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Guthrie documentary rolls on

by:  WOODY GUTHRIE

Back in 1941, famed folk singer Woody Guthrie lived in Portland for about a month, but he generated some of his most memorable songs, including “Roll on, Columbia.” Later this month, 70 years later, a documentary film about Guthrie’s time in Oregon will be brought to the big screen. “Roll on Columbia: Woody Guthrie and the Columbia River Songs” will be premiered at 6:30 p.m. April 26 at the McMenamin’s Edgefield Pub, 2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale. The film by Portlander Michael O’Rourke explores Guthrie’s time of writing and producing songs mostly about the Columbia River for the Bonneville Power Administration. O’Rourke, a former bluegrass record producer, Tektronix engineer and radio documentarian, has done oral histories for the Oregon Historical Society. He also has produced a documentary about Guthrie for the BPA in the mid-1980s that was broadcast on Oregon Public Broadcasting radio. The newly edited video documentary will include excerpts from the original radio documentary, dramatic footage from the 1948 BPA film “River of Power,” on which Guthrie worked, his songs, period photographs and oral histories from folklorist Alan Lomax, Guthrie’s BPA manager Steve Kahn, BPA employee Bill Murlin, Guthrie’s wife Mary, Guthrie’s BPA driver Elmer Bueller, Chicago author Studs Terkel and Judge Gus Solomon. The story of Guthrie’s time in Oregon was featured in the July 30, 2009 Tribune, available at port landtribune.com. — Jason Vondersmith