Arlo Guthrie Announces His Retirement from Touring

The following is reprinted from Arlo Guthrie’s official website:

Gone Fishing

It’s been a great 50+ years of being a working entertainer, but I reached the difficult decision that touring and stage shows are no longer possible. That’s the short version. For the longer version continue reading…

As a folksinger, I never really thought much about getting older. It seemed to me that I could just continue year after year, decade after decade, singing and playing as I had done for most of my life. As the years went by, it got more difficult to keep touring, but I did it, mostly because I’d been doing it my entire life. It was the life I knew and loved.

In 2016 on April 1st, April Fools Day, I got really dizzy in the parking lot of the hotel, and started seeing as though I were looking through a kaleidoscope. That evening the show went on as though nothing had happened. I had no idea I’d just encountered a mini stroke until weeks later, when I was told about it. It didn’t appear to affect my performance, or my state of being. I continued touring for the next 4 years. 

Then, on Thanksgiving Day 2019 (of all freaking days) it happened again. This time I was on my way to The Church / The Guthrie Center to help out with our annual Thanksgiving Dinner that we hold every year. I had pulled over to fuel up and realized I couldn’t continue to drive safely, as everything was spinning around, sort of like the old days, but without the help of illegal substances. I was taken to the hospital, and was under evaluation, when I broke out. I had an important gig at Carnegie Hall in New York – The end of an annual series I’d been doing for decades and it was Sold Out. I had to be there. It was imperative.

The next morning I left the hospital, took the family and headed for New York. And what a show it was! We wrapped up 50 years with a terrific evening with the entire family on stage. I really enjoyed it.

The following day I flew to my home in Sebastian, FL just as I had done for years, this time with the history of Carnegie Hall behind me. My girlfriend, Marti picked me up at the airport, and we settled into the routine of being on the river I loved. Two nights after arriving home, I awoke in the morning and was lurching from sIde to side. I knew something was wrong, and went to keep a doctors appointment we’d previously set up. The doc said, “You need to go to the hospital — Now.”

So, Marti took me to the hospital nearby in Vero Beach. They kept me there for 3 days, running tests of all kinds, and essentially informed me that I’d suffered a stroke. This time was more serious, as I’d lost some ability to walk, and I wondered if if would be able to play music. I spent about a week in a rehab center to re-learn the basics, like walking. I went home after that, and began a regimen of playing guitar, walking… All the things I would need to continue touring and performing. During the entire time, Marti kept the family and close friends advised as to my progress, and took really great care of me. I needed all the help I could get. And she was there to see it done right. 

By the the time our first shows began in 2020, I was at about at 80% and felt like I was improving. Then the pandemic hit. All the shows we had planned for 2020 were at first, postponed, then rescheduled and finally cancelled. My hopes for a gradual recovery onstage came to an abrupt end. 

Meanwhile, I’d decided back in 2018 to move from the home in Florida. And just as I’d returned from our last gig in Tennessee, a buyer appeared, and we had a deal on the table to sell The CrabHouse. I wasn’t in any shape to go through the intricacies of selling a guitar pick, let alone a home with 30 years of stuff we’d collected. Marti ended up doing it all. She finalized the deal, and dealt with the stuff that either had to be sold, moved or thrown out. It was quite a lot. But, through garage sales, online markets, movers and friends, she’d pretty much emptied the CrabHouse of everything, and we moved into her place about a mile away. 

We were there for a few weeks, before it was safe enough to return to The Farm in Massachusetts. That was in June 2020. Since then we’ve been holed up at The Farm trying to keep out of harms way, and also trying to provide some online entertainment for our friends who were, and continue to be, holed up wherever they are. My band and crew arranged a few short gigs that were filmed at The Church, but when I saw the play-back in the editing room I realized that it was not up to the standards I expected of myself, let alone the expectations that our friends and fans had come to enjoy. 

A folksinger’s shelf life may be a lot longer than a dancer or an athlete, but at some point, unless you’re incredibly fortunate or just plain whacko (either one or both) it’s time to hang up the “Gone Fishing” sign. Going from town to town and doing stage shows, remaining on the road is no longer an option. 

I don’t remember answering the question on the other side of that piece of paper when I was asked “Kid! Have you rehabilitated yourself?” But, the short answer is now clearly, “No!” In fact, I hope to be a thorn in the side of a new administration pretty soon. Tom Paine once wrote “To argue with a man who has renounced the use … of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead….” In other words, you cannot and should not argue with people who don’t care, or hold the caring of others in contempt. A healthy suspicion of authority, left, right or center has been the hallmark of my career since the beginning, and I will continue to poke fun at cultural, political, or personal absurdities as I see it. I’m actually looking forward to it. 

I’m happy, healthy and good to go, even if I’m not going anywhere. I’ve taken back 6-9 months that I used to spend on the road, and enjoying myself with Marti, my family and friends. In short – Gone Fishing.

Recommended Albums #64


Arlo Guthrie: Last of the Brooklyn Cowboys (1973)

Arlo Guthrie’s follow-up to 1972’s Hobo’s Lullaby didn’t produce a hit single to follow his sole top 20 “City of New Orleans” but it’s as fine a collection of covers and originals as he ever released.

arloFortunately his somewhat fluky 1972 hit didn’t convince Arlo to steer his career toward a more contemporary and chart-friendly style, or even the prevailing James Taylor singer-songwriter sound of the time. Woody Guthrie’s son was far too steeped in authentic folk, cowboy ballads and old time Country & Western music.

If the late 60’s/early 70’s British folk movement of Pentangle, Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention revived centuries-old folk songs and murder ballads and introduced them to another generation, Arlo’s work in this era did the same for American folk chestnuts of decades past.

But his great talent was to make these tunes his own. Just as Steve Goodman’s original version of “City of New Orleans” disappoints after hearing Arlo’s masterful cover, so Guthrie’s versions of songs previously recorded by Ernest Tubb (“This Troubled Mind of Mine”) and Hank Williams (“Lovesick Blues”) sound definitive–more so to my ears in fact than the original versions.

And speaking of originals, Arlo sprinkles in his own compositions here too (“Last Train”, “Uncle Jeff”) and they blend seamlessly with the standards to form the tapestry of one of the 70’s strongest folk albums.

Incidentally, do you think Arlo’s “Uncle Jeff” may have inspired a certain John Denver hit of two years later?



Listen to: “This Troubled Mind of Mind”


Listen to: “Lovesick Blues”


Listen to: “Last Train”


Listen to: “Uncle Jeff”


See also:

Songs You May Have Missed #502

Arlo Guthrie: “I’ve Just Seen a Face” (1978)

One measure of the quality of the Beatles’ catalogue is the way in which the material lends itself to reworking in myriad styles. Case in point: McCartney’s “I’ve Just Seen a Face”, which makes a fine bluegrass romp in the hands of Arlo Guthrie.

Arlo has always mined the catalogues of his contemporaries (Dylan in particular) for songs that would benefit from the old time country treatment in which his band Shenandoah specialized. He shows great instincts here.

See also:

Alice’s Restaurant Massacre

The full version of Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 counterculture classic, which took up all of side one of the album of the same name. The events, people, and restaurant were real.

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