The iJamming! Weekly Download: Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie together
While researching my book I came across this Down Home Radio Site, which last year dug up – for the first time since its original broadcast in 1940 – a couple of WNYC radio shows featuring Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie. Pretty much all the “original” folk musicians of the era appeared on the radio in the early 40s, but many of the transcription tapes have been lost to the winds of time. And these shows are fascinating because Woody is still relatively new to New York, and he and Leadbelly have clearly hit it off, and unlike many of the other shows of the time, they pick up the guitars together. The theme of the first show is “Outlaw Ballads,” on which Woody plays his tribute to “Pretty Boy Floyd” and Leadbelly his version of “Frankie and Johnny,” called “Frankie and Albert.” It’s also interesting because Woody plays, just about back to back, the Carter Family’s “John Hardy” and his own, newly-written “Tom Joad” – which uses exactly the same melody.
In addition, it’s extraordinary stuff because there’s an intro and outro interview with the WNYC show’s original producer, Henrietta Yurchenco who, sadly, died not long after she had someone pull these tapes out of the WNYC vaults. Her memory of events is crystalline. I was surprised to see only four comments added to this original downhomeradio site, which suggests that maybe these archeological treasures did not find as large an online audience as they deserve. Hopefully, we can do that little bit to help.
Download or stream Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie, live on WNYC, 1940, here