More on Woody Guthrie’s sense of humor

I don’t get a whole lot of comments here, but when I do get them they are generally well worth sharing. I thought this one was worth elevating to the level of its own post.

Comment on post 4343 on 8/10/04 by mrG. Woody had more than a sense of humour, he actually lived what he preached, and as yet another proof, here’s a story I first heard from Utah Phillips and later had it confirmed from someone who had toured with and heard it from Steve Goodman: The story goes Woody and Huddie (Leadbelly) walked into a NYC music publisher’s office to sell a new song they’d written. The publisher heard their song and knew it would be a hit, so he started fumbling through his desk to find a standard contract. Woody and Huddie said, “No need for all that. Gentleman’s deal: You pay us $50 cash, we shake on it, the song is yours.” You can imagine. The NYC bigshot music publisher’s eyes lit up with dollar signs. He peeled $50 out of his own wallet, gave it to those yokels and they gave him the sheet music, and they shook hands and parted. The NYC bigshot music publisher was ecstatic: He’d just bought a sure-fire chart-topping double-platinum hit for $50. Woody and Huddie were pretty happy too: That was the fifth NYC bigshot publishing company they’d sold it to that morning … By the time the lawyers were through with it, nobody owned the song, it became public domain, free for all, part of the artistic commons to be freely sung and resung by anyone with a mind to sing it. the song was “Goodnight Irene”.

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