Pretty Boy Floyd
08. Pretty Boy Floyd
(Woody Guthrie/Fall River Music, BMI)

Track 8 – Pretty Boy Floyd (MASTER MA 57)
This may well be Guthrie’s first song of social protest, written in March, 1939, after touring the lush farms of California’s Imperial and San Joaquin Valleys and seeing the abject misery the “migratious” farm workers endured. Borrowing the Robin Hood myth, Guthrie ennobles the undeserving Charles Arthur Floyd with some of the most droll and pointed lines Guthrie would write. In Hard Hitting Songs for Hard-Hit People, a collection of songs Guthrie would co-edit with the premier American folk song collector, Alan Lomax, and budding folk revivalist Pete Seeger, Guthrie wrote, “This song is one I fixed up about Pretty Boy. It tells of tales I heard concerning his life and what kind of a man he was, and as I said before I spoke, we ain’t never had a governor down there that was half as popular as Pretty Boy. He tried and done it wrong. The governor won’t even try.” (University of Nebraska Press, 1999, p. 115) It is worth noting just how careful Guthrie was to enunciate final consonants; he wanted more than anything to communicate a story, a moral, a message.