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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Guthrie's 100th to be celebrated in Iowa

Friday, July 6, 2012

Iowa was perhaps the single state in the United States in which Woody Guthrie spent the least amount of time.

Folk music legend Woody Guthrie
He spent his early years traveling with migrant workers from Oklahoma to California, where he learned many of the traditional folk and blues songs he so enjoyed performing. Many of his early songs dealt with his experiences in the Dust Bowl era and the Great Depression. He spent much of his 'recording' life in New York City, recording songs for Moses Asch, the owner of Folkways Records.

This company just happens to be the same one that Iowan, Bob Everhart recorded for. Guthrie was singing about labor problems, poor folks, and decent wages, and Everhart sang about trains, hard times, and corruption in the music business.

Guthrie's biggest song, "This Land Is Your Land," came about in a strange sort of way. Irving Berlin had just written "God Bless America," recorded by and made famous by singer Kate Smith. An interesting side-note to Berlin's songwriting abilities, he wrote all of his music in the same key. Guthrie took offense at the beautiful song, thinking perhaps it did not include poor folks, or country folks, or rural lifestyle, so he took it upon himself to set the record straight.

"This Land Is Your Land" became the hue and cry of just about every folk singer in America, if not around the world, and the song still lingers as a strong statement about what America is really made of.

Everhart had a similar experience with "Nothing Is Small," a song about growing older and how significant things and beliefs of the past are not nearly so important as one grows older.

Guthrie recorded a massive number of projects for Folkways, while Everhart did six. According to Everhart, "I had just finished my sixth project for Moses, and submitted it. He called me up when he received it. Moses was a gruff-sounding Russian-Jew, and he asked me if I would do something special for my 7th project. I said 'sure, what would you like?' He wanted old-time gospel music. I was a little stunned, but told him I'd get right to work on it. Then Moses died, and I thought my life in music was over, but not long after his death, all of his recorded works were donated to the Smithsonian Institute, who still keep it alive today. As a matter of fact, they just re-released all six of my projects with Moses."

We suspect if Bob Everhart and Woody Guthrie had ever met up, they would have made strong compatible friends. That never happened; however, after Guthrie passed away in 1967, his widow Marjorie Guthrie wrote to Everhart inquiring about his music and any new recordings he may have made. Everhart had been busy performing in Europe and old-time music festivals in the USA Other than that, nothing much had happened.

In 1978, he invited her to a festival he was organizing in Iowa. Mrs. Guthrie gleefully accepted, and attended the festival for two years. She helped Everhart throughout the rest of her life, which ended only one year later.

Everhart still takes great pride in the music of Guthrie, and the help his widow gave him. The festival he created, devoted to the old-time music of America is still going strong, now in its 37th year. It lasts for an entire week (Aug 27-Sept 2, 2012) in LeMars, and now boasts over 650 acoustic musicians performing on no less than 10 stages for seven days.

"It's quite an undertaking," Everhart said, "but I am constantly amazed at the folks who support our music preservation work. Just last year, Jim Ed Brown and Whisperin' Bill Anderson came from the Grand Ole Opry to support what we do, but the surprise for us was the legendary Patti Page, who came out of retirement to help 'save America's rural music.'

This year, we already have promises from the great Lynn Anderson (I Never Promised You A Rose Garden) and Tom T. and Dixie Hall, very strong proponents of bluegrass music. It's going to be a fun year."

It's the Woody Guthrie "I Been Doin' Some Hard Travelin" that has Everhart busy with Guthrie's 100th birthday. "My wife Sheila and I are doing a number of Woody Guthrie Tribute programs in Iowa, all of them dedicated and devoted to the great folk artist. We sort of teamed up with the Smithsonian and call it a "Traveling Museum of Music," featuring not only the music of Woody Guthrie but other artists who recorded for Moses Asch.

This in turned allowed us to do some special programs for museums and opera houses in Iowa, including this Saturday,July 7, at the Arts Center in Fonda,starting at 7 p.m., and again on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Fonda Arts Center.

Next Saturday, July 14, the show will be performed at 7 p.m. at Juhl's Gathering in Remsen; then again on July 22 at 6 p.m. at the Riverside History Center in Riverside; On July 28, the show will be performed at the Corning Opera House in Corning, strating at 7 p.m.

And of course, the Everhar's will be performing their 'tribute to Woody' at their own festival in LeMars. Everhart was quick to add to the list of dedications in the state of Iowa, "Woody Guthrie influenced a lot of people, especially those who wanted to support his music and causes, but also to play music like Guthrie.

One of those was a young guy from Hibbing, Minnesota, Robert Zimmerman, who changed his name to Bob Dylan after he left the upper Midwest to visit Guthrie on his deathbed. Dylan went on to become the most notable folk singer of all time. He will be making a special appearance at the Wells Fargo Arena on August 22nd. We're trying really, really had to get him to stay over in Iowa, so he can join Tom T Hall and Lynn Anderson, and be inducted into "America's Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame" on August 27th, but we haven't heard anything back. I guess either he, or perhaps us, is doin' some hard travelin'."

More information about Smithsonian recording artists Bob & Sheila Everhart can be obtained at their website, http://www.ntcma.net, or by simply going directly to Smithsonian-Folkways site, and typing in "Bob Everhart."

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