Pat has been obsessed with the guitar since he first picked one up at age twelve and began learning simple chords and melodies from a Pete Seeger instructional book. His background as a drummer in a garage rock band helped with the transition and he never looked back. As a youth, the St. Paul, Minnesota native pestered guitarists playing at Twin Cities coffee houses and blues venues, seeking tips on playing. Borrowing bits and pieces of the styles of finger picking pioneers he admired, he taught himself to play, building a repertoire flavored by Blind Blake, Django Reinhart and Chet Atkins.
Pat is one of the most listened-to finger pickers in the world. As the guitarist for the “ Guys All-Star Shoe Band” of Minnesota Public Radio’s A Prairie Home Companion, for twenty years, Pat got to show off his savvy licks and distinctive original songs to millions of listeners each week. Pat’s musical tastes are eclectic. Though he considers himself foremost a folk guitarist, Pat’s influences are rooted in bluesmen Blind Blake, Robert Johnson, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Muddy Waters and Miles Davis. He manages to blend jazz and blues with folk, and the mix is seamless. Over the years he has captivated audiences with his unique original compositions, dazzling instrumentals and humorous song parodies, including Sushi-Yucki and Would You Like to Play the Guitar?
Guitar legend Chet Atkins once said, “Pat Donohue is one of the greatest finger pickers in the world today.” Donohue wrote a song in praise of Atkins’ skill and virtuosity called “Stealin’ from Chet.” He has recorded a studio version on his Backroads CD and a live version on Radio Blues, a collection of his favorite performances from A Prairie Home Companion. Atkins joins him on each version. In the liner notes to the live version, Donohue wrote, “What can I say? The most exciting three minutes of my life. We miss you Chet.” (Atkins had died a short time before the album was released). Pat says “One of my favorite tips is from Chet who told me that if you make a mistake, you should make it again later in the tune so that people think you meant to do it. It sounds funny, but I have used this trick.”