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Woody Guthrie was born July 14 1912 in Okemah Oklahoma a farming town that later experienced an oil boom in the 1920s Guthries childhood was a heartbreaking experience The family fell apart when Woodys mother Nora set her husband Charley on fire with a kerosene lamp Charley survived and went to Pampa Texas to live with his sister while Nora was institutionalized for the rest of her life Woodys younger siblings went to Pampa while he and his older brother remained in Okemah By the time Woody was 14 he was the leader of a gang that lived in an abandoned tin shack When Woody was taken to see his mother for the last time he realized that she did not recognize him Gale Guthrie Woody 1912-1967 American Decades 2003 In 1933 when Woody was 21 he married his best friends sister Mary Jennings Unemployment was at an all-time high and farmers struggled to make a living as crop prices dropped In 1935 the great dust storm called the Black Blizzard swept through Texas and left the land barren Woody decided to move to Los Angeles where his cousin Jack worked in the entertainment industry Gale Guthrie Woody 1912-1967 American Decades 2003 In the early 1930sWoody founded his first band called the Corncob Trio in Pampa Texas They played traditional songs for local barn dances for audiences whose appetite for country music was being whetted by the recent recording success of the first country music stars the Carter Family and Jimmi Rodgers Gale Guthrie Woody 1912-1967 DISCovering World History 2003 Guthrie was always a drifter In the late 1930s he traveled to California by jumping on trains and hitching rides sleeping among migrants dust bowl refugees and hobos These experiences became the basis for his stories and lyrics as well as material for his autobiography Bound for Glory written in 1943 Gale Guthrie Woody 1912-1967 DISCovering World History 2003 Guthrie arrived in California in the
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