According to Chet Atkins, Pat Donohue is "one of the greatest fingerpickers in the world." Any praise that could be given to a guitar player seems insignificant next to such a statement, but Donohue's work warrants even more acclaim. He was named the 1983 National Fingerpicking Guitar Champion, and continues to garner recognition as an exceptional musician and entertainer. Fans of National Public Radio's A Prairie Home Companion have been treated to the fingerpicked guitar work of Pat Donohue for years, whether they know it or not. Donohue started appearing as a guest performer in the '80s and has been a regular member of the show's house band since 1993.
The full range of Donohue's talents, however, are evident on his recorded works, which blend folk, jazz, blues, ragtime, and boogie woogie. After recording Manhattan to Memphis and Pat Donohue for Red House Records, Donohue founded his own label: BlueSky Records. In 1991, he released Life Stories and an album of jazz and instrumental standards, Two Hand Band followed two years later. Donohue shifted gears with Big Blind Bluesy, a collection of classic country blues from the likes of Blind Blake and Big Bill Broonzy, as well as Donohue originals. Atkins appears on 1996's Backroads, which features solo and full-band performances of Donohue-penned songs. American Guitar showcases Donohue's ability as a solo performer and includes more of his own songs, as well as his arrangements of traditional American pieces such as "Maple Leaf Rag" and "the Star Spangled Banner."
Donohue travels extensively for A Prairie Home Companion and, in addition to his solo concert performances, he conducts numerous group workshops for guitar players across the U.S.