Happy early Thanksgiving! After a particularly contentious Presidential election, many families are anxious about upcoming holiday gatherings. Some are banning political conversations, whereas others are setting ground rules for polite discourse. Perhaps the long-standing radio tradition of listening to Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant on Thanksgiving can serve as a welcome distraction, bringing families together to enjoy the epic, 18-minute track. For years, the song has been a Thanksgiving Day staple on not only rock radio stations, but also some college, community and public radio stations all over the United States. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the events that inspired the song, so there was much hullabaloo, including a series of anniversary concerts.
I just ran across a fascinating radio piece on BBC Radio 4 focusing on the “people and the places” of Alice’s Restaurant and it’s pretty interesting to hear a British radio take on the American Thanksgiving tradition. It features not only the history of the song, but also lots of interviews with people associated with the story that inspired the song, including a chat with Alice herself. It’s well-worth a listen and also contains snippets of the song as well as a darling clip of young children singing Alice’s Restaurant.
This year, I was pleased to learn about a man in Waco, Texas who found inspiration in the song and has now committed to doing an annual trash pick-up. Eureka Times Standard writes,
Bruce Huff, of Waco, Texas, wants to start a movement: The Group W Bench. His idea is based on a folk/rock tune by Arlo Guthrie. On Thanksgiving 1965, Guthrie visited friend Alice Brock and her husband at their home, a church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and did them a favor by taking out their garbage. The dump was closed that day so Guthrie dropped the garbage off a nearby cliff where other locals had previously dumped trash. He was arrested and fined the following day (the Group W Bench was where Guthrie and other ‘hardened criminals’ were placed). The crime of littering made him ineligible for the draft and kept him out of Vietnam. This incident became the catalyst for a song he wrote several years later called ‘Alice’s Restaurant.’ The melody is satirical, infectiously catchy, and contains spot-on social commentary about the ’60s and what people did to avoid serving in Vietnam…
Huff enjoyed ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ so much he decided to recreate the story. On the last Thursday of each November he goes out and ‘picks up the garbage.’ His goal is to make Waco a model city. City council members are on board. This Thanksgiving… they will provide him with gloves, bags, trash sticks, and a truck. Bruce would like other towns and cities to follow suit and become trash-free. He wants Americans to take pride in their communities and hopes the Group W Bench movement will grow until it encompasses the nation.”
Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the events that inspired the song, so there was much hullabaloo, including a series of anniversary concerts. This year is a bit quieter and so far I’ve only been able to compile a short list of stations that have announced that they plan to air Alice’s Restaurant this year. If you know of others, please add them in the comments.
Additionally, some stations are playing Alice’s Restaurant before Thanksgiving, including WEVL 89.9 FM (Memphis, TN), which will air it on Wednesday morning between 8am and 10am Central time. WESU (Middletown, CT) aired it the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, which is a long-standing tradition there. WCBE played it on Wednesday at 2:30pm.
Alice’s Restaurant on the Radio on Thanksgiving Day 2016 – November 24, 2016
KPIG 107.5 FM (Freedom/Santa Cruz, CA) and 94.9 FM (San Luis Obispo, CA) : Will play Alice’s Restaurant at 9am, noon, 4pm and 9pm on Thanksgiving.
KRNN 102.7 FM (Juneau, AK): Will play Alice’s Restaurant at 9am.
KKFM 98.1 FM (Colorado Springs, CO): Will air at noon and 6pm.
WFUV 90.7 FM (Bronx, NY ): The epic will air at noon on Thanksgiving Day and will be surrounded by broadcasts of recordings of a variety of live concerts throughout the day.
WCMF 96.5 FM (Rochester, NY): Will air at noon and 4:30pm on Thanksgiving Day. This tradition has been going on for at least 36 years there!
WXPN 88.5 FM (Philadelphia, PA): Will air it at 12noon.
WEXT 97.7 FM (Albany, NY): Airing at 6am, 9am and noon on Thanksgiving.
WJCT 89.9 FM (Jacksonville, FL) : Will play on Thanksgiving night at 9pm, as part of a long-standing tradition on the station. The station is also airing other holiday programming this week, including Orson Welles’ radio version of “A Christmas Carol.”
Wyoming Public Radio (various channels throughout Wyoming): As part of its special programming on Thanksgiving Day, Wyoming Public Radio will air Alice’s Restaurant at 11am during the Morning Music show.
MVY Radio (88.7 FM Martha’s Vineyard, MA and 96.5 FM Newport, RI): Will play at noon on Thanksgiving.
WUMB (91.9 FM Boston, MA): Will air Alice’s Restaurant at 9am, noon and 3pm.
KGSR 93.3 FM (Austin, TX): Will air Alice’s Restaurant at 12noon Central Time on Radio Austin.
WXTL 105.9 FM The Rebel (Syracuse, NY): Plans to air the song at 10am and 5pm on Thanksgiving Day.
WKLC 105.1 FM (St. Albans, WV) : Will air Alice’s Restaurant at 9am on Thanksgiving.
WYEP 91.3 FM (Pittsburgh, PA): Will air Alice’s Restaurant at 6pm on Thanksgiving.
KXT 91.7 FM (Dallas, TX): Will play the song at noon and 6pm on Thanksgiving.
WTJU 91.1 FM (Charlottesville, VA): Will play it three times on Thanksgiving.
104.7 FM The Bear (Wichita Falls, TX): Is airing Alice’s Restaurant at noon on Thanksgiving.
KRSH 95.9 FM (Healdsburg, CA ): Will play the song four times on Thanksgiving: at 9am, noon, 3pm and 6pm.
WORT 89.9 FM (Madison, WI): Will play it on Thanksgiving at 11am. According to WORT, “Host Bob Kaspar will also play other food-themed comical music and spoken word between 9 am and noon that day.”
KKGL The Eagle 96.9 FM (Boise, ID): The Eagle is playing Alice’s Restaurant five times on Thanksgiving. Tune in at 10am, noon, 3pm, 5pm and 9pm.
WZLX 100.7 FM (Boston, MA): Will be airing Alice’s Restaurant at 12pm and 4pm.
WKIO 107. 9 FM (Arcola, IL): Another station that is playing the song five times! Tune in at 12 midnight, 6am, 10am, 4pm and 9pm.
WMTY 98.3 FM (Sweetwater, TN): Will be airing Alice’s Restaurant at 11am and 3pm.
WFIV 105.3 FM (Knoxville, TN): Is playing the song at 10am and 2pm.
WIXV 95.5 FM (Savannah, GA): Is playing Alice’s Restaurant at 12noon and 6pm.
WCSQ-LP 105.9 FM (Cobleskill, NY): New low power FM station Radio Cobleskill has not officially launched, but it will be airing Alice’s Restaurant at 8am, noon and 5pm.
This list is just the beginning and includes only the stations that I’ve been able to confirm for 2016. I will continue to update this list up until Thanksgiving. If you know others that plan to air “Alice’s Restaurant” this year, please add them in the comments. Also, take a look at my “Alice’s Restaurant” posts from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2010 to see some of the stations that have played it in the past and to learn more about the tradition.
Just one dollar a month makes you a patron of Radio Survivor. Help us through our Patreon Campaign!