Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July 10: Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Restaurant Massacree," “City of New Orleans” - is 66-years-old today.

Arlo Davy Guthrie was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of folk singer and composer Woody Guthrie and his wife Marjorie Mazia Guthrie. His mother was a one-time professional dancer with the Martha Graham Company and founder of the Committee to Combat Huntington's disease, the disease that took Woody's life in 1967. His maternal grandmother was renowned Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt.

As a singer, songwriter and lifelong political activist, Guthrie carries on the legacy of his legendary father. He was awarded the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience award on September 26, 1992. His most famous work is "Alice's Restaurant Massacree,” a talking blues song that lasts 18 minutes and 34 seconds in its original recorded version. Guthrie has pointed out that this was also the exact length of one of the famous gaps in Richard Nixon's Watergate tapes.

The Alice in the song is Alice Brock, who had been librarian at Arlo's boarding school in town before opening her restaurant, and who now runs an art gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The song lampoons the Vietnam War draft. However, Guthrie stated in a 2009 that the song is more an "anti-stupidity" song than an anti-war song, adding that it is based on a true incident.

In the song, Guthrie is called up for a draft examination, and rejected as unfit for military service as a result of a criminal record consisting in its entirety of a single arrest, court appearance, fine, and clean-up order for littering and creating a public nuisance on Thanksgiving Day in 1965, when Arlo was 18 years old. Alice and her restaurant make up the recurrent refrain, but barely figure in the story.

In the mid-1960s, "Alice's Restaurant" was heavily played on U.S. college and counter-culture radio stations. It became a symbol of the late 1960s and for many it defined an attitude and lifestyle that were lived out across the country in the ensuing years. Its leisurely, sassy finger-picking acoustic guitar and rambling lyrics were widely memorized and played by irreverent youth. Many stations across the States have made playing "Alice's Restaurant" a Thanksgiving Day tradition.

In 1972 Guthrie had another highly successful single, Steve Goodman's song "City of New Orleans,” a wistful paean to long-distance passenger rail travel. Guthrie's first trip on that train was in December 2005 when his family joined other musicians on a train trip across the country to raise money for musicians financially devastated by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. He also had a minor hit with his song "Coming into Los Angeles," which was played at the 1969 Woodstock Festival, and success with a live version of "The Motorcycle Song."

Guthrie's 1976 album Amigo received a 5-star rating from Rolling Stone, and may be his best-received work. However, that album, like Guthrie's earlier Warner Bros. Records albums, is rarely heard today even though each contains strong folk and folk rock music.

In 1991 Arlo Guthrie bought the church that had served as Alice and Ray Brock's former home in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, that inspired “Alice’s Restaurant.” He converted it to the Guthrie Center, an interfaith meeting place that serves people of all religions.

Arlo's latest tour, "Boy's Night Out," was on the road from Oct. 2011 - May 2012. Arlo was joined by his son, Abe Guthrie (keyboards and vocals), Krishna Guthrie (Abe's son on guitar and vocals), and old friend terry A La Berry (drums and vocals).

Arlo created a program of symphonic arrangements of his own songs and other American classics, "An American Scrapbook.” By the end of 2010 Arlo will have performed over 40 concerts with 27 different symphony orchestras throughout the US since 1998.


For more about Arlo, visit his Website at -


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