In 1925, the Grand Ole Opry started up a radio program from Nashville that allowed the rural community access to some of their favorite string pullin', family harmonizin', good ol' boys and girls, filling the air waves with all the major league plunkin' and wailin' a body could want. All the big stars showed up and entertained the live audience as well as taking it to the fields via the airwaves.
A more or less complete recording of both concerts, issued late last year by the German record label Bear Family.
In a year peppered with the 50th anniversaries of events that shaped, or distorted, late 20th-century history — from revolutionary upsurges to tragic assassinations and key moments in the Vietnam War — let us begin with a relatively innocuous event.
On January 20, 1968, an audience consisting largely of folk music aficionados packed New York’s Carnegie Hall for a memorial concert commemorating Woody Guthrie, who had died three months earlier at the age of 55 of Hunting-ton’s chorea.
Bear Family’s lavish three CD, two book set collects material from two live tribute shows, featuring performances by Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan (his first appearance after his motorcycle accident), Odetta, Joan Baez, Richie Havens, Jack Elliott, Country Joe McDonald, Tom Paxton and Earl Robinson, along with narration from actors Robert Ryan, Will Geer and Peter Fonda. The first tribute included an afternoon/evening pair of concerts staged at Carnegie Hall in 1968, the second tribute was staged at the Hollywood Bowl in 1970. Material from both tributes was released in edited, collated and resequenced form on a pair of 1972 LPs, Part 1 on Columbia and Part 2 on Warner Brothers, and eventually reissued on CD and MP3.