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A musical monologue running more than 18 minutes, “Alice’s Restaurant” has become a Thanksgiving holiday anthem to families across the globe and it all originates from Guthrie’s experience on Thanksgiving in 1965. Kicking off the tour in Daytona Beach, FL (Jan. 21, 2015), Guthrie will perform his most prominent work in its entirety each night on the tour, as well as selections from every full length studio album he’s released since his debut, Alice’s Restaurant (1967).
“I didn’t think I was gonna live long enough to have to learn ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ again,” Arlo Guthrie says with a smile. “It was a quirky kinda thing to begin with. Nobody writes an 18-minute monologue expecting fame and fortune. The initial success of the song really took me by surprise more than anyone else. The fact that I have contended with it for five decades either by having to learn it again or by not doing it, has been an interesting balancing act. I’m surely looking forward to adding it to the repertoire though for the 50th anniversary tour.”
Folk songs enduring many decades of change only become classics when storylines remain just as relevant today as they were when originally composed. “Alice’s Restaurant” is of this ilk; it’s now weaved into the fabric of American society. Fans have embraced “Alice’s Restaurant” as part of their annual Thanksgiving tradition, but also view it as one of the more pronounced anti-war rally songs. Every year, Arlo receives handfuls of letters from Vietnam vets and soldiers currently at war expressing their heartfelt connection to the song. Today, times are eerily similar to the mid-60’s, with unpopular wars being fought far away from home, and soldiers finding ways to cope. Music is often the best thing to soothe the soul. However listeners interpret the quintessential tune, we can be rest assured that people of all different walks of life come together singing that famous chorus, “You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant…”.
“Alice’s Restaurant’s” hilarious account of actual events that precluded Arlo Guthrie from military service (1966) became a platinum selling record (1967) and full-length motion picture (1969) at the outset of his lauded career. Interestingly enough, the song’s lyrics reference the number 50 several times (i.e. “…there was five police officers, and three police cars, being the biggest crime of the last 50 years… I had to pay $50 to pick up the garbage…”), and here we are 50 years later commemorating the lengthiest hit single in music history. Due of its length, Arlo has only added the complete “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” to his touring menu on the 10-year anniversaries.
For the last five decades, Arlo has carried on the Guthrie family legacy of sharing timeless stories and unforgettable classics to audiences far and wide. “The Alice’s Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour” brings together an ensemble of fine musicians never to grace the stage together at one time. Arlo’s deft band includes Terry Hall (drums), Bobby Sweet (guitar, vocals), Darren Todd (guitar), and his son, Abe Guthrie (keyboards). Each show is also curated with a special multi-media presentation featuring previously unseen images from the Guthrie archives. More than 75,000 photos have recently been digitized, and selections will be projected along with Peter Star’s claymation film depicting Arlo’s “Motorcycle Song”. For the dedicated lovers of “Alice’s Restaurant”, they’ll be happy to know the Old Trinity Church is still around. Arlo bought it over 20 years ago and renamed it “The Guthrie Center at the Old Trinity Church”. He runs his non-profit foundation from the building, and it’s his hope that it’ll continue to be of service to the local community.
On “Alice’s Restaurant” becoming such a cultural phenomenon, Arlo says, “Well, I’ve always loved good stories. And I’ve loved telling tall tales. Why people enjoy it is beyond me. I haven’t sung ‘Alice’ for years and people still keep coming to the gigs. ‘Alice’ has taken on a life of its own and become attached to Thanksgiving. If I had to guess though, maybe because it’s a story about a little guy against a big world.”