Arlo Guthrie went to see legendary folksinger Cisco Houston at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village. It was one of Cisco’s final performances before he died of cancer in April 1961 at the age of 42.
Cisco was a close friend and frequent collaborator of Woody Guthrie, Arlo’s father.
Arlo recalls: “Halfway through the show Cisco said, ‘Arlo, why don’t you come up and sing a few songs?’ I froze — like a deer in the headlights! I couldn’t breathe but somehow I got through it.”
“You are never doing that again,” Arlo promised himself.
Of course, he’s done it again, thousands of times over the past 50 years. Just a few years later, Arlo hit it with “Alice’s Restaurant” and the rest was history. Today, he is one of the most beloved of all contemporary folksingers and one of the most entertaining performers to ever take a stage.
Arlo has been a good friend to Folk Roots/Folk Branches over the years. In 1996, he returned to Montreal for the first time since the 1970s to perform in a Folk Roots/Folk Branches concert, and he was twice a guest on the radio show, in 1998 and 2004.
Congratulations to Arlo on his golden anniversary as a performing folksinger. Here’s to many more years on stage.
Pictured: Arlo Guthrie and Mike Regenstreif backstage at Arlo's Folk Roots/Folk Branches concert at the Concordia Concert Hall on December 6, 1996.