MPR's The Morning Show
The digital era has gotten us used to things coming and going so quickly in the mediascape, it’s peculiar to take a moment to quietly honor something that is going away after having endured for a long time. In this case, over 25 years.
Today marks the final broadcast of Minnesota Public Radio’s The Morning Show (Jim Ed Poole, or Tom Keith, is retiring). I’m listening to the last half-hour as I type this (I had planned to be present at the Fitzgerald Theater in person for the final hour or so, but after hearing about the long lines of people waiting to get in, I gave up on that).
My earliest memory of Jim Ed Poole and Dale Connelly are from sometime in the early 80s when I was in junior high, which was apparently one of the first years of their program. I was riding down to the State Fair from Duluth with my friend John, in his comfy conversion van (remember those?), and his dad had The Morning Show on the radio. I recall a goofy fake wine ad, and folky music that wasn’t nearly as cool as what John and I usually watched (and listened to) on MTV.
But as I grew up, my growing up continued with MPR and The Morning Show. And now more than ever, I appreciate the folk music and corny humor championed by Dale and Jim Ed.
The folk music they love and promote is best understood as it is linguistically derived from German: Volkmusik. The people's music. And it truly is in every sense: usually acoustic and vocal in nature, so little interference from electronic devices such as amps and effects. And, also music of the people in the sense that it is not corporate music released on big recording labels. Rather, it is music played by professional musicians who tirelessly tour small venues across the Midwest and cultivate small but passionate communities of followers, one person at a time.
And interspersed in the musical offerings are the many brief theatrical skits: the ads for the Intimida Sherpa and Genway Foods, live reports from Captain Billy and the Muskellunge at sea – the list goes on and on. But regardless of the characters or fake products, it’s all been fantastically family-friendly and entertaining. My daughters have grown up listening to this for years, and I know that a portion of their interest in live theater is due to Dale and Jim Ed’s excellent performances.
For me, radio (and especially public radio) has always been the theater of the mind. The Morning Show has truly been a Minnesota state cultural treasure during it's long and successful run, by and for the people, and on the airwaves of public radio. Fare thee well, Dale and Jim Ed.
And if I’m spotted weeping at my desk in 15 minutes, you’ll know why.