Guthrie Tribute to Highlight Folk Conference

An all-star cast of folk musicians will honor the late Woody Guthrie during a Feb. 5 concert at the Ryman Auditorium. The event will help kick off the 15th annual International Folk Alliance Conference, which convenes Feb. 6-9, 2003, at the Nashville Convention Center.

Early details of the music and dance event were announced recently at a reception held at the Nashville offices of BMI, the performance rights organization. Sponsored by the Maryland-based Folk Alliance, the conference is expected to attract more than 2,000 registrants.

“We got off the plane in Nashville and there was a bluegrass band playing,” Folk Alliance board president Rick Simon told reception guests. “[I said] ‘Oh, we’re in the right place.’” Among the conference activities will be workshops, talent showcases, classes, awards ceremonies, film showings and a reception at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The tribute concert will honor the music and life of Guthrie, a songwriter, troubadour and political activist who wrote such songs as “This Land Is Your Land.” Scheduled to perform at the event are Arlo Guthrie (Woody’s son) and his children Gabe and Sarah Lee, Janis Ian, Tim O’Brien, Marty Stuart , the Flatlanders , Johnny Irion, Eliza Gilkyson, Jimmy LaFaye, Ellis Paul and Slaid Cleaves. (This will also mark the beginning of a Woody Guthrie tour that will star Stuart, Gilkyson, LaFave, Paul and Cleaves.)

Talent manager Kari Estrin also announced at the reception that Nashville will host a month of Guthrie-related activities, beginning Jan. 8, that will include a film festival, book signing, musical tributes, exhibits at the Country Music Hall of Fame and presentations on Guthrie’s musical importance.

The film festival will be held at the Belcourt Theater each Wednesday, beginning Jan. 8 and running through Jan. 29. Films to be shown are Bound for Glory, A Vision Shared, Man in the Sand, Roll on Columbia and This Land Is Your Land. There will be an additional showing of the movies on Feb. 2.

Billy Block’s Western Beat will stage a tribute on Jan. 21, and a similar celebration will take place at Tower Records. Author Elizabeth Partridge will sign copies of her book, This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie, Feb. 3 at 6 p. m. at Davis-Kid Booksellers.

Details of the Hall of Fame exhibit are still being worked out, Estrin says. To be called “Woody’s Lyrics,” it will feature enlargements of his original writings and is expected to open Jan. 10. Estrin says it will probably remain on display for “at least a month.” There may also be an exhibit of Kathy Jakobsen’s paintings from her book on Guthrie’s music, This Land Is Your Land.

Also planned for the Hall of Fame are a presentation of home movies about Guthrie –“Films From the Archives” — by his daughter Nora and former manager Harold Leventhal. Rock critic Dave Marsh will conduct a workshop on Guthrie’s music that will feature various musicians and speakers and is expected to cover Guthrie’s contributions to country music.

Some of the out-of-town artists showcasing at the conference will also perform at Nashville schools, hospitals, assisted living centers, libraries and museums under a program partially funded by the Musicians Union Trust Fund (Local 1000). Planners are seeking matching contributions to round out the budget.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to