of the piece is. My brain is getting too full.  I am pretty good at recognizing pieces by Brahms or Schumann. They have distinctive patterns of harmonies and rhythms. Mendelssohn and Schubert can sometimes confuse me.  I always know Stravinsky and Prokofiev, but sometimes  late Prokofiev sounds like Shostakovitch

As I was in a wind band in college, I can identify Vaughan Williams and Holst and Grainger very easily, but distinguishing Molly on the Shore from Handel in the Strand is sometimes hard.   I am  somewhat embarrassed to say that I  can always identify the Polka and Fugue from Schwanda the Bagpiper and also know the name of the composer. It is so distinctive.

I know that Baboons have various areas of interest. Mine is classical music. I hope that my classical habit helps keep my mind alert and healthy.

What are you doing that keeps your mind active and healthy. How are you at identifying the names of musical pieces and their composers?

Comic Duos

Today is significant in history for the 1927 release of The Second Hundred Years, the first Laurel and Hardy film in which they appeared as a team, as well as the 1942 debuts on radio of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and a weekly show by Abbott and Costello.  It is also the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire. I suppose Mrs. O’Leary and her cow are a duo, but they are not terribly comic.

Talk about your favorite duo, comic or not.

A Decade on the Trail

This is Part 1 of a two part trip down memory lane from Barbara in River Town.

We’ve been blogging here for (are you ready?) 10 years. For anyone new to the Trail, this group started when we were still listening to a beloved (Minnesota Public Radio) Morning Show that aired from 6 – 9 a.m. in the 80s, 90s and aughts (2000s). It was an eclectic music extravaganza peppered with cleaver (see Glossary above) ads, zany characters and radio plays put together by Dale Connelly (a master of parody and verse) and Jim Ed Pool (aka Tom Keith, the super sound effects guy for Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion). When Jim Ed retired at end of 2008, Dale stayed on, and the program morphed into an online streaming station called Radio Heartland https://www.thecurrent.org/heartland/ . Dale also created a blog in early 2009 called the Trial Balloon, in which he’d write an introductory piece about anything under the sun, talk about it on the radio, and ask a question at the end to get an online conversation going.

Dale, our Alpha Baboon, hung in there posting 6 days a week for most of the next 5 years. By the time he decided it was time for a sabbatical, he had written 1,166 of the 1,397 posts (231 of them being guest posts provided by the Baboon Congress when he was away). Here is his June 3, 2015 entry:   https://trailbaboon.com/2015/06/03/five-year-plan/  at the end of that phase.

The Baboons rose to the challenge, and kept the blog going with a wide-ranging collection of guest posts for the next 18 months or so, with Dale chiming in from time to time with a post. In early 2017, Dale “cut the umbilical cord”, and we got our own url: www.trailbaboon.com/ , with Verily Sherrilee and Renee in North Dakota taking the reins of the blog, on alternating months. (This statement doesn’t begin to cover the work and commitment involved – I don’t even know how to describe it – and how grateful we are that they’ve taken this on.) Other baboons provide guest posts that we send to them by email (though not as often as we should).

At some point early on, we started also gathering in the space-and-time realm… I believe the first book club meeting was in June of 2010. (Go to above left under Blogroll: Blevens’ Book Club – there are even minutes to the first meetings!) And we started doing “field trips” – anyone know what year the Russian Art Museum trip was?

Over the years various baboons have come and gone, and occasionally come back – life happens, and some months or years work better for blogging than others. A core group of us are still here, several of whom have been posting and commenting almost from the beginning. Old-timers check in occasionally, and we love it when they do. We’ve found we just enjoy connecting most mornings (and sometimes late in the evening) in this mysterious place in cyberspace, to exchange thoughts, experiences, recipes, songs, book/movie recommendations, health info, travel or garden tips, musings on the English language…

What’s the strangest group you’ve ever hung out with? (…besides this one)