Woody Guthrie and the BPA


6:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum

You are invited to spend an evening with Libby Burke, Archivist at the Bonneville Power Administration Library, Friday, June 9 in an entertaining evening, entitled ‘Get Me a Folksinger! Woody Guthrie, BPA and the Columbia River Songs.’ Special guest, musician Bill Murlin, will add to the entertainment with Woody Guthrie songs. A pre-program dinner will begin at 6 p.m., with the program following at 7 p.m. at Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum, 5000 Discovery Drive, The Dalles, Oregon.

Tickets for the dinner and program are $19, the program only is $5. The dinner menu includes chicken enchiladas, Mexican rice, black beans, chips and salsa, and key lime mousse.

In 1941, the Bonneville Power Administration hired a relatively unknown folk balladeer, Woody Guthrie, to write songs for a film designed to educate the public about the new Columbia River Power System. Woody arrived at BPA’s door with a typewriter and a guitar on May 13th and after writing 26 songs, he was relieved of his duties on June 11th. Many people know the songs he wrote about the Columbia River and the Northwest, such as “Roll On Columbia,” “Pastures of Plenty,” and “Grand Coulee Dam,” but not everyone is familiar with the story of how he got to Oregon. This program links Guthrie together with a forward-thinking, public power advocate and PR man named Stephen B. Kahn, who brought Woody here and fed his creative energy as he produced what we now know as the Columbia River Songs. Kahn helped fuel what some call the most fruitful month in the folksinger’s relatively short career.
Libby Burke, archivist in the BPA Library, has a background in cinema studies, librarianship and archives, and a personal life-long love for Guthrie and the folk tradition. She curates the BPA Film Collections and relishes the opportunity to present facets of BPA’s history to the public. As the 75th anniversary of Woody’s month in the Pacific Northwest concludes, she is excited to share this program with the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. Libby is also delighted to welcome BPA retiree and folk musician Bill Murlin to this event. Bill initiated the sleuthing effort to track down these partially-forgotten songs and their stories in the 1980s. His work on Woody’s music continues into the present, and he joins the program to present his latest CD project, “Roll Columbia: Woody Guthrie’s 26 Northwest Songs.”

Burke’s presentation includes film clips showing how Guthrie’s music was used by the BPA filmmakers.  She will be bringing DVDs of the BPA Film Collection to give away, including Volume One with “The Columbia,” the film for which Woody wrote the songs; Volume Two has the BPA 50th Anniversary film, “River of Power” which uses different recordings of some of the songs.
Bill Murlin will have two items for sale in the museum store: Columbia River songbooks and the brand new Smithsonian Folkways CD, Roll Columbia, a two-CD set with full booklet.

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum
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