• Todd Strasser

Alice's Restaurant

For anyone who enjoys podcasts and music and wants to get a light-hearted feeling for 1960s youth counter culture, the song "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" might be a good place to start. Were there podcasts in the 1960s? you may be wondering. Well, no, but Arlo Guthrie’s 18-minute ever-so-amusing story/song comes close. Guthrie is the son of the famous folk singer Woody Guthrie, who wrote “This Land is Your Land.”

Without giving too much of the story away, the song (commonly referred to as "Alice's Restaurant") is a satirical, deadpan protest against the Vietnam War draft, in the form of a comically exaggerated but essentially true story from Guthrie's own life: he was arrested and convicted for…. dumping trash illegally! Later, when he faced the prospect of being drafted and sent to fight in the War in Vietnam, things took an unexpected turn.

Guthrie first performed "Alice's Restaurant" live in 1966 on Radio Unnameable, the overnight program hosted by Bob Fass on New York’s WBAI. The song proved so popular that Fass began playing a recording of the performance. Eventually Guthrie went into the studio and recorded it on the album by the same name. It has since become a tradition among AOR alternative radio stations to play the song each Thanksgiving.

The song eventually inspired a movie with a wonderful tagline: “Alice’s Restaurant: Where the heads of all state meet.”

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