Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion

Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion
Background information
Origin California, United States
Genres Folk, country rock, singer-songwriter
Years active 2000–present

New West, Ninth Street Opus

Members Sarah Lee Guthrie
Johnny Irion

Sarah Lee Guthrie (born February 17, 1979) and Johnny Irion (born February 3, 1969), are a musical duo. Guthrie and Irion were married on October 16, 1999[1] and began performing together as an acoustic duo in the fall of 2000. Their music combined Irion's love of rock and blues with Guthrie's roots of folk and country.

Guthrie is the youngest daughter of folksinger Arlo Guthrie and the granddaughter of Woody Guthrie. As a third generation singer/songwriter Guthrie released her first self-titled album on the family owned and operated Rising Son Records in 2002. As a child she was involved in theater and dance. Her interest in music was sparked when she worked as her father's road manager on the 1997 Further Festival tour and saw other members of the tour group having fun at late-night hootenannies. She picked up an acoustic guitar and started playing as a way to join in on the fun. "I always wrote poems, so it wasn't that far off for me to turn that into songs." [2]

"My dad was absolutely thrilled, of course, and would teach me stuff every day when we were on the road together. That was a really cool way to get to know my dad, because I'd never known him that way. And that's another thing that made it easy: my dad was so supportive."[3]
Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion performing live for Valentine's Day 2008 at Tales From The Tavern at The Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez, CA.

Irion originates from a family of artists. His uncle is author Thomas Steinbeck, his great uncle is author John Steinbeck,[4] and his grandmother, Rubilee Knight, is a classical violinist. His late grandfather, Fred Knight, sang tenor in numerous venues. Irion and Guthrie met through a mutual friend (Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes) while the two were working together in Los Angeles. In 1999 Guthrie and Irion joined guitarist Tao Rodríguez-Seeger, grandson of Pete Seeger, and performed as a trio under the name RIG.[2]


Guthrie and Irion have appeared at the Newport Folk Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, and Hillside Festival, as well as nationwide theatres, listening rooms, performing art centers, and schools. When not performing their own shows they tour nationally with Arlo Guthrie, opening the show, then joining him onstage in their family concert series, recently accompanying him at Carnegie Hall with Pete Seeger and The Dillards.[5]

Go Waggaloo, their first children's CD, was released in October 2009 on the Smithsonian Folkways label. Sarah Lee Guthrie is joined by Irion and their two daughters, as well as numerous friends and family members including Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Tao Rodriguez-Seeger. The album includes three songs featuring lyrics by Woody Guthrie never before put to music and eight songs written by Sarah Lee and family.[6] The Parents' Choice Foundation awarded Go Waggaloo a Gold Medallion. The Parents' Choice Awards program honors the best material for children in the categories of: books, toys, music and storytelling, magazines, software, videogames, television and websites.[7]

In 2011, Sarah Lee and Johnny signed with Berkeley independent record label, Ninth Street Opus and released Bright Examples. The collaborative project features producers Andy Cabic (lead singer/songwriter in the band Vetiver (band)) and Thom Monahan (Devendra Banhart, Vetiver (band)).

In 2012 - the centennial year of Woody Guthrie's birth - an album of newly composed songs using Woody Guthrie's lyrics was released: New Multitudes. At a centennial celebration tribute concert held on March 10, 2012 at the Brady Theater in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Sarah Lee and Johnny performed along with John Mellencamp, Arlo Guthrie, the Del McCoury Band and the Flaming Lips.[8]

Jeff Tweedy produced Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion’s album, Wassaic Way, released in 2013. It was recorded in Chicago - Tweedy’s hometown - and garnered him a Grammy nomination as producer.[9]


Year Title Artist Label
2013 Wassaic Way Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion Rte. 8
2011 Bright Examples Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion Ninth Street Opus
2009 Go Waggaloo Sarah Lee Guthrie & Family Smithsonian Folkways
2009 Folksong [DVD and CD] Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion Rte. 8
2007 Ex Tempore Johnny Irion Rte.8/RCAM
2005 Exploration Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion Rte. 8
2004 Entirely Live [EP] Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion Rte. 8
2002 Sarah Lee Guthrie Sarah Lee Guthrie Rising Son Records
2001 Unity Lodge Johnny Irion Yep Roc Records
1994 Weave Johnny Irion / Queen Sarah Saturday Thirsty Ear


  1. Internet Movie Database. Biography for Sarah Lee Guthrie.
  2. 1 2 Nelligan, Tom. Three generations of Guthries: an American musical family. Dirty Linen, June/July 2002, p. 36-43.
  3. Alarik, Scott."The Guthries & Seegers Are At It Again!" Retrieved July 30, 2007.
  4. Internet Movie Database.Biography for Johnny Irion.
  5. Alive with the Arts.Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion. Retrieved Nov. 19, 2007.
  6. Smithsonian Folkways. Go Waggaloo: Sarah Lee Guthrie & Family. Retrieved October 22, 2009.
  7. Parents' Choice Foundation. Parents' Choice Award: Go Waggaloo.
  8. Phil Gallo (March 9, 2012). "Jay Farrar Tackles Woody Guthrie in 'New Multitudes'". Billboard. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  9. "Jeff Tweedy To Appear On Portlandia, Nominated For Grammy". Jambase. December 11, 2013. Retrieved February 16, 2014.
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