March 23, 2010
The Guthrie family brings new meaning to the phrase “family entertainment.” This Saturday, March 27th, four generations of Guthries ranging from ages two to 62 will take the stage at Yardley Hall of the Carlsen Center at Johnson County Community College — bringing their unique folk music to audiences young and old.
Twelve Guthries will perform on Saturday, led by father Arlo Guthrie. Songs will include old favorites, music from their own individual careers, and a collection of new songs written by friends and family for lyrics written by the late Woody Gutherie.
I caught up with Annie Guthrie from the road today. Annie grew up touring with her father Arlo and has served as his manager for the past 15 years. We chatted about her family, music, and what audiences can expect from the show, Arlo Guthrie and the Guthrie Family Rides Again.
It’s a lot different from a normal Arlo show in the sense that we’re doing a lot of songs that we’ve never done before. We’re doing some Woody Guthrie songs that were put to music by some of our friends, and some of our own material that we do individually. I’m a singer/songwriter; I don’t perform as much because I spend most of my time in the office, but I’ve been writing songs for 20 years. So there’s a song that I perform. Ironically just before the tour my family released a children’s record and we’re all on the record, including the little ones. We’ve got everyone up there; the youngest is two and my dad is 62 [laughing] and everything in between. My daughter is eight and she’s written songs along with my neice. My son is 15 and he plays bass. My nephew is 18 and he plays electric guitar. It’s a family show in the sense that everyone in the family performs. We’re having fun out there. We’re enjoying each other’s music as well as Woody’s music and just having a great time.
What was it like growing up in a musical family and performing together after all of these years?
When we were kids we traveled together a lot. This is the first time we’re doing something like this with all the kids and everybody on stage. I grew up touring with my dad, and we had tutors. I’ve been working with my dad my entire life; I’ve been his manager for 15 years. When we came up with the concept for this tour I thought, I’m finally going to get my kids out on the road full-time and they’re going to see the country!
We kind of all fell into playing music as adults, and even with the kids it wasn’t something they had to do. It’s a lot of fun and it’s hard work, too. It’s not something for everybody. There’s 22 of us on the road and the majority of those people are on one 45-foot tour bus together — so it’s definitely not only the art of playing music together, but the art of living in each other’s laps.
Saturday’s performance will feature brand new songs composed of Woody Guthrie’s lyrics by friends and family. Tell me more about how that came about?
There are so many wonderful musicians who are putting out Woody’s songs and they’re still relevant today. So it was really hard for us to choose which of those songs we could fit into the two-hour show and still have enough of my dad’s material and our own songs. So we picked our favorites of our favorites. We all sat down and brought a couple of songs to the table and said these are our favorites. There were some songs that we would have loved to do, but they just weren’t right in the moment. We chose what we could put out there that would honor Woody and the folks that are playing his music.
Who are your personal musical influences?
Wow, that’s a big question for me. Aside from my family, because there’s so many influences in my family, I’d say Leadbelly and Sweet Honey in the Rock have always been my inspirations. Sweet Honey in the Rock is a gospel kind of group that did a lot of folk gospel. And Bonnie Raitt; I just love her!
I’m working on a solo CD now. I’ve been spending most of my time putting my dad’s music out there — I run his record company and do all of his tour management. I perform on my own in solo shows. I’ve only started doing that in the last four years and hope to put out my own CD really soon.
What do you want the audience to come away with after seeing the performance?
There’s a lot of hard stuff going on in the country and we’re all going through it. I’m just hoping that the Guthrie Family show will come through town, and if you’re feeling a little down on your luck or having a hard time, you’re just going to walk away with a smile. It’s kind of our way of saying that we’re still here and we’re going to make it through this time and there’s something on the horizon that will turn things around. We’re a family that’s been singing together our entire lives, making music. This is the fourth generation now and there’s something for everybody.
March 27, 2010; 8 p.m.
Single tickets: $45, $35