You can get anything you want, on Thanksgiving on public radio

By Dru Sefton

Several public radio stations are among those taking part once again in a longtime on-air Thanksgiving tradition, the annual broadcast of Arlo Guthrie’s epic and quirky “Alice’s Restaurant” monologue — all 18 minutes and 34 seconds of it.

Listeners to pubcasters from WFUV in the Bronx all the way to KRNN in Juneau, Alaska, will hear Guthrie croon, “You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.”

The satirical folk song tells the true (but exaggerated) tale of Guthrie’s near conscription into the Vietnam war, which he avoided due to a littering offense on his record.

Guthrie first performed the piece live in 1967 on WBAI, Pacifica Radio in New York City, according to the book Active Radio: Pacifica’s Brash Experiment.

The song also was part of a dark day in pubradio history. In October 1970, KPFT in Houston was bombed off the air — for the second time in six months — while the tune played. “About 8 1/2 minutes into the song,” recalls the Houston Chronicle, “Arlo was telling the story about seeing the psychiatrist at the Army induction center in New York City. ‘I wanna kill. I mean, I mean I wanna … ‘ Then silence, and then static.” The station had previously been hit by a bomb in May of that year.

A few other tasty Turkey Day treats on pubradio:

  • In addition to “Alice’s Restaurant,” WFUV’s “Thanksgiving Feastival” on Thursday and Friday features lots of concert performances by big names including Shawn Colvin, Norah Jones and Wilco. New Yorkers can tune in at 90.7 FM, listeners elsewhere can listen at WFUV.org.
  • Triple-A WXPN in Philadelphia kicks off its multi-format holiday programming today. New this year is its Jingle Jams stream, “the holiday mix to jingle your jangle,” as the station says. Bruce Warren, assistant g.m. for programming, calls it “a truly eclectic mix of artists and genres” online at xpn2.org.
  • And PRX is offering up “Best of the Best: The 2012 Third Coast Music Festival Broadcast,” just in time for holiday weekend schedules.  This year’s Third Coast competition winners also will be available, for use as promos.

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