Arlo and Abe

Lots of people have fond Thanksgiving memories.

I don’t really have any that are particularly unique, beyond the usual family gatherings and my dad’s turkey on the barbecue. But I do have an oddball recollection that comes to mind this time of year involving Arlo Guthrie.

I was in high school when he released The Alice’s Restaurant Massacree, an 18 minute story/song that only a few radio stations would play and which took up the entire side of the album.1 There was some pretty great music on the flip side as well but I don’t remember playing it much.

The record was also hard to find. I was living near Omaha, Nebraska at the time and the store on the base (my dad was in the Air Force) wouldn’t stock it. Neither would many of the other stores in the area. I guess they didn’t get the humor.

Alice and other recordings by Guthrie contributed to my affection for folk music, and was also a big influence on my love of intelligent, sly satire. Other early contributors to that particular mess in my head were Mad Magazine, Mort Sahl, George Carlin, early Saturday Night Live, and Weird Al Yankovic.

Anyway, another connection to Arlo Guthrie came a few decades later, around Thanksgiving in 1994.

My wife is a member of a DC-area choir that for many years sang in the annual Kennedy Center Honors program, backing up whatever performances required a choral touch. That year, they were part of the segment honoring Pete Seeger, and Guthrie was one of the featured performers.

In those days, security around this event was pretty lax, except for the day when the president was in the house, and I was able to sit in on the dress rehearsal with my camera. It was a lot of fun to watch Guthrie and other musicians I respected (including Roger McGuinn and Joan Baez) up close, along with seeing the whole process of putting together a big-time television special.

The photo at the top2 is of Guthrie and his son Abe in the rehearsal room talking to us about the music, his history with Pete Seeger, and whatever else popped into his head. The rest of the shots I took that day are in this gallery.

So, that’s my unusual little piece of holiday nostalgia.

I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful Thanksgiving 2022. Don’t eat too much (maybe I’ll write about our very non-traditional meal sometime), stay out of the stores, do something nice for someone, and avoid getting sick.

And at least once during the season, listen to Arlo sing about Alice and her restaurant. This performance is very good, if a little rushed, but nothing beats the original.

1. I probably don’t have to explain what a “record” is any more since they seem to be rather popular with hipsters in their 20’s and 30’s. No, I don’t understand why either.

2. From the days before digital photography so this image and the others on the “roll” were scanned from some poorly preserved negatives. At least I seem to have had a long lens for the camera.