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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Guthries ride into Tucson

    It’s a chilly afternoon in March and Sarah Lee Guthrie lounges in a patch of grass on The Georgia Institute of Technology campus. Sarah Lee, the youngest daughter of folk legend Arlo Guthrie, has just finished playing two shows with her entire family in frigid Asheville, N.C., and the 60-degree weather is a welcome respite.

    “”Everybody looks cold for some reason,”” Sarah Lee says over the phone from her perch on the grass. “”But this is so warm, they have no idea.””

    A month later, Sarah Lee and family prepare to hitch up the family bandwagon and head to Tucson for the tail end of the nationwide Guthrie Family Rides Again tour. The tour, which started in October, unites three generations of Guthries in a 14-member stage show that has everyone from grandpa Arlo strumming classics like “”This Land is Your Land”” to the youngest Guthrie grandchildren rounding out the chorus.

    “”Even the littlest kids, 2 and 3 years old, are up there,”” Sarah Lee said. “”So it’s been so much fun to look around and see everybody, you know, playin’ and puttin’ it out.””

    In addition to Sarah Lee, “”everybody”” includes Arlo, his son and longtime collaborator Abe, his daughters Cathy and Annie, Sarah Lee’s husband and musical partner Johnny Irion, and a whole slew of children, including two of Sarah Lee’s own. Growing up in a family as ingrained in American musical history as the Guthries, the musical bug has been nothing short of “”contagious”” for Sarah Lee and her kids.

    “”Well, one’s 2 1/2, and it’s kind of early to tell with her — I mean, she loves the sound of her own voice, but I don’t know if that’s any indication,”” Sarah Lee laughs, musing on her daughter Sophie’s musical leanings. “”But Olivia, who’s 7 and a half now, doesn’t really have a choice. I mean, she’s been on the road with us since she’s 5 weeks old. When she was 2 years old, she jumped up on the stage with us and started playing harmonica. On our family tour a few years ago, she was our little starlet, you know, 4 years old she’d come out singing, ‘You can’t scare me, I’m stickin’ to the union!’ And she had such poise on stage that people just recognized that and said, ‘She’s got it, she’s got it.'””

    It took a little longer for Sarah Lee to “”get it.”” Sarah Lee’s first job out of high school was as her father’s road manager on the Further Festival tour in 1997. “”It was a very pivotal moment in turning me on to a lot of different kinds of music,”” she said. “”I was a punk rocker in my teens. I listened to Minor Threat and Black Flag, and I got into a lot of trouble. Dad (Arlo Guthrie) probably realized that being a hippie might be a little safer, and at least he understood it.””

    The tour afforded Sarah Lee an opportunity to fraternize with bands like The Grateful Dead, The Black Crowes and other “”really cool cats”” who turned her on to contemporary folk and rock music. Following the tour, Sarah Lee moved to Los Angeles to stick near the rock and hippie movements. It was there she met her future husband Johnny Irion, and through this trajectory, officially entered music.

    “”I got the bug through Johnny,”” she said. “”We were up all night in LA playing honky-tonk songs … and I can remember the moment that Johnny put a guitar in my hand and showed me a couple chords, and then he started playing along with me and all of a sudden I was playing music, and I had never gotten that feeling before … It was infectious.””

    From managing her father’s tour to touring with both her father and her daughters, Sarah Lee’s musical journey is just the sort of romantic rambling likely to appear in Woody Guthrie lyrics. For Sarah Lee, though, the real pleasure lies in the children.

    “”It’s so cool to look over and see these kids really getting into it and getting better at it and just blossoming into these little performers,”” Sarah Lee said. “”We’re going to have so much fun (with) just the stories that come out and the stories that are remembered on the stage in front of everyone. You know, you really just get the idea that you’re in a living room, and well, quite frankly you are!””

    See three generations of Guthries — four, if you count Woody’s lyrics — this Friday at Centennial Hall. Expect selections from Sarah Lee and Johnny’s recent family album Go Waggaloo, as well as classics from Arlo and Woody. If not for the children, do it for folk’s sake.

    If You Go

    “”Guthrie Family Rides Again””

    Friday, April 9

    Centennial Hall

    1020 E. University Blvd.

    $15 – $52

    Showtime: 8 p.m.

    For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 621-3341.

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