By Sharon Sullivan
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. Folk singer Arlo Guthrie cheerfully answered
the phone "Good mornin' ..." when it rang his Denver hotel room
Thursday morning, and the reporter half expected to hear "...
America, how are you? Don't you know me? I'm your native son!"
Guthrie made famous the Steve Goodman song "City of New Orleans," and
the voice praising the morning sure sounded familiar.
As the son of legendary singer, songwriter and philosopher Woody
Guthrie, Arlo grew up surrounded by musicians such as Pete Seeger,
Ronnie Gilbert and Ramblin' Jack Elliot.
Arlo Guthrie also became an accomplished musician who plays the six-
and 12-string guitar, piano, harmonica and a dozen other instruments.
He's also a natural-born storyteller who engages his audiences with
humorous tales throughout his performances.
Guthrie performed before an appreciative crowd at the Telluride
Bluegrass Festival last summer, ending with a prayerful "My Peace," a
song he said he wrote with his dad.
"My father wrote the lyrics on a little piece of paper and my sister
sent it to me," Guthrie said. The paper had ended up in the family
archives, and his sister thought Guthrie could do something with it.
"I don't know if it was a thought he had or a poem," Guthrie said.
Guthrie changed the words around a little, put music to it and sings
it every night, he said.
"Churches are singing it now," he said. "It's a beautiful little song."
Expect to hear "My Peace" along with songs from Guthrie's latest
release, "32 Cents Postage Due" a record of Woody Guthrie songs
recorded by Arlo and a group called The Dillards.
The Dillards used to perform on the Andy Griffith Show as The Darlin's.
"They're great pickers, old buddies of mine," Guthrie said.
His other most recent recording "In Times Like These" is a collection
of mostly his songs recorded with the University of Kentucky Symphony
"They're two very different records, different settings, all me," Guthrie said.
Another song "definitely on the menu" for tonight is a beautiful song
called "When a Soldier Makes it Home" a song Guthrie wrote 20 years
ago about soldiers coming home from Afghanistan and Vietnam to
communities out of touch with the soldiers' experiences in faraway lands.
"I get e-mails all the time from soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan
saying, 'Thank you for that song,'" Guthrie said. "And I write them back."
"Luckily things have changed," Guthrie said. "There's a lot more
direct concern for how guys are being treated."
Guthrie lives in his tour bus 10 months out of the year and spends
the rest of his time between Washington, Massachusetts and a little
town in Florida called Sebastian.
In 1991, Guthrie bought an old church in Great Barrington, Mass.
the very same location where the events that took place on
Thanksgiving 1965 inspired Guthrie to write the 1967 song "Alice's'
These days the old church is home to the Guthrie Center.
"It's a bring your own God church," where like-minded
spiritually-minded folks gather and where "we do a lot of local old
'60s stuff free community lunches, music and arts programs, yoga
classes," Guthrie said.
The Center employs one paid staff and hosts a group of volunteers who
provide HIV/AIDS services, fundraising for local service
organizations and organize walk-a-thons to raise awareness and money
to find a cure for Huntington's Disease the illness that killed
Woody Guthrie. The Center is also simply a place to meditate.
"There's two things going on there," Guthrie said. "It's an
educational foundation and an interfaith church. We figure between
those two we can cover a whole lot of territory."
The church is located in the hamlet of Van Deusenville, which is in
the village of Housatonic, which is in the town of Great Barrington,
That's the confusing kind of address New Englanders are known for,
"You have to want to find it."
Guthrie will be performing solo tonight.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said.
Tickets are available at the door.
Reach Sharon Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.