Arlo sings Woody Guthrie songs in Dowagiac May 18

Published 7:31 pm Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Arlo Guthrie returns to Dowagiac May 18 after performing here five years ago.

Arlo Guthrie returns to Dowagiac May 18 after performing here five years ago.


Here Comes the Kid.

That’s what Arlo Guthrie titles the tribute to Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie, he has been performing since his father’s 100th birthday July 14, 2012.

Dowagiac, where he headlined the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival five years ago on May 17, 2008, will be the last tour stop before heading home to Massachusetts.

Fourteen family members hit the road, but by September, “the grandkids had to go back to school,” Guthrie said Wednesday from the Santa Fe Hilton, following New Mexico with dates in Arizona, San Diego, Las Vegas and, on Saturday, May 18, the middle school Performing Arts Center.

“I remember having a good time,” Guthrie said. “I remember the drive to it, off the beaten path. I carried on as a solo tour I knew would end in Dowagiac. It’s been one helluva year. I have no plan. I’m going to have an entire month off, which I haven’t had in a long time, then see what’s next.”

Arlo closed his Dowagiac concert with Woody’s “This Land is Your Land” and performed “Alice’s Restaurant,” which won’t be on the set list again until its 50th anniversary in 2015.

“I’m just happy I could remember” the long narrative about 1965 Thanksgiving littering in Stockbridge, Mass.
Ironically, “I never even saw him perform,” Guthrie said. “I never went to a show he did. Just a few years ago, I heard him perform when a wire recording made probably in the early ’40s was discovered and delivered to my younger sister, Nora. It’s my father and mother (Marjorie) together. He’s having fun telling tales and getting as far away from script as he can. I suddenly realized a lot of stuff I thought I invented was genetic.”

Guthrie said Here Comes the Kid is a “celebration of timeless songs that ring as true as when they were written. Songs I picked are known by lots of people and some have never been heard before. A lot of people who love Woody Guthrie are not familiar with his music. They come to him through Leadbelly or Bob Dylan (‘a brilliant musical scholar’) or Pete Seeger, 94.”

His career exploded in 1967, the year his Oklahoma-born father died Oct. 3 at 55 of Huntington’s disease. Arlo released Alice’s Restaurant, which premiered at the Newport Folk Festival.
He went on to star in the 1969 Hollywood film version Arthur Penn directed.

With Alice’s Restaurant too long for radio airplay; Coming into Los Angeles, banned from many radio stations (but a favorite at Woodstock in 1969); and the definitive rendition of Steve Goodman’s City of New Orleans, Guthrie never enjoyed a hit in the conventional sense, but has toured North America, Europe, Asia and Australia for four decades.
In addition to being an accomplished musician  — piano, six- and 12-string guitar, harmonica and a dozen other instruments — he is a natural-born storyteller whose hilarious tales and anecdotes meander seamlessly through shows.

Woody Guthrie influenced Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp — even Joe Strummer of the British punk band The Clash, formed in 1976.

“My dad never wrote commercially viable music and was never as popular in his own day,” Guthrie said. “What he did do was concern himself with everyday life. That’s why he’s still remembered. It’s not the music, writing or stage persona. It’s who he was. You get to the songs because you like him.”

At 65, Arlo exhibits no plans to retire.

“Walter Cronkite was a big hero to me,” he said. “When he left CBS, I met him a couple of times. He was so happy, sailing his big sailboat. I’m not ever going to get a big boat. This is a die-with-your-boots-on kind of thing.”

When Arlo was born on July 10, 1947, his parents lived at Coney Island.

“Everybody wants the opposite of what they are,” he said. “People with curly hair want straight hair. My father, who grew up on the plains, loved Coney Island. The ocean was magnetic. He loved being by the water. My mom was a dance teacher with a school in Brooklyn. Summers, she taught at New England camps. She had a position at a camp in Stockbridge, Mass. I went there as a preteen and fell in love with the air, water, trees and birds. I went to a boarding school for high school and have been there ever since.”

Thirty years ago, in 1983, he launched his own label, Rising Son Records.

In 1991, Guthrie bought Trinity Church, which inspired Alice’s Restaurant. It houses The Guthrie Center, a nonprofit, interfaith church foundation dedicated to providing a wide range of local and international services.

The Guthrie Center “keeps the spirit alive for things we think are important,” he said.

Who: Arlo Guthrie

What: “Here Comes the Kid,” a tribute to dad Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday

When: Saturday, May 18, at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center

Tickets: order online at or call festival headquarters at (866) 490-2847 or (269) 782-1115; $50, premium seating; $40, main floor; $30, upper level. MasterCard, Visa, Discover, American Express and PayPal accepted.

Sponsors: Wolverine Mutual Insurance Co., St. Denys Foundation

Dowagiac Daily News