PRETTY BOY FLOYD (Woody Guthrie) (Mar 1939)
(Version #1/Version #2)

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Born 30 years ago on a Georgia farm, "Pretty Boy" Floyd moved with his parents at an early age to the Cookson Hills District of the Oklahoma Ozarks. There he got the nickname of "Choc" and a bad reputation. At 18 he robbed a neighborhood post-office of $350 in pennies.
A three-year apprenticeship in the St. Louis underworld landed him, in 1925, in Missouri Penitentiary for a payroll robbery. There he peddled drugs, struck down guards, and met "Red" Lovett, who teamed up with him on his release in 1929.
For the next four years he robbed rural banks, taking on new partners as his old ones fell dead by the wayside. Whenever pursuit got too close, he retired to the Cookson Hills where he reputedly keeps a string of mountaineers in funds in exchange for their close-mouthed hospitality. A murderously cool shot, his trigger finger has already accounted for at least six deaths. Fond of flashy clothes, he likes to show his bravado by returning to his home town, Sallisaw, Okla., for brief visits. He is wanted by the Federal Government for two murders, two mail robberies.

Less than 24 hours after Federal agents announced that Floyd was wanted as one of the Union Station killers, he was flushed out of an Iowa farm by two peace officers. In his first brush with authority this year, he showed that he had lost none of his finesse. Jumping into a car with two companions, he led the police on a wild chase to an empty house at the dead end of a road. There he turned on them with a machine gun and automatic rifles, shot his way out and away.

TIME, October 22, 1934

He [Woody Guthrie] also wrote a series of ballads about outlaws, celebrating them as the populist heroes they'd been back in Oklahoma, as poor people who preyed on the rich. He wrote about the Dalton gang,... and about the brazen woman outlaw Belle Starr. But the most famous of his outlaw ballads, and one of his finest pieces of work, was "The Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd," which he wrote in March of 1939.
Joe Klein, Woody Guthrie: A Life, London, 1981, p. 123

Lyrics as recorded by Woody Guthrie, RCA Studios, Camden, NJ, 26 Apr 1940
Transcribed by Manfred Helfert
© 1958 Sanga Music Inc., New York, NY

If you'll gather 'round me, children,
A story I will tell
'Bout Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw,
Oklahoma knew him well.

It was in the town of Shawnee,
A Saturday afternoon,
His wife beside him in his wagon
As into town they rode.

There a deputy sheriff approached him
In a manner rather rude,
Vulgar words of anger,
An' his wife she overheard.

Pretty Boy grabbed a log chain,
And the deputy grabbed his gun;
In the fight that followed
He laid that deputy down.

Then he took to the trees and timber
To live a life of shame;
Every crime in Oklahoma
Was added to his name.

But a many a starving farmer
The same old story told
How the outlaw paid their mortgage
And saved their little homes.

Others tell you 'bout a stranger
That come to beg a meal,
Underneath his napkin
Left a thousand dollar bill.

It was in Oklahoma City,
It was on a Christmas Day,
There was a whole car load of groceries
Come with a note to say:

Well, you say that I'm an outlaw,
You say that I'm a thief.
Here's a Christmas dinner
For the families on relief.

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.

Lyrics as reprinted in Woody Guthrie, American Folksong, New York, NY, 1961
(reprint of 1947 edition), p. 27
© 1958 Sanga Music Inc., New York, NY

If you'll gather 'round me children
A story I will tell
Of Pretty Boy Floyd an outlaw
Oklahoma knew him well.
It was in the town of Shawnee
It was Saturday afternoon
His wife beside him in his wagon
As into town they rode.

There a deputy sheriff approached him
In a manner rather rude
Using vulgar words of language
And his wife she overheard.
Pretty Boy grabbed a log chain
And the deputy grabbed a gun
And in the fight that followed
He laid that deputy down.

He took to the trees and timbers
And he lived a life of shame
Every crime in Oklahoma was added to his name
Yes, he took to the trees and timbers
On that Canadian River's shore
And Pretty Boy found a welcome
At a many a farmer's door.

There's a many a starving farmer
The same old story told
How this outlaw paid their mortgage
And saved their little home.
Others tell you 'bout a stranger
That come to beg a meal
And underneath his napkin
Left a thousand dollar bill.

It was in Oklahoma City
It was on a Christmas Day
There come a whole car load of groceries
With a letter that did say:
You say that I'm an outlaw
You say that I'm a thief
Here's a Christmas dinner
For the families on relief.

Now as through this world I ramble
I see lots of funny men
Some will rob you with a Six gun
And some with a fountain pen.
But as through your life you travel
As through your life you roam
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.

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