Bill Hinkley on the porch of the West Bank School of Music, 1989

Star Tribune photo by Joey McLeister


Bill Hinkley, folk-music master, West Bank guru and “A Prairie Home Companion” mainstay, died Tuesday at the VA hospital in Minneapolis. He was 67.
As Garrison Keillor would introduce them, it was BillHinkleyandJudyLarson – so inseparable that Keillor spoke of them as if they were one. They were regulars on Prairie Home’s early years. And Hinkley, a singer/mandolinist/fiddler/guitarist/banjo player and longtime teacher at the West Bank School of Music, made music up until his last days. There was a gathering of friends and fellow musicians playing at Hinkley’s hospice on Friday.
Minneapolis singer/songwriter Paul Metsa recalls a moment with Bill Hinkley and Judy Larson from nine days ago:
“There were five or six of us waiting for him to come back from his room. We were all pretty aware of the severity of the situation. Bill came rolling into the room singing ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ lightening the load for all of us. At one point he stood up, cane in one hand, and his other hand holding mine strongly. He closed his eyes and sang ‘Abide with Me,’ an old hymn from 1850 or so. Dakota Dave Hull was playing guitar, with Bill shouting out some of the trickier chords as they went along. He then gave a 2-minute dissertation on the two guys that wrote the song, with a note about the monosyllabic second verse. A teacher ‘til the end.”
Hinkley was suffering from a blood disorder that caused his bone marrow to manufacture an overabundance of red blood cells. To read his full obituary, click here.

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