The program began with a short musical presentation by singing duo, The Blue Sky Ramblers, comprised of “Lonesome Tim” Holt and his wife Sandra Hood, who Holt introduced as “The Rose of the Canyon.” They led the audience in a few old cowboy and railroad tunes such as “500 Miles” and “Red River Valley.”
Local folksinger Tim Holt performed an oral history and music program at the Siskiyou Arts Museum in Dunsmuir Saturday afternoon. The program began with a short musical presentation by singing duo, The Blue Sky Ramblers, comprised of “Lonesome Tim” Holt and his wife Sandra Hood, who Holt introduced as “The Rose of the Canyon.” They led the audience in a few old cowboy and railroad tunes such as “500 Miles” and “Red River Valley.”
After this opening act, Holt performed his one-man music and history presentation – Woody Guthrie & the Soul of America – to a full house. Having recently performed the show at libraries in Berkeley and San Francisco on Aug. 27 and 28, Holt said this was the first time he’d presented the program in Dunsmuir. About 35 people attended the engaging, entertaining, and educational program at SAM, which elicited audience participation throughout.
Holt opened with a brief excerpt from Guthrie’s autobiography, “Bound for Glory,” then proceeded to captivate the audience as, like Guthrie himself, he talked and sang about the now famous “Ramblin’ Man’s” life on the road and in the work camps during the Dust Bowl days of the Great Depression.
During a series of short, biographical readings about Guthrie’s life, Holt said that Woody’s parents had named him after Woodrow Wilson, who was running for U.S. President at the time. Holt said that Guthrie’s life mission was to help the poor by being “a voice for the downtrodden and dispossessed.”
Holt interspersed his spoken readings with Woody Guthrie songs, which he sang and played on guitar. The audience sang along with Holt to such songs as “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Ya,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Union Maid,” and Guthrie’s famous “This Land Is Your Land.” The audience learned from Holt that when Guthrie penned the lyrics for “This Land Is Your Land,” he set it to a popular old-time bluegrass song by the Carter Family, called “Little Darling Pal of Mine.”
Holt has such a deep, personal admiration and appreciation for the life story and written and musical work of Woody Guthrie that he became visibly overcome with emotion during his prepared closing remarks. Others in the audience were also moved. One audience member said that, like Guthrie, she had also been born in Oklahoma and her family had also moved from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to California. Describing her experience of hearing Holt’s presentation about Guthrie’s life in Oklahoma and migration to California, she said, “It was nostalgic for me – it made me feel kind of emotional.”
The program concluded with a short question and answer period with the audience, during which Holt shared more stories about Guthrie and his life as “a voice for the people” of the common, American working class. In response to questions from the audience, Holt said he attributed his interest in American folk music to having grown up as a teenager during the folk music revival. He said he first became inspired by authentic American folk songs when he began reading about the stories behind the songs, in a biography called “Ramblin’ Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie.”
When asked about his own first musical performance, Holt said he performed his first gig under the stage name of “Adrian,” when he sang a duet with a girl “at an Encino High (School) spaghetti feed.”
Saturday’s presentation (sans spaghetti) was well received by everyone who attended. All these years later, performing these days under his own name, Holt continues to captivate audiences – with his artful portrayal of historical figures – through music and the spoken word.