'Americana' is a new one on me, but when these fellers hire out to write a column every day they ain't no telling what kinds of words they'll fall back on to make a living.
-- Woody Guthrie
American folksinger Woody Guthrie was born a hundred years ago this summer (July 14, 1912, in Okemah, Okla.), and plans are firming up for a series of conferences, concerts and other events across this country and others celebrating the centennial of this colorful character and musical legend.
The Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration officially kicks off next week and runs throughout 2012. The interconnected series of events is "designed to not only reflect, but to also look forward ... [and] to demonstrate how the influence of my father's music lives today -- and will live throughout the 21st century," says Nora Guthrie, Woody's daughter and president of Woody Guthrie Publications, which is sponsoring many of the events in conjunction with the Grammy Museum.
Nora Guthrie joined in the announcement last week that the Woody Guthrie Archives will move this year from New York, where it has been based since opening to the public in 1998, to a permanent new facility in Tulsa, Okla. The archive contains the bulk of Woody's voluminous writings and more than 3,000 song lyrics -- many of which are staples in the American musical canon, such as "Pretty Boy Floyd," "Pastures of Plenty," "Hard Travelin'," "Jesus Christ," "I Ain't Got No Home," "Deportee," "Do Re Mi," "Union Maid" and his most famous, "This Land Is Your Land."
Some of the centennial events planned include five "Woody at 100" concerts: March 10 at the Brady Theater, Tulsa, Okla.; April 14 at L.A. Live, Los Angeles; Sept. 8 at TBA, University Park, Pa.; Sept. 22 at the Whitman Theater, New York; Oct. 14 at the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. Performers will be announced later.
Other related concerts include a special tribute at the annual Folk Alliance conference, Feb. 22-26, in Memphis; Arlo Guthrie's "Woody's Road to Pampa" concert, March 11, Pampa, Texas; the 15th annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, July 11-15 in Okemah, Okla.; as well as concerts slated in Germany and Austria.
Six one-day conferences featuring journalists, musicians and academics discussing different aspects of Woody's life are on a similar schedule: March 10 at the University of Tulsa, Tulsa, Okla.; April 14 at the Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles; May 5 at the Steinbeck Center, Salinas, Calif.; Sept. 8 at Penn State Univ., University Park, Pa.; Sept. 22 at Brooklyn College, New York; and Oct. 13 at the National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C.
For a full schedule of events around the world -- including educational programs, exhibits and a SXSW panel -- visit woody100.com.
That calendar, alas, is thus far bereft of any Chicago events. The Old Town School of Folk Music, however, has a Woody-related event planned for June 2; no further details are yet available.
Maybe Matt Damon will slip some Woody into his "The People Speak, Live!" performance Jan. 31 at Metro.
Full disclosure: I'm involved in a few of these events myself. A play I co-authored with writer John Wooley, "Time Changes Everything," about a fictional conversation between Woody and country bandleader Bob Wills, will have an encore presentation at the Folk Alliance conference. I'll also be speaking at the March 10 conference in Tulsa, discussing Woody's musical roots in Oklahoma and impact on a regional genre called Red Dirt music, based on a chapter I wrote for Alternative Oklahoma: Contrarian Views of the Sooner State. I spent a 2000-2001 fellowship with the National Arts Journalism Program researching at the Woody Guthrie Archives in New York.