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Oceanside Native Chris Thile Will Be Next Host of 'A Prairie Home Companion'

A portrait of mandolin player Chris Thile, who was tapped by Garrison Keillor to be the new host of "A Prairie Home Companion."
Danny Clinch
A portrait of mandolin player Chris Thile, who was tapped by Garrison Keillor to be the new host of "A Prairie Home Companion."
Oceanside Native Chris Thile Will Be Next Host of ‘A Prairie Home Companion’
Oceanside native Chris Thile will take over hosting for Garrison Keillor who will retire from "A Prairie Home Companion" in 2016.

Garrison Keillor announced Monday that Oceanside native Chris Thile will be the next host of "A Prairie Home Companion," the beloved radio variety show Keillor created and hosted for four decades.

Keillor, 72, tapped the 34-year-old Thile to take over after multiple guest-hosting stints and frequent guest appearances. Thile is a master mandolin player and member of the bands Nickel Creek and the Punch Brothers.

The choice has some wondering if Thile's presence will change the show's sensibility from the folksy, old time storytelling and skits to something younger and hipper.

After Thile won a MacArthur Genius award in 2012, he joined Keillor on the show in a friendly ribbing of the award.

Keillor asks: "How you doing?" Thile responded: "I am feeling fantastic. Since I won the genius award I’ve learned mandarin chinese in two weeks. I’m golfing in the low 70s. I’m able to do the Saturday crossword in about 20 minutes and would you mind if I talked about sexual potency?"

Thile was 15 when he made his first appearance on the show in 1996. In a statement Monday, Thile said he and Keillor "have lengthily discussed the future of the show with me as host and agree that we should give it a go. There are, of course, plenty of details to iron out, but I'm very excited!"

The musician now resides in Portland.

Keillor, who has hosted the show since 1974, will end his tenure as host with performances at some of his favorite outdoor venues, including Wolf Trap near Washington, D.C., Ravinia near Chicago, and Tanglewood in Massachusetts, according to "A Prairie Home Companion" spokesman David O'Neill. The location of Keillor's final show as host, in July 2016, has not been determined yet, O'Neill said.

"A Prairie Home Companion" is heard by million listeners nationwide on nearly 700 public radio stations each week, including KPBS-FM.