The Name of Alice’s Restaurant: A Brief History

“Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” is a satirical talking blues song written and performed by singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie. Released as the title track of Guthrie’s debut album in 1967, the song serves as a deadpan protest against the Vietnam War draft, drawing inspiration from a comically exaggerated yet mostly true story from Guthrie’s own life.

The Story of Alice’s Restaurant

The narrative of “Alice’s Restaurant” revolves around Guthrie’s arrest and subsequent conviction for illegally dumping trash during a visit to his acquaintances in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The incident occurred in 1965, two years before the song’s release. Guthrie and a friend volunteered to transport a large accumulation of garbage from the home of their friends, Alice and Ray Brock, to the local dump in a VW Microbus. However, upon arrival, they discovered that the dump was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Spotting another pile of trash that had been dumped off a cliff near a side road, Guthrie and his friend decided to add their garbage to the existing accumulation. Little did they know that this seemingly innocent act would lead to a series of events that shaped the story of “Alice’s Restaurant.”

Following the garbage dumping, the church where Alice and Ray Brock resided received a phone call from Officer Obie, a local policeman. The call informed them that an envelope found in the trash could be traced back to Guthrie and his friend. Amusingly, Guthrie confessed to putting the envelope beneath the garbage, employing a playful tone and stating, “I cannot tell a lie.”

Subsequently, Guthrie and his friend were taken to the police station, expecting a verbal reprimand and a cleanup duty. However, they were instead arrested, handcuffed, and transported to the scene of the crime. At the site, Officer Obie and a crew of police officers meticulously collected forensic evidence, including photographs and detailed descriptions of the litter. The media circus surrounding the incident attracted local news outlets seeking stories on littering.

After a brief period of incarceration, Alice bailed Guthrie and his friend out, allowing them to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner once again. The following day, Guthrie and his friend stood trial. Surprisingly, the judge presiding over the case was visually impaired and relied on a seeing-eye dog. This led to an ironic twist, as the extensive evidence collected by Officer Obie became inconsequential in the absence of visual perception.

Ultimately, Guthrie and his friend paid a $50 fine and were ordered to clean up the garbage they had dumped, all while enduring the wintry conditions of the snowy landscape.

The Significance of Alice’s Restaurant

The title of the song, “Alice’s Restaurant,” refers to a restaurant owned by Guthrie’s friend, Alice Brock. Although the restaurant itself does not play a direct role in the story, it serves as the subject of the chorus and the impetus for Guthrie’s visit.

“Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” went on to inspire a 1969 film adaptation, also titled “Alice’s Restaurant,” in which Guthrie starred. The film took artistic liberties with the original story, further cementing the song’s cultural impact.

Guthrie’s signature song, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” has been periodically re-released with updated lyrics, ensuring its enduring relevance. In recognition of its cultural, historical, and artistic significance, the song was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2017.


  1. “Alice’s Restaurant” – Wikipedia
  2. A Brief History of “Alice’s Restaurant” | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian Magazine
  3. Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant”: the story behind the Thanksgiving staple – Vox


What is the name of Alice’s Restaurant?

The name of the restaurant is “Alice’s Restaurant.” It was owned by artist Alice Brock, a friend of Arlo Guthrie, the singer-songwriter who wrote and performed the song.

What is the story behind “Alice’s Restaurant”?

“Alice’s Restaurant” is based on a true story from Arlo Guthrie’s life. It revolves around Guthrie’s arrest and conviction for illegally dumping trash during a visit to his friends, Alice and Ray Brock, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The incident took place in 1965 and inspired the satirical talking blues song.

What is the significance of the song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”?

“Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” is a protest song against the Vietnam War draft. It uses a comically exaggerated but mostly true story to highlight Guthrie’s opposition to the draft and the absurdity of the situation. The song has become Guthrie’s signature piece and has been periodically re-released with updated lyrics.

Was there a film adaptation of “Alice’s Restaurant”?

Yes, there was a film adaptation of “Alice’s Restaurant” released in 1969. The film, also titled “Alice’s Restaurant,” starred Arlo Guthrie and took artistic liberties with the original story. It further popularized the song and its message.

How did “Alice’s Restaurant” receive recognition?

The song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2017. This recognition acknowledges the song’s cultural, historical, and artistic significance.

Is Alice’s Restaurant still in operation?

The original Alice’s Restaurant owned by Alice Brock closed in 1979. However, the song and its association with the restaurant continue to resonate with audiences, and there have been subsequent restaurants named “Alice’s Restaurant” inspired by Guthrie’s song.

Are there any other notable songs by Arlo Guthrie?

Yes, Arlo Guthrie has a prolific musical career with several notable songs. Some of his other well-known songs include “City of New Orleans,” “Coming into Los Angeles,” and “The Motorcycle Song.”

How long is the song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”?

The song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” has a runtime of approximately 18 minutes and 34 seconds. It is known for its protracted spoken monologue style, accompanied by a fingerstyle Piedmont blues ragtime guitar backing and light brush-on-snare drum percussion.