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Tuesday, September 27, 2011




If you'll gather 'round me, children
A story I will tell
'Bout Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw
Oklahoma knew him well

It was in the town of Shawnee
A Saturday afternoon
His wife beside him in his wagon
As into town they rode

There a deputy sheriff approached him
In a manner rather rude
Vulgar words of anger
An' his wife she overheard

Pretty Boy grabbed a log chain
And the deputy grabbed his gun
In the fight that followed
He laid that deputy down

Then he took to the trees and timber
To live a life of shame
Every crime in Oklahoma
Was added to his name

But a many a starving farmer
The same old story told
How the outlaw paid their mortgage
And saved their little homes

Others tell you 'bout a stranger
That come to beg a meal
Underneath his napkin
Left a thousand dollar bill

It was in Oklahoma City
It was on a Christmas Day
There was a whole car load of groceries
Come with a note to say:

Well, you say that I'm an outlaw
You say that I'm a thief
Here's a Christmas dinner
For the families on relief

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men
Some will rob you with a six-gun
And some with a fountain pen

And as through your life you travel
Yes, as through your life you roam
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home

Words and Music by Woody Guthrie, who wrote it in Mar 1939 and recorded it in RCA Studios, Camden, NJ, on 26 Apr 1940. He released that year on hisDust Bowl Ballads album.

Joe Klein writes in his 1981 book, Woody Guthrie: A Life, page 123, "He [Woody Guthrie] also wrote a series of ballads about outlaws, celebrating them as the populist heroes they'd been back in Oklahoma, as poor people who preyed on the rich. He wrote about the Dalton gang,... and about the brazen woman outlaw Belle Starr. But the most famous of his outlaw ballads, and one of his finest pieces of work, was 'The Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd,' which he wrote in March of 1939."

For info about Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd, read the below Time article.

Bruce Springsteen recorded this song with The Seeger Sessions Band on 02 Nov 1997 during the first of the 3 "Seeger Sessions", but he did not include it on his 2006 cover album, We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions.

The Seeger Sessions consist of three recording sessions (a 2-days session on 01 and 02 Nov 1997, a 1-day session in Dec 2005, and a 1-day session in Jan 2006), during which all the album's songs were cut live in the living room of Bruce's New Jersey farmhouse. The songs were not rehearsed and all arrangements were conducted as Bruce and the band played.

This song was reported to be rehearsed by Bruce Springsteen with his Seeger Sessions Band on 21 Mar 2006 at the Paramount Theater, Asbury Park, NJ.

The above lyrics refer to Woody Guthrie's original version.

Time article, 22 Oct 1934:

Born 30 years ago on a Georgia farm, "Pretty Boy" Floyd moved with his parents at an early age to the Cookson Hills District of the Oklahoma Ozarks. There he got the nickname of "Choc" and a bad reputation. At 18 he robbed a neighborhood post-office of $350 in pennies.

A three-year apprenticeship in the St. Louis underworld landed him, in 1925, in Missouri Penitentiary for a payroll robbery. There he peddled drugs, struck down guards, and met "Red" Lovett, who teamed up with him on his release in 1929.

For the next four years he robbed rural banks, taking on new partners as his old ones fell dead by the wayside. Whenever pursuit got too close, he retired to the Cookson Hills where he reputedly keeps a string of mountaineers in funds in exchange for their close-mouthed hospitality. A murderously cool shot, his trigger finger has already accounted for at least six deaths. Fond of flashy clothes, he likes to show his bravado by returning to his home town, Sallisaw, Okla., for brief visits. He is wanted by the Federal Government for two murders, two mail robberies.

Less than 24 hours after Federal agents announced that Floyd was wanted as one of the Union Station killers, he was flushed out of an Iowa farm by two peace officers. In his first brush with authority this year, he showed that he had lost none of his finesse. Jumping into a car with two companions, he led the police on a wild chase to an empty house at the dead end of a road. There he turned on them with a machine gun and automatic rifles, shot his way out and away.

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