February 24, 1968
In addition to Dylan, the memorial concert also featured Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Woody's son Arlo Guthrie, Tom Paxton, Jack Elliot, Odetta and Richie Havens, all performing songs written by Guthrie. Before and after each song, Robert Ryan, the program's narrator, and Will Geer did readings from Guthrie's work, accompanied by slides and still photographs of his art.
The performers sat in a row across the stage, most of them resplendently dressed. Odetta wore an orange and gold striped floor-length caftan, Judy Collins sported a red rose at the neck of her long-sleeved white blouse, while Richie Havens had on a purple silk Indian shirt beneath a black Nehru suit with a long jacket. But Bob Dylan, in a gun-metal grey silk mohair suit, blue shirt with green jewels for cuff links and black suede boots as well as his new beard and moustache, was the center of attention.
Most of the artists accompanied themselves on guitar while they sang, and the others played behind them. Dylan, however, sprawled in his chair with his eyes closed, seeming to be somewhere else entirely until it was his turn to play.
The crowd had been roused by Richie Haven's rendition of "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water," after being mesmerized by Odetta.
Then Dylan came on to do "Grand Coulee" and the reaction broke all previous bounds even before he began to sing. Playing acoustic Fender guitar and backed by another acoustic guitar — this one with an electrical pick-up — Fender bass and drums, he performed the number with a strong rock beat that had some girls in the audience boogalooing in their seats. On this and the other tunes the group performed the bassist sang harmony on the choruses — producing a unique combination with Dylan's singular voice.
"Mrs. Roosevelt" was a slower arrangement, and the "I Ain't Got No Home" was very swinging, and brought everyone to his feet, applauding as the cast went off. Dylan smiled in spite of himself at the great reaction he got to each song, but wasted no time between numbers. In spite of the opening announcement forbidding cameras and taping, there was at least one flash when Dylan began to sing.
In the second part of the program, the biggest reception went to Pete Seeger singing "Reuben James," whipping up the crowd with a sing-a-long, which he had to encore. "I've Got To Know" was a powerful duet by Odetta and Havens. "Bound For Glory" gave everyone a chance to sing a verse, including some scatting by Jack Elliott, who was last to sing, and this broke the audience up again! "This Land Is Your Land" included Arlo on harmonica, and a duet with Judy Collins and Dylan on the second stanza.
At the end of the concert, the Guthrie family came out on stage, and Mrs. Guthrie, in an orange dress, was obviously moved by the marvelous tribute, and hugged and kissed each artist. When she got to Dylan, he blushed, in spite of himself. When the cast did go off stage, they did not come back, even for bows, and most of the crowd stayed, clapping, stamping their feet, begging more, more, more! Then, cries of "We Want Dylan" went up.
Finally Pete Seeger came out and said, "Woody wants to say to you to take this music to the world, because if you do, maybe we won't have any more fascists."
A very young audience member.
"On our drive up to Woodstock for a recording session, Larry (Campbell) and I were trading stories. I knew I had a good 10 years on him and I was telling him about the time I went to Carnegie Hall in 1968 with Arlo for the Tribute to Woody Guthrie.
Bob Dylan had been out of public view for a long time, and that night he made a surprise appearance with The Band.
I was going on about what a special show it was and who was there and all that , and Larry said, "yeah, I know, I was there"
I said "... really!!?"
And he said, "yeah, I was in the audience with my parents, I was 13 years old." - by Rick Robbins.
"The first time I photographed Dylan was at the Woody Guthrie Memorial Concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1967. It was his first public appearance since his motorcycle accident a year earlier. He was playing with The Band, who were unknown at that time.
I was just starting my photographic career and wanted to see the show as well as take some pictures that I could sell. So I called up Dylan's office, identified myself as a photographer for an underground newspaper, and asked for two press tickets.
I brought my cameras to the concert, assuming that since they'd given me tickets as a photographer, I could take photographs. But when I got to Carnegie Hall, there were signs posted stating "No Photographs Allowed," and the ushers insisted that I check my cameras. I argued, showing my press pass and the tickets from Dylan's office, but to no avail. So I said, "OK, no pictures allowed," and checked half my cameras, but kept the other half -everything that would fit into my pockets and my date's bag.
I had a good seat near the front of the hall. Dylan came on stage, and I started snapping away, clicking my shutter only during the loud passages in order to be as discreet as possible.
After a couple of songs Arlene Cunningham, who worked for Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, spotted me taking photographs. Soon she and Albert, whom I did not know at the time, and a guard were all waving to me from the side of the hall telling me to stop taking photographs. I pretended not to see their increasingly frantic waving.
Then Albert gestured to the guard to get me out of the seat. Meanwhile Dylan was playing with The Band, and it was very exciting. The guard came toward me. I knew what was going to happen next. They always go for your film.
So I rewound the film I had shot and gave it to my lady friend, with instructions not to give it up under any circumstances. I quickly put another roll of film into the camera. I didn't want to create a scene and disrupt the concert, so we followed the guard out into the posh, carpeted, chandeliered lobby where Albert, Arlene, and a few other people quickly surrounded us.
Albert demanded the film, and I adamantly refused, acting as if it were gold. "There's no way I'm gonna give you this film." But Arlene had seen me switch and was trying to tell him, but he was too engrossed in the mock battle I was staging. Every time I heard Arlene say, "She's got the film!", I raised my voice a bit, repeating, "You're not gonna get this film! You have no right to do this," and so on. I really carried on -I wasn't violent or nasty, just loud, to distract him from her.
While I argued with him, I held the camera in front of me, presenting it to him without being obvious about it, knowing he would grab it. Finally he did and ripped the film out, exposing it and making it even blanker, I guess. After that we left, with the film safely hidden away."