WOODROW WILSON ("WOODY") GUTHRIE (1912-1967),
COMPOSER OF "THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND," ARRIVED IN
LOS ANGELES IN 1937 ALONG WITH THOUSANDS OF OTHER
MIGRANT WORKERS AND FAMILIES FROM THE "DUST BOWL"
REGION. GUTHRIE HOSTED A POPULAR RADIO SHOW ON KFVD
AND BECAME A VOICE FOR MIGRANT WORKERS AND LABOR
UNIONS. HE WROTE HUNDREDS OF SONGS AND OFTEN
PERFORMED THEM AT RALLIES, HOUSE PARTIES AND STREET
CORNERS ON MAIN STREET BETWEEN 4TH AND 5TH STREETS.
IN 1940, GUTHRIE LEFT LOS ANGELES FOR NEW YORK WHERE
HE CONTINUED TO WRITE SONGS AS WELL AS ADVOCATE
FOR THE WORKING MAN AND CELEBRATE THE
FUNDAMENTAL IDEALS OF AMERICA.
Born in Oaklahoma:Migrated to California as an Okie;
Guthrie was brought up by middle-class parents in Okemah, Oklahoma, until he was 14, when his mother Nora was hospitalized as a consequence of Huntington's disease, a fatal hereditary neurological disorder. His father moved to Pampa, Texas, to repay debts from unsuccessful real estate deals. During his early teens, Guthrie learned folk and blues songs from his parents' friends.
He married at 19, but with the advent of the dust storms that marked the Dust Bowl period, he left his wife and three children to join the thousands of Okies who were migrating to California looking for employment.
LA Radio Personality:
He worked at Los Angeles radio station KFVD, achieving some fame from playing hillbilly music, made friends with Will Geer (Grandpa on the Waltons) and John Steinbeck (author of The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and few others), and wrote a column for the communist newspaper People's World from May 1939 to January 1940.
This Land Is Your Land:
In February 1940 he wrote his most famous song, "This Land Is Your Land". He said it was a response to what he felt was the overplaying of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" on the radio.
Son Arlo Guthrie:
Guthrie was married three times and fathered eight children. His son Arlo Guthrie became nationally known as a musician. Woody died in 1967 from complications of Huntington's disease. His first two daughters also died of the disease. During his later years, in spite of his illness, Guthrie became an icon in the folk movement, providing inspiration to a generation of new folk and country musicians, including mentoring Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Bob Dylan.
Dust Bowl RefugeeHad a Cousin in Los Angeles:
Woody Guthrie traveled to California in May of 1937 with the Dust Bowl refugees. The storms had misplaced many Oklahomans and Texans.
Woody's cousin, Leon (Jack) "Oke" Guthrie, lived in the Los Angeles area. He was a fellow musician and accomplished rodeo competitor. Through his cousin, Woody was introduced to the Crissman family who had traveled from Creighton, Missouri to Glendale, California in 1932. Woody and Leon (Jack) spent much of their time at the Crissman household, creatively passing the time. In June 1937 Woody and Leon (Jack) formed a musical partnership and looked for opportunities to showcase their talents. It was Leon's (Jack) belief that having a radio show would allow he and Woody to gain a larger fanbase and attract bigger crowds at live performances.
In June 1937 Woody, Leon (Jack), and the Beverly Hill Billies performed at the Strand Theater in Long Beach, CA. One month later Woody and Leon (Jack) secured a program spot on KFVD Radio in Los Angles, CA, called the Oklahoma and Woody Show.
The Woody and Lefty Lou Radio Show
However, within weeks Leon (Jack) decided to leave the show and the Crissman's youngest daughter, Maxine Crissman (later affectionately dubbed "Lefty Lou" by Woody Guthrie), filled his place. The Woody and Lefty Lou Radio Show was an almost immediate success. Although the program lasted less than a year, Woody and Crissman made an undeniable impression on the Los Angeles airwaves, especially within the migrant refugee communities. Over the course of several months thousands of fans sent letters, postcards, and fan mail to the duo – more than any program on the station. In early 1938 Woody and Crissman briefly switched stations to radio XELO in Tijuana, on the boarder of Mexico, before returning to KFVD. This period in Woody Guthrie's life marked an expansive growth in his social consciousness and is seen as a monumental milestone in his career as a musician and activist.
- The station also gave free airtime often to liberal causes.
- Also at this time between 1935 and 1940, country/folk singer Woody
- Guthrie was a featured performer on KFVD with various shows.
- This lasted until he and owner Burke had a falling out over politics.
- Several Web sites on the internet give more details about Woody Guthrie's years at KFVD.
From 1937 to 1939, Woody Guthrie broadcast regular shows from KFVD, then run by Frank Burke Sr. and his son Frank Burke. First he accompanied his Cousin Leon "Oklahoma Jack" Guthrie, later with Maxine "Lefty Lou" Chrissman. The Woody and Lefty Lou-Show soon became the most popular on the station. When Chrissman resigned due to health reasons, Guthrie continued for another year as The Lone Wolf until he was sacked for his unrelenting support for the Soviet Union even after they invaded Poland.
Building where KFVD radio station was
338 S. Western Ave
The property is 101 years old
Timeline of Woody Guthrie: