Stillwater News Press

Local News

February 26, 2013

Stillwater reads Woody Guthrie's "Bound for Glory"

STILLWATER, Okla. — Oklahoma sensibility is a primary influence on American songwriting and folksinging through native Woody Guthrie. Most people are familiar with the folksinger but the Stillwater Public Library director is inviting the community to learn more about the person - just who was Woody Guthrie - through the fifth communitywide reading event, One Book, One Community: Stillwater Reads Woody Guthrie. The six-week series debuts 7 p.m. Thursday at the Stillwater Public Library, focusing on his autobiographical novel Bound for Glory with several other events planned about Woody Guthrie’s life.

“Our program has chosen Oklahoma-related books for the One Book, One Community series,” said Lynda Reynolds, library director. “Woody Guthrie is a cherished Oklahoma legend and a national treasure. With the 100th anniversary of his birth and the Woody Guthrie archives being relocated to Oklahoma, it’s a perfect time for our community to share his book.” The One Book, One Community kick-off will feature guest speaker Professor Hugh Foley from Rogers State University, author of Oklahoma Music Guide II and founding board member of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. Foley will discuss the importance of Guthrie’s autobiography including the musical and lyrical elements that reveal valuable insights into some of Guthrie’s primary influences which became part of the singer’s personal ethos.

“Woody Guthrie is the single-most important Anglo-American folk singer in American history. His songs chronicled an important era in our collective history, and single-handedly elevated folk music into popular music status, Foley said. “Through Guthrie’s ‘Oklahoma-ness,’ we can hear and read how his perspective was infinitely influenced by his Oklahoma background.”   

Copies of Bound for Glory will be distributed free of charge to participants who sign up for a book discussion. 

“Our sponsors have enabled us to provide books to the community and to schedule an outstanding line up of events for this series,” said Reynolds.  “Karen Neurohr, an OSU librarian, is coordinating programs on campus. The OSU library will have books to loan for book discussions. Events include never heard or seen recordings and film footage from the Woody Guthrie archives.”

One Book, One Community also features two exhibits at the Oklahoma State University Library. Another Hot Oklahoma Night: Woody Guthrie and Stillwater’s Red Dirt Music, with images provided by the Oklahoma History Center, will be on display from March 1 through July 30.  Woody Guthrie at 100 will focus on a centennial perspective of Guthrie.  Anna Canoni, Guthrie’s granddaughter, and Tiffany Colannino, Woody Guthrie archivist, will open the exhibit  and share the fascinating story of The Live Wire: Woody Guthrie in Performance 1949 at 3:30 p.m. March 12  in the OSU Library Peggy V. Helmerich Browsing Room.

“The Woody Guthrie Archives moving to Tulsa is like some original sacred text being returned to its origins,” Foley said. “From this point forward, scholars, artists, fans and students who want to learn more about Woody Guthrie will have to come to his home state to do it. The move further cements Oklahoma as a source for the wellspring of American roots and popular music.”

Although Guthrie is legendary for his music, most people don’t know he was an accomplished artist, Reynolds said.  

“He paid his way to California from Oklahoma by stopping to paint signs all along the way – but very little is left of his art work,” she said.

To commemorate Guthrie’s artistic talents, area students in grades 6-12 are encouraged to enter a visual art competition focusing on the life of Woody Guthrie with the chance to win cash prize awards. Ammie Bryant, director of the Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History is coordinating an exhibit of the entries. Art work will be on display March 8 to April 14 at the Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History with a reception for winning students at 2 p.m. April 7. For contest rules and entry form, see http://library.stillwater.org.

One Book, One Community events scheduled in March and April include a keynote address from Woody Guthrie’s granddaughter; two film screenings; a musical program for children; a panel discussion focusing on Guthrie’s life and legacy; and a songwriting workshop. The grand finale is 7 p.m April 13 at the Stillwater Community Center with the two-act play Time Changes Everything by Thomas Conner and John Wooley. The story imagines the conversations that might have developed if western swing pioneer Bob Wills and folksinging troubadour Woody Guthrie had ever met – something that never happened. The two iconic figures are portrayed by Red Dirt Rangers Brad Piccolo and John Cooper

“It sort of combines the happy abandon of Bob Wills’ music with the social consciousness of Woody Guthrie’s songs,” said Cooper whose band is one of the first and most influential acts in the musical movement known as Red Dirt founded in Stillwater.

“Inventing western swing was a really big deal and Bob Wills was one of the most popular guys to come out of Tulsa,” Cooper said. “Woody Guthrie’s work is a huge influence for us, too — and Red Dirt music flows from both those veins crossing Oklahoma.”  

A third member of the band, Ben Han, joins them in a mini concert.

Time Changes Everything is a unique performance with real Oklahoma musicians portraying Oklahoma musicians in a play co-written by two authors (Conner and Wooley) who have both written extensively about the history of Oklahoma music,” Foley said. “I don’t think you could have a more authentic production on the imagined subject of Bob Wills meeting Woody Guthrie than one written, portrayed, and played (literally) by people who have such a strong sensibility of the state’s music history.

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