TALKING SUBWAY (WOODY GUTHRIE) (c. early 1940s)

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Another one of Guthrie's talking blues. This piece was probably inspired by one of his early trips to New York, where for a while he was in great demand for appearances on various national hook-up radio programs, including Pursuit of Happiness, Cavalcade of America and others.

..."Talking Subway" may well be a combination of two sets of stanzas written at different times.

John Greenway, liner notes for 'Talking Blues,' Folkways, 1958

Performed (in its entirety) by John Greenway, ibid.,
this song is the "model"/"inspiration" of BOB DYLAN's "TALKING NEW YORK."

First four verses as published by Woody Guthrie in Moses Asch (ed.), American Folksong, New York, NY, 1947 (reprinted in 1961), p. 20;
© 1947 by DISC Company of America;
last seven stanzas as obtained from Woody Guthrie by Dr. John Greenway and reprinted in liner notes for 'Talking Blues,' Folkways, 1958.

I struck out for old New York,
Thought I'd find me a job of work.
One leg up and the other leg down,
I come in through a hole in the ground.
Holland Tunnel. Three mile tube.
Skippin' through the Hudson River dew.

I blowed into New York town,
And I looked up and I looked down,
Everybody I seen on the streets
Was all a running down in a hole in the ground.
I follered 'em. See where they's a going.
Newsboy said they're tryin' to smoke a rat out of a hole.

I run down thirty eight flights of stairs,
Boy, howdy! I declare!
I rode old elevator twenty two
And spent my last lone nickel, too.
Feller in a little cage got it.
Herded me through a shoot the shoot.
Run me through three clothes wringers.
So many people down in there I couldn't even fall down.

I swung onto my old guitar,
Train come a rumbling down the track,
I got shoved into the wrong damn car
With three grass widows on my back.
Two of 'em looking for home relief,
Other one just investigating.


Well, I got me a job in this man's town
On this subway train down under the ground;
My pay's so low I went in the hole,
And I can't get out, folks, to save my soul.
Wages on the floor, prices on the ceilin'.

I want to work and help win this war,
And that's what I work on the subway for;
My car's so loaded, jammed and packed,
My wheels keep a-jumpin' on the railroad track.
Wheels need greasin'. Pay needs raisin'.

Well, I joined the union to win my rights,
I went to Mr. Delaney and put up a fight;
I told him my job was part of my soul,
But Delaney don't want my wheels to roll.
Neither does Mr. Hitler. Pestbrook Wiggler -- I mean jibbler --
Pestbrook, Higgler -- aw, skip it.

I told Mr. Delaney if my kids don't eat
All of you workers will walk the street.
Mr. Delaney just stretched and yawned,
He must not know there's a war goin' on.
People fightin'. Winnin' freedom.

I got to thinkin' 'bout this war I'm tryin' to win,
So I went to the mayor once again.
I said, 'I don't want no Hitler scale,
I want to roll to victory on a union rail!'
Pay house rent. Eat groceries. Get a beef stew.
Pound of coffee.

So if you want to win this war I'll tell you what to do,
You got to work and fight for the T.W.U.,
You got to toot your whistle, got to ring your bell,
You got to keep all the Fascists in a union hell.
Keep 'em there. Don't let 'em out.

You got to join the union, got to pay your dues,
Got to shake hands and stick it through,
I'm a union man in a union war,
And it's a union world I'm a-fightin' for..
Union or fascist. Take your choice.

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