In his one-page "Oughtabiography," singer/-songwriter Arlo Guthrie says, "My personal life is somewhat of a mystery - even to me."
Guthrie's whereabouts recently have also been in question. recently."I think he's somewhere out in the Redwoods," said his secretary, Sharon Palma. (Between "the Redwood forest and the Gulf Stream waters" maybe?) She tried unsuccessfully to reach Guthrie to arrange an interview. He's on the road, singing from town to town.
Just as well. The great folk-rock singers - like Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Arlo Guthrie - are naturally elusive and, if you happen to corner them, tend to be evasive anyway. If you really want to know what inspires them, angers them or what they're thinking these days, go see them play.
Which is exactly what you can do next week, in Arlo's case. The son of the late, great Woody Guthrie (you know - "This Land Is Your Land") is in concert Thursday night, April 18, at Kingsbury Hall.
For Salt Lakers, the opportunity comes in triplicate. Not only can you catch a slice of the past (Woody) in the form of the present (Arlo), but you'll get a glimpse of the future in Abraham, Arlo's son, who is opening the show for Pop.
Brace yourself, however, for a slight departure from the Woody-Arlo tradition because Abe, 21, who brings along his band, Xavier, mines heavy metal.
While Xavier promises diversity in musical style, Arlo Guthrie will undoubtedly deliver a well-rounded menu of folk, rock, blues, bluegrass, all woven together by his penchant for humorous storytelling, at which he is very good.at.
It was, in fact, his ability to spin a yarn that distinguished him as more than just "Woody's son." The story was "Alice's Restaurant," a 20-minute talking-blues song about how he avoided the draft by getting arrested for littering.
Based loosely on reality, "Alice's Restaurant," written in 1966, became an anthem - alongside Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" and John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance" - for the counterculture. It also launched Guthrie into stardom. Subsequent hits include "Coming Into Los Angeles," which laments the difficulty of smuggling marijuana, and "City of New Orleans," which was written by the late Steve Goodman.
Continuous commercial fame, however, was not in the cards for Guthrie, who married in 1969 and bought a farm in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, where he, his wife and their four children reside today.
"I overheard someone recently say of me, `I thought he bought the farm,' I can't imagine why they're saying that NOW! I bought the farm 20 years ago! It's just not all paid off yet. This explains why I still travel around a lot."
During the past 10 years, Guthrie, who turns 44 on July 10 this year, has produced only a handful of albums and re-produced some old ones on his own label, Rising Son Records. He made a documentary a few years ago about his father. Occasionally, he appears at benefits for the Committee to Combat Huntington's Disease, the ailment that claimed Woody Guthrie. He publishes a quarterly magazine called the Rolling Blunder Review, the title of which is a parody of one of Dylan's bands, the Rolling Thunder Revue.
And, occasionally, he'll venture out onto the road, much to the delight of those whose generation he touched so deeply.