Moses Greeley Parker Lectures presents a FILM+MUSIC Tribute to Woody Guthrie in honor of his Centennial!
ROLL ON COLUMBIA: WOODY GUTHRIE AND THE BONNEVILLE POWER ADMINISTRATION
followed by a LIVE acoustic tribute to Woody with local musical artists Larry Tremblay & Arte Kenyon!
In 1941, Woody Guthrie packed up his family and headed west to Portland, Oregon, to embark on what turned out to be an historic musical project: Guthrie was hired to write songs for a new U.S. government project to create a public works organization that would provide low-cost energy to the farms in Washington State. The project met with a lot of resistance from the private electric companies, and the government decided to create a short film to promote the efforts of distributing power through publically-owned means as well as to get people to look favorably on the dams. Guthrie was expected to write a song a day, and true to his folk music spirit, rose to the occasion and wrote 26 songs in 30 days on behalf of the Bonneville Power Administration, including the renowned folk favorites “Roll On, Columbia,” “Grand Coulee Dam,” and “Pastures of Plenty.”
The film ended up being released in 1948 instead of 1941 due to World War II, and was actually almost destroyed, except that an employee of the BPA, named Elmer Buehler, who drove Woody around the Northwest in 1941, took a copy of the movie home even after orders were given to him to burn BPA’s copies. Thankfully, old Elmer hid that copy in his woodpile! The film was re-discovered in the late 1960’s, after a researcher at the University of Oklahoma asked Buehler about it. The recordings and lyrics from Woody’s songs were re-discovered and collected by Bill Murlin in the mid 1980’s and published in 1987. The songbook collected all 26 songs for the first time, and an album issued recordings of Woody playing and singing 17 of his Northwest songs. In both cases, some songs were published for the first time.
In the late 1990’s, Michael Madjic and Denise Matthews created the documentary Roll On Columbia: Woody Guthrie and the Bonneville Power Administration, which includes original footage from the Buehler-salvaged BPA film (which was simply called The Columbia), as well as poignant interviews and of course, incredible music. Roll On Columbia garnered awards aplenty upon its release, and we’re so pleased to be bringing it to Lowell in celebration of Woody Guthrie’s Centennial.
Come join us and commemorate the Grandfather of the Folk Music Industry and enjoy an evening of great independent film AND song. Our special thanks to our good friends at Moses Greeley Parker Lectures and Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union, and of course, a big thanks to Larry and Arte for rounding out the evening with great music!
Click below to view an 8-minute excerpt from Roll On Columbia: