Garrison Keillor took some serious steps forward Monday in proving that talks of his upcoming retirement aren't just tall tales out of Lake Wobegon.

The "Prairie Home Companion" host has said little to the press since an article in the Berkshire Eagle (Mass.) newspaper reported that the legendary broadcaster would fade out sometime next year with mandolin player Chris Thile taking his place.

Those who have followed Keillor over the years have learned to take his mumblings about hanging up his red sneakers with a tablespoon of salt since the public-radio host has inevitably either returned or stayed behind the microphone.

But in an e-mail to the Star Tribune Monday, Keillor indicated that,this time, he means it.

"Really, it's no big deal.I'm getting old.It's an old story," wrote Keillor who turns 73 in August. "We last longer in radio because you can't see the bags under our eyes."

It's not that Keillor's popularity is waning.His 4th of July show on the lawns of Macalester College drew over 3,500 fans.

"On Saturday,I sang, 'Wouldn't It Be Nice,' the Beach Boys song, and thoroughly screwed up the bridge," Keillor said. "Not a good sign."

As telling as Keillor's e-mail might be,the recently released "Prairie" schedule for the 2015-16 speaks even louder.

On Oct. 10, Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O'Donovan and Sara Watkins will share hosting duties while Keillor takes a break. Thile, who confirmed to the Mandolin Cafe website that he is scheduled to eventually take over, will preside Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 at the Fitzgerald Theatre.

Perhaps,most intriguing: Thile and Keillor co-hosting from San Diego's Civic Theatre on Jan. 23 and New York's Town Hall on April 16.

An official passing of the reins?

Keillor and his team declined to go into details, particularly when it came to speculating on what kind of role he might play after stepping down as the emcee.

"It really is no big deal," said Keillor as he prepared for a trip to London. "And as for the future future, we'll just have to wait and see."

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