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- first chorus of “In The Jailhouse Now (Number Two)” by Jimmie Rodgers, 1930, Hollywood, California; a Victor recording, published by Peer Music: Ralph Peer, owner and operator, sole proprietor.
Jimmie Rodgers, now known as the “Father of Country Music,” was, with Will Rogers, the model for much of what the early public Woody Guthrie claimed to be until after he arrived in New York City, where Jimmie Rodgers was almost unknown (despite dying of tuberculosis, just north of Times Square, immediately after a recording session.) As a kid, little Woody Guthrie played spoons and harmonica and tap-danced a Tambo shuffle — “jig-dancing,” he called it — on the sidewalks of Okemah, Oklahoma, a comic little raggedy white picaninny in an all-white town, an all-white town his two-fisted courthouse sport of a father had been instrumental in keeping safe and segregated.
A prominent citizen and a noted practical joker, later to be elected justice of the peace and then, very briefly, state legislator (until a recount found ballot box stuffing at the courthouse), Charley was almost certainly a central participant of the 1911 mob that lynched a 13-year old black boy and his mother and, lacking the nerve to complete their task, were understood to have left the mother’s baby ditched in the river reeds behind and beneath where the bodies swung.
The Okemah Ledger stated: “It is generally thought the negroes got what would have been due them under due process of law.” A photograph of the lynchings was printed up and sold as a popular local postcard.
Besides, “The Later State” would have made a lousy license plate slogan. Oklahoma’s own Will Rogers, that great American cowboy star, Number One Hollywood Box Office Star in 1934, in the top ten for years before and dead a year later — oh, and the obvious model for most of Woody Guthrie’s showbiz persona when it wasn’t aimed at aping Jimmie Rodgers — was different than Woody Guthrie just the same.
Will Rogers had traveled, bummed around, which Woody mostly just claimed to have done, and he’d done it adventurously all over the world.
Some honor accrues to General John Wool, who resigned his commission rather than execute President Andrew Jackson’s land-grab fiat; General Winfield Scott efficiently replaced him in the chain of command and in 1838, the Cherokee Nation was forcibly removed from its fertile traditional lands in Georgia to the absurd barren badlands of Oklahoma: Neverland.
The great redeeming laugh of it all was that the town’s precious land was nigh unto worthless, free of wells and water and worth, ready to turn into loose blowing red dust at the hint of a strong sneeze much less a wind come sweepin’ down the plain.