A couple of years ago, Ronny Elliott, one of my favorite Tampa do-gooders, told me about the annual Woody Guthrie festival in Okemah, Oklahoma. A music festival with a message that hasn't gone corporate, and remains free? I've always wanted to go. (Che Guevara may have been on a Gap t-shirt, but as far as I know, those capitalists haven't touched least one good thing about having a festival in the desert in the middle of the summer.)

I got a slight taste of the festival in March, when the Ribbon of Highway played Tampa Theatre. On Tuesday morning, Ronny and I left Tampa for Oklahoma. But first I asked him to write a few words about what the festival & the man mean to him.

I never cared all that much about Woody Guthrie. He was mostly just the guy that gave us Bob Dylan. I remember Martin Mull's quote, " Folk music. Remember when that crap almost caught on!" I suppose that in my own snooty fashion folk music was some kind of social phenomena for white guys who just didn't have all that much soul.

Of course I came to appreciate Woody's music and philosophies more over the years but it was never gonna bump Chuck Berry or Elvis or Big Joe Turner from their thrones in my heart.

Then I was invited to play the Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah, Oklahoma some five or six years back. The power of the music just overwhelmed me. By my second visit I was a true convert. I believe that was the year that I looked around and found myself standing onstage with Pete Seeger, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Arlo Guthrie and lots of other folks, singing as loud as we could, with the entire audience singing along. " This land was made for you and me." I looked out at the first few rows and I could see tears streaming down cheeks. Mine, too. I never thought I liked that damned song. I thought it was corny. Guess it was just over my head. I get it now. I never get tired of that song.

I bide my time for eleven months a year waiting for July and Woodyfest.

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