This Day in Music History – Davy Jay Sparrow on Woody Guthrie




It was this day in 1967 that music and social icon Woody Guthrie died.  Friend of PE Davy Jay Sparrow weighs in on Guthrie’s importance in general and in particular to the shaping of his own musical world view.

So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You:  Woody Guthrie, July 14th, 1912- October 3rd, 1967

Today marks the day that Woody Guthrie’s life ended.  Well, sorta.  What I mean is that the man’s story and works are so prolific and influential that you’d be a bit hard pressed to find anybody anywhere who ain’t been at least indirectly affected by his writing, art, music, style, and beliefs.

Anyways, I’m gonna flat out refuse to try and explain his life story to anyone who doesn’t know it already.  And anyone who already knows it don’t need me to muddy it up for ‘em.  So if you wanna know bout the man’s life I suggest you start HERE.  I’d rather spend the next few words writin’ bout how much I love Woody’s songs, outlook, hair, paintings, and everything else.

I bet Woody Guthrie was about the squirreliest son of a gun you’d ever meet.  He sorta had a “wild hare up the ass” approach to dealin’ with the world.  I like that.  His childhood was terrible and the world was a mean place to him and other folks that lived like he did.  Wealthy people mistreated him and his friends were all scrapin’ the bottom of the barrel for a livin’.  So what did he do?  He made fun of ‘em.  He drew pictures of ‘em. He wrote songs about ‘em.  He entertained and informed ‘em simultaneously.  He wanted to see a change in the world that led to more human dignity and greater social and economic equality for everybody.  I like that.  I’m not sure that change ever came about in the way Woody wanted it to.  Just take a look HERE.  Same troubles.  Different decade.  Well, sorta.  The point is that Woody never beat ‘em, but he sure as Hell never joined ‘em.  Instead, he simply opted to tear ‘em a new one for as long as he could stand to be living and breathing.  I like that.

There was a time when I sang and played Woody Guthrie tunes exclusively.  These days I run an olde fashioned honky tonk group that does stuff more in the key of Bob Wills and Hank Williams.

I’m not so sure that Woody Guthrie would approve of it.  He liked things stripped down and free of any slickery or polish.  Maybe that’s how come my steel player Chance Wagner and I started an olde tymey duo called “The White Bread Boys.”  We play a Woody Guthrie tune or two as well as lots and lots of other songs that are less suited for big dance halls and more suited for the kinda place where people wanna listen and think about the great stories and such that come America’s weird, rural roots.

Little known fact: The “Well-Known Famous Drovers” part of the name “Davy Jay Sparrow & His Well-Known Famous Drovers” was inspired by Woody’s version of the traditional cowboy ballad “Buffalo Skinners.”

I’m gonna leave you with some of the only known footage of Woody Guthrie performing.  Watch and learn.

Don’t be a tool.  Be a squirrely Okie with a penchant for pissing on the masters.  Try to be like Woody.  As long as you’re not doing THIS, you should be at least heading in the right direction.


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