We're almost at the point on the calendar where you can't turn on the radio without hearing the iconic Arlo Guthrie song "Alice's Restaurant Massacree."

The song -- and, yes, that's the real title -- has become a timeless classic (well, it does run almost 19 minutes long) since its 1967 release. It's instantly identifiable for the refrain "You can get ... anything you want ... at Alice's Restaurant."

It's played most often in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving Day, primarily because the song is based on a true incident that began on Thanksgiving Day in 1965 with a citation for littering and ended with the refusal of the U.S. Army to draft Guthrie because of his conviction for that violation. The song inspired a 1969 film, named "Alice's Restaurant," that also stars Guthrie and earned an Oscar nomination for best director for Arthur Penn.

To celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the movie, Guthrie is hitting the road for his "Alice's Restaurant -- Back By Popular Demand" tour.

The tour makes eight stops in New England, hitting every New England state except Maine, including a show Saturday, Oct. 13, at Durgin Hall on UMass Lowell's South Campus.

Guthrie told me in an email interview last week that the song wasn't hard for him to write, even though it's nearly 19 minutes long.

"I didn't have to do very much, as the song was mostly all true," he wrote.


"I had to work at telling a story onstage at a time when most people came to hear folk songs, not storytellers."

The events in the song take place from Thanksgiving 1965 to spring 1966, and Guthrie spent a few months turning the experience into a song before finishing it that fall.

"It was difficult having to perform it for people who had already heard it," he wrote. "I remember the moment I realized that most people in the audience had heard it before. I thought, 'Well, the fun is over.' The reactions from the crowd began to change. The best of times was singing it for new victims who had no idea what was coming."

Though the song is played on countless radio stations, Guthrie rarely hears it on Thanksgiving.

"Thanksgiving usually finds me and family at the church, where it all began, helping out with the volunteers who serve up a free Thanksgiving dinner for those who can't do it elsewhere. There's no radio playing."

The passage of time has led Guthrie to take some small liberties with the song over the years.

"The original wouldn't make sense to some younger people these days. Most don't know what a draft was or what those times were like. So I've had to modify it to some extent. But mostly it tends to stay the same."

But, thankfully, in a time when everything is either remade or turned into a sequel, Guthrie is happy with the original. "Once was enough."


Arlo Guthrie will perform at Durgin Hall at the University of Massachusetts Lowell on Saturday, Oct. 13, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $39-$99 and available at www.uml.edu.