Bad Reputation
Track 13 – Bad Repetation (MASTER MA 111)
Guthrie apparently wrote this humorous song while still singing on KFVD, Los Angeles. He included it in the 1938 publication of “Woody’s and Lefty Lou’s Favorite Collection,” commenting, “This song is a lie. A feller can dern shore overcome and live down a reputation of any kind.” He advised, “Change yore scenery and commence all over.” He included it again in a mimeographed 1939 songbook put together for listeners of the station, which suggested that the song was popular with his audience. Beyond that, the record is a complete blank, until the sessions of April, 1944, in the Asch studios, when he sang it near the end of the marathon. While the song is released here for the first time, we thought it might indeed have been a “greatest hit” if it had seen the light of day earlier.

Though an indifferent student in high school, Guthrie took two classes that made a deep impression on him: 10th grade English and typing. In one he was drilled in grammar, in the other he learned how to put that grammar on the page.Woody spoke in a soft drawl, but used good English when writing his family, for example. The deliberate “misspelling” of “reputation,” the over-the-top “coon-hunting” talk, to borrow Guthrie scholar Guy Logsdon’s phrase, was just part of an act.