If you think of something new to say, if a cyclone comes, or a flood wrecks the country, or a bus load of school children freeze to death along the road, if a big ship goes down, and an airplane falls in your neighborhood, an outlaw shoots it out with the deputies, or the working people go out and win a war, yes, you’ll find a train load of things you can set down and make up a song about. You’ll hear people singing your words around over the country, and you’ll sing their songs everywhere you travel or everywhere you live; and these are the only kind of songs my head or my memory or my guitar has got room for. – “The Telegram That Never Came” from “Bound for Glory”
Robert Santelli has this panel discussion business down-pat: prompt musicians to tell their stories both in words and music. After he made me shrivel in my seat, he moved on to introducing the panel, who all told their stories of how they became familiar with Woody Guthrie’s music. For Noel Stookey, he was a part of the Beat scene at Gaslight Cafe in Greenwich Village, where he learned about Woody from Ramblin’ Jack and Bob Dylan.
Ramblin’ Jack learned about Woody by calling him repeatedly while Guthrie was hospitalized with appendicitis in 1951, eventually showing up at his house and not leaving for a few years.
LaFave grew up in Oklahoma with the Guthrie lore, which he passed on to accordion player Radoslav Lorković, who joined the musicians on stage, giving extra spring to LaFave’s soft-sung take on “Oklahoma Hills.”
At the beginning of the program the audience was told that, because the discussion was being recorded for the library’s archives, we needed to be quiet. But I love to sing along to “Oklahoma Hills”! Ask Aimee. Folk music isn’t meant to be quietly enjoyed while ensconced in your seat. With everyone conscious of every move and noise they make, the song’s spark gets extinguished.