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Blue Door to pay homage to Woody Guthrie on Sunday in Oklahoma City
Throughout 2012, much of the musical world has celebrated the legacy of famed Oklahoma troubadour Woody Guthrie.
Greg Johnson hasn't paid much attention to the “Woody at 100” celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Okemah native's birth. After all, the proprietor of Oklahoma City's Blue Door has made it a habit to celebrate Guthrie's legacy for more than two decades.
“The modern songwriting legacy really started with him, as far as guys being able to just write whatever they want to write about. He sort of opened the door for songwriters to just be themselves,” he said.
On Sunday, Johnson will host a show he said the Guthrie family has deemed the longest-running tribute to the legendary singer-songwriter in the world. Now in its 22nd year, the Blue Door's Tribute to Woody Guthrie actually predates the venue.
In 1991, Johnson organized his first Woody Guthrie tribute in Austin, where he was involved in the singer-songwriter community.
“It was partly Okie pride living down in the heart of Texas ... and realizing what an impact Woody Guthrie's songs had,” he said.
The yearly tribute played for three years in the Texas music hub, and he moved the concert to his Blue Door in 1994, the year after he opened the Oklahoma City venue. Although the show has occasionally been played elsewhere, he has kept the tribute going for more than two decades.
Many of the singer-songwriters on the 2012 lineup bill, including the Red Dirt Rangers, Tom Skinner, Terry “Buffalo” Ware, Monica Taylor, Susan Herndon and Greg Jacobs, have played the tribute for many years. This year's show will double as a fundraiser for Texas troubadour Michael Fracasso, a regular who has been sidelined since breaking his hand in an October car accident.
In addition, Johnson is pleased to have young Oklahoma singer-songwriters like Samantha Crain, Parker Millsap and tribute newcomer Beau Jennings on this year's lineup.
“It's wonderful. It's just real important that young people honor Woody and learn the songs and pass 'em around,” Johnson said.
Although Herndon has lived in Guthrie's hometown for about four years, the Tulsa native said the icon's writings have influenced her for much longer. She has played the Blue Door show and Okemah's Woody Guthrie Folk Festival for so many years she has lost count.