08. Gypsy Davy
(Woody Guthrie/TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc., BMI)
Track 8 – Gypsy Davy (MASTER MA 139)
This is the oldest of the songs Guthrie sang, learned from his mother, who had a special liking for traditional ballads. As “The Gypsy Laddie,” a Scottish version was first set down in 1788, but the ballad is at least 100 years older, and its original tune was older still. The great Harvard scholar of the 19th Century, Francis James Child, assigned this as number 200 in his almost definitive canon of what the Scots call “the muckle ballads,” the great ballads.
Guthrie’s version, transported from Great Britain to the Great Plains, is very close to a version sung in Arkansas. That suggests there was a local tradition (Arkansas abuts Oklahoma) in which it is “the boss,” not “the lord” who comes home to learn that his wife has run off with another man.
Alan Lomax was so taken with Guthrie’s version that he recorded it in Washington and included it on the first long playing record of field recordings of traditional music released by the Library of Congress.