Star Tribune names longtime ‘Prairie Home’ employee as Keillor whistleblower

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Prairie Home Productions

Garrison Keillor on stage during a live performance.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune published a story Thursday that led with a surprise: “The person who first accused Garrison Keillor of inappropriate behavior wasn’t a woman — it was an angry man.”

The Star Tribune reports that Dan Rowles, a “close associate of Keillor’s” and an employee of A Prairie Home Companion for 16 years, made his accusation “after he was dumped from the show last summer and rejected a severance offer from Minnesota Public Radio, according to seven people who have worked on the show.”

The disclosure triggered an investigation by MPR that found Keillor had engaged in unwanted physical contact and inappropriate incidents. MPR changed the show’s name, which was owned by Keillor, to Live From Here. American Public Media ended distribution and broadcasts of The Writer’s Almanac and rebroadcasts of The Best of A Prairie Home Companion episodes hosted by Keillor.

Rowles’ whistleblowing shocked cast members and others who have worked on Prairie Home, according to the Star Tribune. At the time of his dismissal, Rowles was creative producer. He is described as a member of Keillor’s inner circle who first worked with the show in the 80s and 90s.

Rowles’ return to Prairie Home began with the death of the show’s longtime sound-effects wizard in 2011, when Rowles produced a memorial service.

When Keillor retired from the show in 2016, he recommended that new host Chris Thile promote Rowles to creative producer to supervise sketch-writing. But Rowles and Thile reportedly disagreed about whether sketches were funny. Staffers told the Star Tribune that Rowles became verbally abusive with colleagues.

Reflecting on his first season, Thile told the Star Tribune in October that he “felt confident the music was heading in the right direction, but less sure about the spoken-word aspect.” Rowles was not invited back for a second season.

“Without identifying anyone, Rowles told MPR officials that he knew Keillor had behaved inappropriately with at least one female colleague, according to a source familiar with the situation,” the story said. “But he refused to share details.”

7 thoughts on “Star Tribune names longtime ‘Prairie Home’ employee as Keillor whistleblower

  1. Chris Theile is a nice, talented guy, but I was a fan of PHC, with all its tradition and homespun humor and music. I wish them all luck with the new show but I won’t be listening anymore.

    • I too have stopped listening for the same reasons. I gave the show (and myself) several times listening before making this decision. I hope the show does well especially for me he long time employees.

  2. Right now, am listening to Chris Theile. I am longing for less fiddles and banjos.
    I am also longing for more story telling. And maybe a bit less of Theile singing.
    Please consider adding a character — not another Guy Noir. I believe your writers could certainly come up with a character about whom stories could be an ongoing feature.

  3. To each, of course, their own–but I have listened to PHC since the early ’80’s and I love what Chris Theile is doing with it. There is enough of the feel of the the original (including all those banjos and fiddles–what were you listening to when Garrison was still there?) to make a smooth transition but there’s a freshness to it that had been missing for a long time. Really, “The Lives of the Cowboys” was getting pretty tired. Yes, I miss Lake Woebegon and “Guy Noir” but I have been introduced to several new musicians and humorists that I hadn’t heard of and the house band has never sounded better. Plus it’s nice to hear all the familiar names in the credits. Clearly there had to be some changes even before the sad revelations of GK’s bad behavior. I think Theile was a great choice and I will continue to listen.

  4. I am also a fan of the new show and agree that it has a fresh new feel, but with enough of the original character that it still resonates – I will continue to follow listen to “live from here”!

  5. As a long time listener to APHC, I tend to agree with some who would prefer adding more stories to the mix. The comedy in general had not lived up to my expectations. These are fixable and I will keep listening and viewing.

  6. We still have “Live From Here” on, but mostly as background now. The new show is “Prairie Home Companion” minus all the parts that made the show one of the best ever heard on radio. The new title makes clear what Thile wanted all along – a musical show, minus the storytelling and commentary that was unequaled on NPR and maybe on all broadcasting.

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