Alice’s Restaurant – Arlo Guthrie

The MARK’S VINTAGE VINYL page features something from Mark’s collection of recordings from over the years. Most of it is on vinyl – hence the name – though there will be a few entries from his CDs (remember those?).

Alice’s Restaurant, by Arlo Guthrie

  • Debut album by Arlo Guthrie, released in 1967.
  • Arlo Guthrie is the son of Woody Guthrie, one of the most significant figures in American folk music. Woody wrote hundreds of folk, protest, political and children’s songs – his most famous work is This Land Is Your Land. Arlo’s album was released weeks before Woody’s death.
  • Side One of the album is Arlo’s famous song, Alice’s Restaurant Massacree. The song is mostly a spoken monologue, accompanied by Guthrie’s acoustic guitar, telling the true tale of his arrest on Thanksgiving Day for littering, and the subsequent refusal of the U.S. Army to draft him because of his conviction of the crime. Taken as a whole, it is a protest song against the Vietnam War draft. The song is an 18+ minute masterpiece.
  • The song was the inspiration for a film, Alice’s Restaurant, released in 1969. Guthrie played himself in the film. The film also includes the real “Officer Obie” (William Obanhein) and Judge James Hannon, appearing as themselves.
  • It is the tradition of many classic rock radio stations to play the song every Thanksgiving Day.
  • Side Two of the album contains 6 more Guthrie-penned folk songs – but I probably have only played this side of the album twice in my life. Too bad – some of the songs are pretty good.
  • The album was a steady seller, peaking at #29 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and it remained on the chart for over a year. After the film was released, it hit the chart again, peaking at #17. It was certified platinum nearly 20 years after its release.
  • Watch Arlo Guthrie perform his famous song live at Farm Aid 2005.

2 thoughts on “Alice’s Restaurant – Arlo Guthrie”

  1. Mark,

    I love this song and listen to it every time I make a turkey…. thanksgiving or not. I often quote lyrics as well (which nobody ever seems to understand) “Yes sir Officer Obie, I cannot tell a lie, I put that envelope under the garbage” 😂

  2. I learned to play this on my Grandma’s Autoharp on a super cold northern MN winter night. My Mom wrote down the chords, and I pushed the buttons and strummed. I can’t walk and chew gum, so my Mom sang along on the chorus! She thought the verses were silly. Still love that song!!

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