Russ Ringsak, truck driver and blues guitarist on “A Prairie Home Companion” public radio show, died Tuesday morning at his home in Stillwater. He was 81.
His friend responded to his death saying, “one of the finest and most generous storytellers I ever knew, talking about his youth in Grafton, N.D., where his dad was county attorney.”
“(Russ) had a secret yearning to be a truck driver and enjoy the life of the open road,” Keillor recalled. “And that’s exactly what he did, and nobody enjoyed it more. He bought himself a semi cab and became an independent over-the-road trucker, keeping crazy hours, seeing the country, listening to blues and country music almost nonstop, and practicing guitar in his sleeper cab. He wrote me letters from the road, which I read on the radio. He came to the Saturday broadcasts when he was in town, became a friend of all the musicians and staff and joined our Tourists tour in 1981. He signed up to be the show’s full-time truck driver in 1991 when we started doing more than half the broadcasts on the road. He was thrilled when one of his heroes, Chet Atkins, became a regular on the show.”