Tom Durkin
Special to Prospector

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April 3, 2014
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Arlo Guthrie: Still not proud – or tired

Okay, let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Arlo Guthrie is not going to sing “Alice’s Restaurant” when he comes to town April 11 for his “Here Come the Kids” tour at the Grass Valley Veterans’ Memorial Building.

“The gig in Grass Valley is part of the Woody Guthrie Centennial Tour, so I’ll be doing a lot more of his songs and tales. This tour does NOT include Alice,” Guthrie emphasized in an e-mail from somewhere on the road.

“Because of its length and for other reasons, I’ve put Alice in the setlist every decade for about a year and a half,” he explained. The next tour, which will include the entire saga, begins January 2015 – and ends May 2016,” he wrote.

“That’s gonna be a long freaking tour” – but for fans of the legendary talking blues “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” the tour will focus on “the 50th anniversary of the events that took place Thanksgiving 1965.”

That tour is already being booked, Guthrie added.

‘Here Come the Kids’

The good news is that Guthrie – and everybody else – will be probably be singing Woody Guthrie’s enduring salute to America “This Land Is Your Land,” which is often referred to as “the people’s national anthem.”

Arlo Guthrie has a story about how he learned the words to “This Land,” but that’s his story to tell …

Guthrie has a story for virtually every song he sings. You may have heard his hit songs like “City of New Orleans” or “Coming into Los Angeles” on the radio, but you haven’t heard the song until you know the story behind it.

Asked if he could tell us a little more about his Grass Valley show, Guthrie replied, “I could, but in order to avoid you having to write ‘spoiler alert,’ I won’t.”

However, his website says. “Arlo is joined by his son, Abe Guthrie (keyboards and vocals), Bobby Sweet (on guitar and vocals), and old friend Terry A La Berry (drums and vocals).”

Furthermore, “The ‘Kids’ tour will … focus on the Woody Guthrie Centennial, but with … Abe and Bobby, Arlo will be able to add more of his own material to the show,” according to the website.

“We know the show will be a great tribute to his father’s legacy, his own songwriting and so many other great folk musicians and activists we all have come to admire,” said Julie Baker, executive director of the Center for the Arts.

Asked why the tour is named “Here Come the Kids,” Guthrie wrote, “It means they couldn’t think of anything else to call the Woody Tour.

“And of course, there’s the obvious fact of being the kid(s),” said the 67-year-old kid.

Hot secret at the Center

For years, Arlo Guthrie has been at the top of the list of artists our members want to see,” said Baker.

Nevertheless, it took years of schmoozing Guthrie’s agent and building a track record for the Center for the Arts before the Guthrie’s agent decided the Center was “legit,” Baker said.

And even after the show was booked, “We had to keep it under wraps for about six months before we announced!” Baker revealed.

“We are hoping for a sellout but there are still tickets available – we’ve seen a real shift in many people purchasing in the last two weeks of the show date,” she said.

Kelly Fleming, a local musician, met Guthrie several times while working as a stage manager at Kate Wolf festivals.

“He’s pretty real,” Fleming said. “He’s a hard-working guy.”

What’s more, “He’s as relevant today as he ever was. He is folk royalty,” Fleming added.

Not proud or tired

“I’m not proud … or tired,” is one of the most famous lines from “Alice’s Restaurant.” On his Facebook page Guthrie wrote, “I’ve spent over 40 years on the road discovering the rest of humanity and I’m still not proud or tired.”

Asked what’s kept him going all these years, he answered, “Decent coffee and good friends” – and the loss of desire of being anything more than he is.

As he wrote on Facebook, “I have successfully foiled every opportunity to be somebody in the entertainment industry. I’ve done about 30 records, a few motion pictures, a TV series, a book for little kids, started a few recording and production companies and two not-for-profit foundations.”

He told The Union, “I’m basically the same person philosophically, socially, politically and spiritually. I also play better than I ever have.

“Now-a-days I’m enjoying myself spending 9 months every year on the road. The gigs are doing well and people are happy to be there.”

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada City. He can be contacted at tdurkin@vfr.net.


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The Union Updated Apr 3, 2014 08:43AM Published Apr 4, 2014 08:56AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.