This Saturday, Woody Guthrie will kick off the Waikiki Beach Concert Series at Cape Disappointment State Park. Wouldn't that be awesome - hearing that Dustbowl Depression-era folk song crafter jam a few chords and preach to us in his rambling way? Well, we are lucky enough to have one inspired gentleman join us to present some of the balladeer's most famous songs, those whose themes will resonate in harmony with the river's water flowing to the ocean. What am I trying to say? Carl Allen will be portraying Woody Guthrie and playing some of his songs at the park at 2 p.m. on June 16.
Woody Guthrie was hired in the late 1930s to write the soundtrack for a documentary film about the making of the Grand Coulee Dam. It's a popular legend that during the month that he was in the Pacific Northwest, Guthrie wrote a song a day, representing one of the most prolific periods of his career. You can just picture the folk singer getting driven around the Columbia River Gorge back and forth between the wet west side of the Cascades and the dry brown side. The result of Guthrie's catered chauffeuring throughout the region is revealed in his lyrics to the song "Grand Coulee Dam:"
Now the world holds seven wonders that the travelers always tell
Some gardens and some towers, I guess you know them well.
But now the greatest wonder is in Uncle Sam's fair land
It's the big Columbia River and the big Grand Coulee dam.
She heads up the Canadian Rockies where the rippling waters glide
Comes roaring down the canyon to meet that salty tide;
From the big Pacific Ocean where the sun sets in the west
It's the big Grand Coulee country, in the land that I love best.
The Columbia River left an impression on Woody Guthrie and Woody Guthrie left an impression on Carl Allen. Twice a Humanities Washington "Inquiring Minds" presenter, Allen is a well-respected presenter of Guthrie's songs. Like Woody, he's done his share of music for documentaries, specifically for three shows with themes of Mount Rainier, a Seattle newsman, and none other than the Columbia River. Allen is a connoisseur of the Columbia, and he is excited to play Woody's Columbia River songs at the mouth of the river, in a venue with a view of the confluence of it and the ocean.
This Saturday's concert is the first of six performances of the Waikiki Beach Concert Series at Cape Disappointment State Park. You can look forward to relaxing to the country-gospel tunes of Carl Wirkkala and the Ghost Town Boys on Saturday, June 30. All concerts start at 2 p.m. and are free of charge. The series is sponsored by many partners including the Friends of the Columbia River Gateway, Washington State Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts and Washington State Parks Foundation.
Jon Schmidt is an Interpretive Specialist at Cape Disappointment State Park. To contact him, call the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at 642-3029 or e-mail email@example.com.