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Woody Guthrie - a few observations


stumps

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So I'm a big Woody Guthrie fan. I gravitate towards anything authentic (music, food, people) and I like a lot of his lyrics, I have two of his songs in my repertoire. There was a thread a while a back on the Gibson Guthrie guitar, and it sparked my interest on checking out his life in more detail. Here's a few observations on them:

 

I did not read his autobiography Bound for Glory on purpose - you can't be objective when writing about your own life, and I wanted the real story. Instead I read Wood Guthrie: A Life by Joe Klein. I can highly recommend this book. It does get bogged down in places but it's a good read. It seems to be well researched, too.

 

I also bought the film Bound for Glory. I found this film to be more about the myth of Woody Guthrie and less about the real Woody Guthrie. I think Guthrie was apt to pitch himself as a character on radio and in his writing, and it just felt like the movie based on his autobiography was not the real Guthrie but who Guthrie wanted us all to think he was. It was OK, but I likely won't watch it again.

 

So there you go, a few thoughts. I am now very interested in reading a biography about Pete Seeger... anyone know of a good one?

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I'm a huge Woody fan too.....if you pass on reading his book you're missing out IMO. It is a fabulous book...amazing how he could write such an uplifting book as well as his songs after having a life of tragedy...so many fires. Have you read Dylan's book Chronicles? Another impressive effort. I've been trying to find the one on Townes Van Zandt that Jinder I think mentioned a few posts back....

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I guess now that I've read an objective account of his life, I wouldn't mind reading his autobiography, but it seems he was less interested in telling the truth about his own life than he was giving us an image of himself consistent to what he was marketing at the time. Not to suggest that he intentionally hoodwinked his audience, I'm just not sure any autobiography is all that factual... now his book as a good read is another consideration, I avoided it at first because I was more interested in the realities of who he was. watching the movie version of his book, it was very heavy on the myth of the traveling Okie Bard, and it seemed to leave out quite a lot. It really romanticized him in a way that didn't seem genuine when compared to the Klein book... I know he played up the character of the Okie on radio and in shows - mispronouncing words and phrases on purpose, telling tall tales about riding the rails - I just wonder how much of his act became the character he wrote about in his book. who knows... if I went back to read his book now, I think I"d be less looking for the real Woody and more just reading his book to see what he wrote.

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Thanks for that re Townes Suburude.....another book I'm after is called "Will you miss me when I'm gone?" apparently about the Carter family. Haven't heard Wilco and Bragg, but I did pick up several Woody songs listening to Ramblin' Jack. Sometimes I try to learn a particular song I like and it gives me trouble.....then I hear some other version and realize I can do it after all. Ramblin' Jack has had that effect on me for some Woody songs.

 

This thread has got me thinking about my main musical influences, Woody, Dylan, Townes etc. I seem to be listening to more female singers these days, Gillian Welch (Annabelle and Acony Bell I learned recently), Cary Fridley, Hazel Dickens, Lucinda Williams, Iris Dement to name a few. If there are books on these people could you name some?

 

Stumps you're probably right about Woody's book as perpetuating a bit of a myth, but even so it was most enjoyable. I love the phrasing he uses like "I used to wuz....."

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In the early 90s I read "Dark Star", a posthumous bio of Roy Orbison. I'd like to read it again but I can't seem to get past the parts where his wife Claudette got killed and where 2 of his sons burned to death. Last weekend I was watching 'Totally 80s' on VH1, which is nothing more than 4 hours of old videos. It was background noise while I puttered around the house. The Travelling Wilburys were on there doing "End of the Line" so of course I stopped to watch it, and thought, where's Roy? When it came to 'his' verse, the chair was empty except for a guitar and there was a photo of him in the background. Gawd, that sent chills up my spine. He must have died before they filmed the video. I guess I missed it in '89 or '90 or whenever.... that was pre-satellite in my house and we only saw the occasional video.

 

Scotty Moore co-wrote a book called "That's All Right, Elvis" and I paid a rude amount of money to get him to autograph a copy to me. I had no heartburn about spending the money after I read how Elvis and the Colonel screwed him and Bill Black over. He was (and is) one of my guitar heroes and if/when I pull off a Scotty lick I walk on air for the rest of the day. And I used to have a 1955 ES-295 and now it's gone (punches self in the face repeatedly again).

 

And American Axe, which is about Roy Buchanan. Tortured soul as far as I'm concerned. And casts more than a little suspicion on the police dept and so-called cell suicides.

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Peiplayer-

I think there's a book available on Hazel Dickens. She is one of my favorite singers. THe best concert I've ever seen was a 45 minute set she did with her band @ 5 years ago.

If you like her (and I'm also assuming you must like Ginny Hawker), you really need to hear some of the original Molly O'Day recordings from the 40's. Made in her mid-late 20's, she was a primary influence on Hazel and Ginny, and every other traditional singer who heard her. Hank Williams wrote a number of songs just for her, and I've had nothing else in my Car CD player for the last month.

 

As far as Woody goes, I get the feeling he might have had an easier time with proper medication. I met a fellow who used to work in a music store years ago, and one day Woody and his wife came in. The guy was a huge fan- had all Woody's records. On that day, Mr. G was not in one of his best moods, and was a real SOB to his wife. So much so that this clerk went home and smashed all his Woody Guthrie records to pieces.

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No One! I mean no one could play a Tele like this guy!! suburude

 

Roy is certainly the best.

I love After Hours. I have the Definitive Collection and find myself just amazed every time I listen to that disc. He was so gifted. It's too bad he and Danny Gatton died the way they did.

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But.....

 

There may have never been a "Carter Family" (in music history) if not for Pops Stoneman.

 

And his son Scotty was the greatist fiddle player to ever walk the face of the Earth.

 

History is, if nothing else, old stuff..........

 

Murph.

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