Highway in the Wind A Story about RJE from Arlo Guthrie PBS Special

11/27/2017 By Donna Johnson

I'm sitting here watching Arlo Guthrie on PBS ... it's the concert celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Alice's Restaurant, and he just told the following story:

I had just graduated from high school, and I got this phone call from some friends of my father ... Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. They'd heard I was doing some music and asked if I would come out to the West Coast and open some shows for them. I hung up the phone and excitedly told my mother, "Hey, Ma, I'm going out to the West Coast to play my music." And she, of course, said, "No, you're not." But when I told her it was Sonny and Brownie, well then of course she couldn't say no ... they were like family. So then she said, "Well, if you're going to go all the way out there, then you're going to have to stay with family." At which point I had to remind her that we didn't have any family out there. To which she replied, "Then you'll just have to go with the next best thing ... Ramblin' Jack Elliott." Seeing as how I knew Ramblin' Jack a whole lot better than my mother did, I was pretty excited about this turn of events.

So when I got out there to Malibu, Jack met me, and we took my stuff back to his place and headed off to the rodeo, which happened to be going on out there that day ...

Arlo goes on to tell of seeing this gorgeous queen of the rodeo come riding toward him and then right on by him without even a glance; moved to his very soul, he got up the next morning and wrote "Highway in the Wind" for that rodeo queen whose path would eventually cross his again and merge with his for the 43 years of their profoundly loving marriage, which ended only with her passing in 2012.

Good thing his mother sent him to Jack and that Jack took him to the rodeo! Pretty amazing stuff.

-Donna Johnson

Elizabeth Lada