By Jimmy Carlisle
It’s less than a month till the large field overlooking the Okemah golf course and the distant hot and cold water towers will be transformed into Pastures of Plenty, which will hold the main stage for the 11th annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, also known as WoodyFest (July 9-13, Okemah OK).
That's the stage where Judy Collins (yes, the Judy Collins, in answer to one of the festivals message board writers) will be closing the festival with her performance on Saturday night. She will have come full circle with this performance, having performed at the benefit for Woody Guthrie back in 1968, where she sang "Union Maid" and "Deportee."
Collins once said that after hearing Woody she stopped playing classical music on the piano and took up the guitar. Thank goodness she did, because without her hearing Woody we would not have had her version of songs such as "Both Sides Now," "Send in the Clowns" and countless others she has blessed us with. And now 37 years later she is playing in Woody’s home town, and she may even check out the Crystal Theater, where Woody once played and watched an occasional movie.
The theater is the festival's second main stage and the site of the Wednesday night opening show with the one and only Country Joe McDonald doing his Woody Guthrie tribute show, a one-man two-act play using Woody’s words and music.
There is some sadness this year. The festival recently lost one of its true stars, the godfather of red dirt music, Mr. Bob Childers, who passed away in April. There will be a special benefit show in his honor at the famous Cains Ballroom in Tulsa Tuesday night before the official start of this year’s festival. It will be a night to honor Childers and the great music he has left us with. If you are in the area, it will a show you will not want to miss.
Check the festival web site to find out more info and a complete lineup of the artists.
Another special guest this year will be the original Left Lou, who was Woody’s partner on KFVD radio in Los Angeles. On Friday, at Lou’s Rocky Road tavern will be Lefty Lou’s story time. It was on Lou’s back porch that Woody penned Oklahoma Hills while waiting on Lou to get ready. It’s a treat to have someone who worked so close to Woody come and share her experiences.
Friday night will also feature a special performance called Remembering Phil Ochs, hosted by the folk singer's sister Sonny Ochs and featuring Jimmy Lafave, John Gorka, The Rangers and many more. Phil of course was a protest singer who left his mark in the music world with such songs as "Power and the Glory" and my favorite, "Love Me, I’m a Liberal." What better way for the festival to honor the man than in Woody’s home town in a pasture just outside of town, full of music fans in the middle of an Oklahoma night with the full moon overhead. Who knows who might come on stage to join in the tribute to a true icon of the 1960s (maybe the FBI will even show up). This is destined to be a show that will be talked about for years to come.
Okay, gas is at an all-time high, but this year is shaping up to be an especially memorable festival. Do yourself a favor and come join the festivities in the Pastures of Plenty.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
By Jimmy Carlisle
Posted by Dan Ruby at 1:40 PM