december 2011


A Woody Guthrie Centennial Moment

Woody Guthrie’s ‘New Year’s Rulin’s’

(Note: As we did last year in marking the centennial year of Bill Monroe’s birth, is marking the centennial year of Woody Guthrie’s birth with a Woody Guthrie Centennial Moment each month of 2012. This month: Woody’s
New Year’s resolutions for 1943.)

Found in one of Woody’s journals dated January 1st, 1943. Humorous, pragmatic, warm, loving and committed--it’s Woody in a nutshell, at age 30.

1. Work more and better
2. Work by a schedule
3. Wash teeth if any
4. Shave
5. Take bath
6. Eat good—fruit—vegetables—milk
7. Drink very scant if any
8. Write a song a day
9. Wear clean clothes—look good
10. Shine shoes
11. Change socks
12. Change bed cloths often
13. Read lots good books
14. Listen to radio a lot
15. Learn people better
16. Keep rancho clean
17. Dont get lonesome
18. Stay glad
19. Keep hoping machine running
20. Dream good
21. Bank all extra money
22. Save dough
23. Have company but dont waste time
24. Send Mary and kids money
25. Play and sing good
26. Dance better
27. Help win war—beat fascism
28. Love mama
29. Love papa
30. Love Pete
31. Love everybody
32. Make up your mind
33. Wake up and fight

from the Woody Guthrie Archives Notebook Series 1, Item 13, Pages 36-37. Courtesy Woody


Woody Song of the Month

'Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad'

Woody Guthrie, ‘Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad,’ recorded April 24, 1944, matrix MA 711; original title, ‘Lonesome Road Blues’

Variants of this song have traveled across this nation for over one hundred years; the identity of its writer has been lost in the passage of time, and Woody is just one of many who adapted it as his own. In his writings and recordings there are at least three variants, and he used the tune for other compositions and for a radio theme song. It is in his unpublished manuscripts “Woody & Lefty Lou’s One Thousand and One Songs,” dated April 1938, as “Lonesome Road Blues.” Its blues form suggests its origin in Southern African-American culture, and its verses intermingle with those of other blues.

When and where Woody learned it is not known, but it is probable that he heard recordings of it. By 1938, nearly forty singers or bands had recorded variants under a wide variety of titles. (Folkways founder) Moses Asch first used Woody’s version on Woody Guthrie Sings Folk Songs, Vol. 2 (Folkways 2484, 1964).

No less than six variants were collected by the W.P.A. California Folk Museum Project during the late 1930s; one manuscript states that “since 1933 it has become the song of migrant families who were tractored out of Texas, dusted out of Oklahoma, and flooded out of Arkansas.” Woody wrote that, when they were shooting Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath (circa late 1939), he was invited to to the studios and asked to sing a song that most “Okies” would know: “This was the first song that popped into my mind, so without thinking, I sung it.” He also said they used it in the book Hard Hitting Songs for Hard-Hit People (New York: Oak Publications, 1967, p. 215). In the Folkways Archives there are many manuscripts, including some of Woody’s typescripts of the song. One indicates that he, Pete Seeger and Lee Hays wrote verses to support a national minimum wage law. Woody also wrote his “original version” in January 1939 while singing over KFVD Radio in Hollywood, “Blowin’ Down This Road.”

Source: liner notes by archivists Jeff Place an Dr. Guy Logsdon for the Smithsonian Folkways 1997 release,
Woody Guthrie: This Land Is Your Land (The Asch Recordings Vol. 1). Available at

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