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This Week in Texas Music History: Woody Guthrie

by Stephen Becker 13 Apr 2012 2:01 PM

This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll recall a natural disaster that inspired a folk anthem.


Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman recalls a natural disaster that inspired a folk anthem.

You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.

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On April 14, 1935, an enormous dust storm blew through the Texas Panhandle, inundating the small town of Pampa. Woody Guthrie, born in Oklahoma on July 14, 1912, had moved to Pampa in 1931 to live with his uncle. While in Pampa, Guthrie first began performing publicly. By the time the Great Dust Bowl hit in the mid-1930s, Guthrie was writing many of his own songs about the widespread suffering brought on by the Great Depression. The April 14 dust storm that buried Pampa convinced Guthrie and many others to pack up and leave for California. It also inspired one of Guthrie’s best-known tunes, “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You.”

The difficult years he spent in the Texas Panhandle helped launch Woody Guthrie’s musical career and put him on the path to becoming one of this country’s most prolific and influential songwriters.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll honor a man who helped inspire the creation of one of the state’s most popular record labels.