Oklahoma Knew Them Well: Woody Guthrie and Pretty Boy Floyd on the Periphery

James Deutsch (Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage)

Fellow Oklahomans Woody Guthrie and Charles Arthur (“Pretty Boy”) Floyd never met in person, but they might have found much in common. Both were marginalized and pushed to the periphery—Floyd because of his criminal activities, Guthrie because of his left-leaning politics. Their connection is the ballad Guthrie wrote ca. 1939, which begins, “If you'll gather 'round me children, a story I will tell, about Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw. Oklahoma knew him well.” This paper explores the positions on the periphery of Guthrie and Floyd, and how the folk of Oklahoma have come to know them well.

Part of 06-06 Oklahoma Traditions and their Impact on Popular Culture, Friday, October 14, 2:30 pm–4:30 pm