From "Woody Sez" in The People’s World:
I never stopped to think of it before, but you know -- a policeman will
jest stand there an let a banker rob a farmer, or a finance man rob a
workin man. But if a farmer robs a banker -- you wood have a hole dern army
of cops out a shooting at him. Robbery is a chapter in etiquette.
From oral interviews conducted by Alan Lomax:
I was born in western Oklahoma and drug up in the Texas Panhandle.
That’s where the wheat grows, where the oil flows, where the dust flows and
the farmer owes -- where you hunt for wood and dig for water -- where you
can look farther and see less -- where there’s more weather and less
climate, more crops and less groceries than any other dadburned place in
Then the dust storm comes. Dust was so thick you sometimes found yourself
runnin’ your tractor and plough upside down. The buzzards had to wear
goggles and fly backwards. You could easy lose your wife and wake up
huggin’ your mother-in-law. Sometimes the dust would settle, but the debts
I decided it would be better in California, so I kissed the family
goodbye and swung into a Santa Fe cattle car and whistled down the line.
For the last few years I’ve been a rambling man. From Oklahoma to
California and back, by freight train and thumb -- I’ve been stranded and
disbanded, busted and disgusted with people of all sorts, shapes, sizes and
calibres -- folks that wandered all over the country, looking for work,
down and outers, and hungry half the time...
Walking down the big road, no money, no job, no home, no nothing, nights
I slept in jails, and the cells were piled high with young boys, strong men
and old men. They talked and they sung and they told the story of their
lives -- how it used to be, how it got to be, how the home went to pieces,
how the young wife died or left, how Dad tried to kill himself, how the
banks sent out tractors and tractored down the houses. So somehow I picked
up an old rusty guitar and started to picking and playing the songs I heard
and making up new ones about what folks said.
Woody’s Performance Method:
Dance choreographer Sophia Maslow was trying to work with Guthrie on a
dance routine to one of this songs. As she was trying to work out the
steps, Maslow noticed that Guthrie almost never played the song the same
way twice in a row. Finally, in her frustration, she asked Guthrie
"Why do you have to stop all the time? Why can’t you just sing it like
you do on the record? Dancers can’t work like that. They have to do it
exactly the same way every time." Guthrie replied "Well, if
I want to take a breath between verses, I play a few extra chords. And if I
forget the lines and want to remember them, I play a few extra chords. And
if I want to get up and leave town, I get up and leave town."