Woody Guthrie's guitar and lyrics permanently shaped American folk music. A new exhibition at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon will tell the story of how Guthrie's life and music got their start in the Panhandle town of Pampa during the Great Depression. It’s Been Good to Know Yuh: Woody Guthrie in Pampa, 1929-1936 will open on January 24, 2009, in the Alexander Gallery.
Humanities Texas has awarded the museum over $10,000 for the creation and promotion of the Guthrie exhibition. It’s Been Good to Know Yuh will be set in the context of Harris Drug Store, where Guthrie worked as a soda jerk, and 1930's Pampa.
On Saturday, April 18 at 2 p.m., Texas musician Jimmy LaFave and his band will play a show featuring original songs and Guthrie classics. During the following week, the museum will host a companion symposium about Guthrie featuring Woody's daughter, Nora Guthrie, and his granddaughter, Anna Canoni. Nora will give a public lecture titled "This Land is Your Land: The Story of Woody Guthrie," and Canoni will give an in-classroom lecture to young students.
The museum has collected photos, song lyrics, and hand-written notes for display. "While Woody Guthrie led a unique life, he reflected a common segment of the American population," states the museum's description of the exhibition.
Indeed, Guthrie was interested in people and what he could learn from them. While he displayed little interest in attending school, Guthrie was a street-smart teen who spent much of his time at the Pampa Public Library reading classics, psychology, and philosophy. He picked up his first guitar at the local drug store. The exhibition will have a guitar that the public can play on a stage.
As he played music with family in his hometown, Guthrie began to record his observations of the people around him and how they were surviving the Great Depression. "At first it was funny songs or songs about what all's wrong, and how it turned out good or bad," said Guthrie. "Then I got a little braver and made up songs telling what I thought was wrong and how to make it right, songs that said what everybody in the country was thinking. And this has held me ever since."
Humanities Texas has also supported several recently completed projects at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum: an exhibition titled The Book of Books: Texts that Shaped the Times and the 2007 Palo Duro Western Film Festival. It's Been Good to Know Yuh will be on display through July 31, 2009.