50 years of Thanksgiving at Alice’s Restaurant

It has long since been an American tradition to those classic rock lovers around the country to listen to “Alice’s Restaurant Massacre” by Arlo Guthrie on Thanksgiving Day. 

Released in 1967, the 18-minute song takes a satirical look at real events in the singer’s life, including being arrested for littering and being rejected from the draft for having a criminal record. 

In a Rolling Stones article “Arlo Guthrie Looks Back on 50 Years of 'Alice's Restaurant massacre”, Guthrie said, “to have what happened to me actually happen and not be a work of fiction still remains amazing… It's an amazing set of crazy circumstances that reminds me of an old Charlie Chaplin movie. It's slapstick."

While rarely played live, the song and its contents hold deep nostalgic qualities of the sixties. Now 50 years old, the song has been passed down from the baby-boomer generation to their children and grandchildren. Each Thanksgiving, three generations now gather by the radio each Thanksgiving to listen to the holiday tale including littering, 27 glossy 8*10 pictures, and group W. and a cast of larger than life characters. 

In 1969, the Thanksgiving tale of “Alice’s Restaurant Massacre” was turned to the silver screen. The film featured several familiar faces including Arlo Guthrie himself and the real life officer Obie and the honorable Judge Hannon playing themselves. Other famous faces in the movie included James Broderick of “The Shadow Box” (1980) and Pat Quinn of “Unmarried Woman” (1978). 

For a song in which the artist didn’t even think he would get air time, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacre” left its mark on American culture. According the official Grammy website, in 2002, thirty-five years after its original and seven after it’s remix, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacre” was inducted into the Grammy hall of fame. The honor of being inducted into the hall of fame are held for songs with “Lasting qualitative or historical significance” and include Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, Aretha Franklin’s Respect, and Ray Charles’ America the Beautiful.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary on the air, the unusual protest song of the sixties holds deep in the hearts of Americans during this time of year. Whether listening to the song on your own on YouTube, or gathering around the radio with the family, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacre” is now an honored Thanksgiving tradition. 


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