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'The Music Man' was the top of the mountain for Iowa's Meredith Willson

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe

Who do the UI Hawkeye fight song and the holiday classic "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" have in common?

Meredith Willson, who grew up in Mason City, is best known for writing the book, music, and lyrics to the Broadway and film musical The Music Man, but that was just the peak of his artistic career.

Willson's footprint on the great American songbook remains to this day, most evidently with the Hugh Jackman-led Broadway revival of The Music Man in 2022.

His career had an evolution through several mediums and collaborations with the stars of the day, but he always kept close ties to his native state.

Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks about the life and career of Willson with Tyler Brinegar of Iowa PBS, whose new documentary Meredith Willson: America's Music Man premieres on the statewide network on February 28. One of the documentary's subjects, Janice Rod of the Music Man Square attraction in Mason City, shares her personal encounter with the composer, and Leo Landis of the State Historical Society of Iowa reflects on Willson's legacy.


  • Tyler Brinegar, Iowa PBS senior producer and director
  • Janice Rod, Music Man Square staff member
  • Leo Landis, State Historical Society of Iowa state curator

Iowa PBS is a financial supporter of IPR.

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Samantha McIntosh is a talk show producer at Iowa Public Radio. Prior to IPR, Samantha worked as a reporter for radio stations in southeast and west central Iowa under M&H Broadcasting, and before that she was a weekend music host for GO 96.3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.