It was an historic night Saturday March 10 at Tulsa’s historic Brady Theater as a sold-out crowd gathered to watch a star-studded group of musicians pay tribute to native Oklahoman Woody Guthrie. “This Land is Your Land: Woody Guthrie Centennial Concert” drew a long list of singers, songwriters, musicians, poets and writers as they re-lived the life of one of America’s most influential folk singers just four months ahead of what would have been his one hundredth birthday.
Sponsored by the Grammy Museum, the concert featured Guthrie’s son Arlo Guthrie, Jackson Browne, Rosanne Cash, Del McCoury Band, Hanson, The Flaming Lips, Jimmy LaFave, John Mellencamp, Tim O’Brien and Old Crow Medicine Show.
Author Michael Wallis opened the evening, reading Guthrie’s “I Hate a Song” before introducing Arlo Guthrie. Grabbing a nice round of applause, Guthrie performed “Talking Dust Bowl” before welcoming Old Crow Medicine Show to the stage. The group then joined Guthrie for “Howji Do,” and added “Union Maid” after Guthrie exited the stage. Tim O’Brien then joined the group for “Sun Jumped Up.”
“Spring time in Oklahoma, center of the known universe. We’re here to honor Oklahoma’s most famous native son, Woody Guthrie,” said Oklahoman Jimmy LaFave as he took the stage, drawing cheers from the packed house. LaFave then performed “Walking Woody’s Road,” a song written by the late red dirt legend Bob Childers. “He was a rambling friend of mine just reaching out his hand, that’s why I went walking Woody’s road,” he sang.
Rosanne Cash then joined LaFave for “Deportee” before pausing to find a guitar strap. Jackson Browne drew thunderous applause as he raced to her aid, but left shrugging his shoulders after a quick stage-hand beat him to Cash. Cash then cruised through “Pretty Boy Floyd,” “I Ain’t Got No Home,” and “Give My Love To Rose,” before making way for Tulsa’s Hanson who performed “Going Down That Road” with Arlo.
Following another reading by Wallis, O’Brien joined Del McCoury Band for one of the more enjoyable sets of the evening. The group played “Philadelphia Lawyer,” “Pastures of Plenty,” and “So Long It’s Been Good To Know Yuh” with a bluegrass flare that the audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy. After McCoury paused to introduce his band he asked what song they were going to do next. O’Brien got some laughs when he replied, “Del, I’m pretty sure we’re going to due one by Woody Guthrie.”
Following a brief intermission, Grammy Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli a plaque to Guthrie’s sister, Mary Jo Edgmon and Deana McCloud of the Woody Guthrie Festival to be placed in Guthrie’s hometown of Okemah. Poet Joy Harjo then read “I say To You Woman and Man” while composer David Amram played the keyboard.
Jackson Browne was up next, performing “You Know The Night.” Browne co-wrote the music and added the lyrics from a poem Guthrie wrote about the night he met his wife, Marjorie. He remained on stage to sing “Along in the Sun and Rain” with The Flaming Lips. The Lips then took over the stage, playing an interesting version of “Vigilante Man,” using only iPads as instruments. The group followed with their own popular “Do You Realize.”
The biggest roar of the night came when Santelli introduced John Mellencamp. The rocker then performed “Do Re Mi,” and “Bound for Glory,” before stopping to talk to the crowd.
“Some people call it stealing, I call it creation,” Mellencamp said. “You take a little from here and a little from there and put together a song that makes people happy,” he added. “I flat out stole this from Woody,” he said before jumping into his hit “Pink Houses.”
Arlo Guthrie then returned to the stage, playing “In Times Like These,” and “I Hear You Sing Again,” before welcoming back Mellencamp for a rendition of “Oklahoma Hills” that nearly brought the house down.
With the entire night’s lineup then joining them on stage, Guthrie and Mellencamp started into “Hard Travellin,” then led the audience in a sing along to “This Land Is Your Land.”
Guthrie closed the night with a surprise, playing a song that his father
wrote in his dying days that Arlo later added music to. “I thought it would be a
nice song to close this show. Nobody up here has rehearsed it or knows it, I’m
assuming that most of you don’t, I’m assuming I do but that’s iffy,” he said,
drawing laughs from the audience. He then led everyone in “My Peace,” bringing
the night to a close.
Saturday’s show was a very entertaining and special event that reminded everyone in attendance how much Woody Guthrie contributed to his state, country and the world. The event was one of many planned throughout the year as the Grammy Museum celebrates his centennial. For more information, visit www.woody100.com.