Alice’s restuarant’s Arlo Guthrie to NJ 101.5: It really happened to me
It's been a tradition of most classic rock stations to play "Alice's Restaurant" on Thanksgiving morning. I used to do it at WYSP.
When I spoke in 2019 to the song's creator, Arlo Guthrie, he outed me and the rest of us who played it, with the real reason why:
"Back in the day when (music radio) wasn't computer-driven stuff, you'd have some guy putting the record on and he got a 20-minute break," Guthrie said. He was right, not only did I get the break but holiday pay and out of helping my family clean the house and cook for Thanksgiving, I was all in!"
Guthrie spoke more about the song: "It was a matter of what actually happened to me. I'm not making it up. It was events that actually took place over the course of a about a year, so it wasn't something I just put together -- the events actually happened and it took that long because things just kept happening. It was so absurd because I just kept adding all these details and it kept getting funnier and funnier until it became a thing."
Guthrie's father, Woody wrote "This Land Is Your Land," which was covered by Bruce Springsteen. Some say it was a protest song to, "God Bless America."
"It was originally called 'God Blessed America,' so it couldn't have been too much of a protest song," Guthrie said.
How does Guthrie feel about protest songs?
"I've always been distrustful of authority," Guthrie said. "That was the core of Alice's Restaurant and all the songs I've written over the years. It's always good to have a healthy suspicion of people in authority. That doesn't matter if they're Republicans, Democrats or people in between."
As protest writer and singer, Guthrie knew his songs were never going to make the top 40, although he did have a hit with "City Of New Orleans."
"They weren't written for that, but for a certain amount of people in the country, there are songs that tell the story of who they are and where they came from and what makes them unique and all those kinds of things. Just just got to keep them with a sense of humor and a healthy amount of suspicion," Guthrie said.
I asked Guthrie if it was harder to write those songs and get the word out before social media:
"In my view, those protest songs in that style of singing about what was going on was social media," Guthrie said. "We didn't have Internet. We had songs and people who went around from place to place telling you what was going on and that's how people found out what was happening."
Guthrie says that the only difference is "that every idiot who can type can create a response that makes that response equal to all the others, even though one person may have the intellect of a flea and the other may be some kind of Einstein."