Archive Fun: Emmylou Harris

Born in Alabama and raised in North Carolina and Virginia, Emmylou Harris began playing the guitar at 16. A few years later, she recorded her first album, Gliding Bird. In the early 1970s, she moved to Los Angeles and teamed up with Gram Parsons, with whom she made two recordings. After Parsons’ death in 1973, Harris made her major-label debut with Pieces of the Sky. Now, with dozens of albums and countless awards, including 12 Grammys, she maintains a widespread and loyal following.

Emmylou first appeared on A Prairie Home Companion in 1985 and has been a fan favorite ever since. In 1987, A Prairie Home Companion broadcast 18 shows leading into the final broadcast on The Disney Channel. These shows remain the video diary of the early years of A Prairie Home Companion and a few of the favorite musical performances, sketches and monologues were gathered together in A Prairie Home Collection, which includes Emmylou’s performance of “The Sweetest Gift – A Mother’s Smile” with Kate MacKenzie, Garrison Keillor and a very young Vince Gill. The rights prevent us from posting the video footage of this incredible performance but Emmylou was game enough to appear in a Guy Noir episode years later, which you can watch below:

Listen to 'Abraham, Martin and John' (starts at the 1:03 mark) >>> 

In 2005, the Prairie Home Companion staff asked listeners what their favorite broadcasts were and the memories that went along with them. Arthur Alarain from New Orleans stated that while he was recovering from a car accident for 6 months, the only thing he could recall during that period was this Emmylou Harris performance of “Abraham, Martin and John.” The song was written in 1968 by Dick Holler as a tribute to the memory of 4 assassinated Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and originally recorded by Dion.

Listen to 'Boy from Tupelo' (begins at the 1;23:25 mark) >>>

Emmylou visited the show in the year 2000 and shared songs from her Red Dirt Girl ablum. Emmylou has always been better known as a performer than as a songwriter but on this album, she wowed fans and critics alike with a set of 12 hauntingly beautiful songs, most all of them original compositions including this song about Elvis Presley called “Boy From Tupelo.”

Listen to 'If I Could Only Win Your Love (audio no longer avail)

Charlie Louvin and his brother Ira are known to the world as The Louvin Brothers who Garrison has stated “made the most gorgeous duet recordings and still all these years later, you listen to the Louvin Brothers and admire them; absolute perfection!” “If I Could Only Win Your Love” was included on Emmylou Harris’ major label debut album Pieces of the Sky and was her first hit song, peaking at number 4 on the Billboard Country chart. This version was performed with Jon Randall during our New Year’s Eve broadcast in 2006.

The Big Blizzard

Emmylou Harris performed on one of the most memorable shows for the production crew. In 1993, A Prairie Home Companion was broadcast live from Birmingham, AL just as a blizzard hit the region. Thirteen inches of snow fell and the town was paralyzed. The crew had to shovel out the satellite dish so that program could be broadcast. About an hour before the show, Emmylou phoned from her bus on the road and they were 55 miles out of town at a dead standstill. At 5pm, A Prairie Home Companion began its broadcast with no musical guests. Emmylou came through the stage door at about 5:20pm and went right on stage to perform a duet with Garrison sans soundcheck or rehearsal. The night’s other guest group arrived just in time to join in on the finale. This predates the online archive so we do not have any audio to share but it certainly makes for a great story and lets you know what a fearless and dedicated performer Emmylou Harris is. Russ Ringsak wrote a great recollection of the events of the storm in article called 'Buried in Alabama.'

LIVE PHC Performances by Emmylou featured on Archive CD releases:

'Next Time I'm in Town'  Listen >>>   BUY >>>

'Love Hurts'  Listen >>>   BUY >>>

'Driftin' Too Far from the Shore' Listen >>>   BUY >>>



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