THE BALLAD OF PRETTY BOY FLOYD (Wayne Kamp/Mark Vickery) (1975)
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Charles Arthur 'Pretty Boy' Floyd was born on a farm in Bartow County, Georgia, on February 3, 1904. Within a year, the family moved to Oklahoma and settled on a small dust-ridden farm. Charley worked hard to help his family, but the land was too poor to show any profits. In 1921, he married Wilma Hargrove, and it was then his troubles began. Growing bitter and angry at not being able to make a living, Floyd decided the only way to get ahead was to break the law.
After being arrested for a payroll robbery in St. Louis, he was sentenced to five years in the Missouri State Penitentiary. He served three hard years and was released, vowing he would never see the inside of another prison. His real education in crime came in Kansas City in 1929, where he mixed with all sorts of gangsters and criminals and learned how to use a machine gun. It was also where he was given the name he hated: 'Pretty Boy' Floyd.
He and his outlaw partners successfully took a number of small banks until they held up the bank at Sylvania, Ohio. They were caught and Floyd was sentenced to 15 years in the Ohio State Penitentiary.
Remembering the vow he had made to himself, 'Pretty Boy' escaped on his way to prison and headed for Toledo, Ohio. In time he ended up hiding out back in the Cookson Hills near his hometown, where he was accepted and protected by the people. Floyd became known as 'The Robin Hood of the Cookson Hills.'
He and a partner, George Birdwell, robbed the banks in Earlsboro, Konawa, Maud, Morris, Shamrock, Tahlequah, and on December 12, 1931, two banks in one day at Castle and Paden, Oklahoma. The bank insurance rates doubled in one year in Oklahoma, and the governor placed a $56,000 reward, dead or alive, on Pretty Boy's head.
In 1933, four lawmen and one outlaw were killed in what was called the Kansas City Massacre. Floyd was tagged as one of the killers, although he insisted that he hadn't been there. Moreover, he was given the worst press of any outlaw in the '30s.
The end finally came on October 22, 1934 when Charles Arthur Floyd was shot and killed by FBI agents in an open field near East Liverpool, Ohio.
Dave Samuelson, liner notes for Bobby Barnett, 'American Heroes & Western Legends,' Bear Family Records (BCD 16 121 AH), 1997.
Lyrics as recorded by Bobby Barnett and reprinted ibid.
I was raised in the Cookson Hills
Where the smoke gives away the stills,
And the old folks tell their stories to the young.
They talk about Pretty Boy whose real name was Charles Floyd,
And they say the first toy he played with was a gun.
CHORUS: But, everybody kept him hid
For the good things that he did,
'Cuase everybody was his friend in Sequoyah County.
In the year of '29, in the hard depression times,
Pretty Boy had a run-in with the law;
A handsome man at twenty-one he was friends with everyone
Except the man who owned the bank at Sallisaw.
It was early in the fall when a good man of the law
Lay dying where somebody shot him down.
Though the evidence was thin when they brought the verdict in,
They gave Pretty Boy fifteen long years in the pen.
In an Oklahoma town, Pretty Boy rolled and hit the ground
Through the window of the train that was prison bound.
Two long years was hit and miss and he was at the top of the list;
Pretty Boy made Enemy No. One.
On an Ohio farm, he took refuge in a barn
'Cause the law meant to do some harm
To Pretty Boy Floyd.
'Cross an open field he ran,
Why he did, we don't understand;
That's when death shook the hand of Pretty Boy Floyd.
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