DUSTBOWL troubadour Woody Guthrie is something of a cult figure in musical circles- a man admired as much for the people he inspired as for his own, simple American songs.
Artists like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen may never have picked up the guitar if not for the rambling folk tunes of Woody Guthrie, and in the 100th anniversary year of his birth, the Queanbeyan Artists Shed is joining with fans across the world in celebrating Guthrie's legacy with a ten-day festival, launching tomorrow night (Saturday).
Canberra cabaret duo Shortis and Simpson will kick things off tomorrow night with an entertaining selection of songs and anecdotes spanning Guthrie's life from Oklahoma rambler and to merchant marine and beyond.
Writer/performer John Shortis said Guthrie's life and music was really the story of 20th century America, told through the eyes of a working class songwriter.
"He came from Oklahoma, and he lived through the dust storms and depression of the 1930," Mr Shortis said.
"And he was one of the migrant workers who came from Oklahoma to California looking for greener pastures…he was a rambler. He just took to the road, and the plight of those people he knew and grew up with was the driving force behind a lot of his songs.
"He was always on the side of the working man, the struggler, and his songs are very much about making a go of things in a world where hardship is a given," he said.
"Through his career comes the story of the Second World War- he served in the merchant marines- and he was born during the First World War, and he lived through the depression, and the Cold War as well, so he really chronicles the major events of the 20th century in America," Mr Shortis said.
Local folk musician Dave O'Neill will accompany Mr Shortis and partner/vocalist Moya Simpson throughout the show on guitar, fiddle and mandolin.
And there will be more Guthrie-inspired acts to follow over the next 10 days, with a range of images, recordings, documentary videos and live performances on offer at the Artists Shed.
Shed music director Tim Keeble said he was pleased to be delving through the catalogue of an iconic American folk musician for the festival.
"Woody was a child of the dustbowl era in the thirties, so a lot of my generation- the Boomers if you like - looked back on Woody Guthrie through Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Joan Baez- really all the people that have discovered and added interpretations to a lot of his songs," Mr Keeble said.
"So that's how we looked back and found Woody Guthrie, and we found that instead of being some huge, magical figure, he was a very, simple, straight-forward man with a practical way of writing his songs that hit straight to the mark," he said.
Saturday, October 27 - Opening Concert with Shortis and Simpson 8.30pm
Sunday, October 28 - 11am til 6pm - exhibition and multimedia
Friday, November 2 - Evening - from 7.30pm in Room Four - Woody Guthrie Documentaries - Woody Guthrie - This Machine Kills Fascists, American Experience PBS SpecialSaturday,
November 3 - Exhibition through the day with live music in the evening
November 4 - 11am til 7pm - Exhibition then at 7pm - A Vision Shared and Bound for Glory in Room Four.
* Visit www.artistsshed.com for more information.