Thanksgiving sparks the idea of tradition. Everyone is back at home. Some people enjoy a beer and a few laughs with old friends on Wednesday night. Some people look forward to a classic Turkey Bowl rivalry.

Per tradition, MGK listeners can tune into “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie three times on Thanksgiving day.

Paul Kelly will get things started by airing the Thanksgiving classic at 8 a.m., and Danny Ocean will play it at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

An 18-minute narrative song about events (loosely) related to Thanksgiving has crept into that tradition over many years.

MGK program director Bill Weston says the song has played on the airwaves “as long as anyone can remember” on Thanksgiving day. He recalls something that started as somewhat of a stretch because of the lack of music easily associated with Thanksgiving but ultimately became a widespread radio tradition.

Arlo Guthrie even played an annual Thanksgiving concert at Carnegie Hall over the holiday weekend until 2019.

Guthrie was a storyteller as much as a musician, and his ability to captivate an audience with a narrative for 18 minutes speaks to his ability. The song tells the (exaggerated) story of a petty crime committed on Thanksgiving day that gets blown out of proportion by local law enforcement. The record of the crime damaged Guthrie’s eligibility for the military.

The Smithsonian Magazine called Alice’s Restaurant  “a work that capsulized a young generation’s disaffection with bureaucratic stupidity, resonated as an anti-war anthem and still captivates audiences with its simple melody, gentle narrative and infectious chorus.”

The radio relic has persisted for decades on MGK, and it’s become a staple of local holiday tradition in Philadelphia.

Ask your smart speaker to “Open MGK” while you’re cooking your turkey to hear Alice’s Restaurant three times on Thanksgiving!


John DeBella's Turkey Drop [GALLERY]

Colin Newby is a digital content contributor for 97.5 The Fanatic, 93.3 WMMR, and 102.9 WMGK in Beasley Media's Philadelphia cluster. Topics include sports, music, entertainment, and Philadelphia local stories. He earned degrees as a Bachelor of Arts from Temple University and a Master of Science from Saint Joseph's University. His writing experience includes credentialed coverage of the NHL and the Philadelphia Flyers. He joined the Professional Hockey Writers' Association in 2022.

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