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Timeline of Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)

1960 and beyond


1912 July 14 Born in Okemah, Oklahoma.
[Woody Guthrie's birthplace, Okemah, Oklahoma.]
Photograph by Walter Smalling, October 1979.
Historic American Buildings Survey, Prints and Photographs Division. Call Number: HABS, OKLA, 54-OKE.V, 1-2.
1919 May Death of older sister, Clara, in fire.
1927 Mother sent to Central State Hospital for the Insane in Norman, Oklahoma.
1929 Joined father and extended family in Pampa, Texas; focused on learning to play guitar and harmonica.


1930 Death of mother.  
1933 Married Mary Jennings, Pampa, Texas (later divorced).
1935 Prepared typed songbook of original songs, "Alonzo M. Zilch's Own Collection of Original Songs and Ballads."
April Began to compose songs about the Dust Bowl following the Great Dust Storm.
1937 Moved to Los Angeles, California; began performing on radio station KFVD.
1938 Summer Traveled to investigate the living and working conditions of the migrant workers on assignment for The Light newspaper; wrote "Dust Bowl Refugees."
1939 Began writing "Woody Sez" column in People's World.
Met actor Will Geer and began traveling with him to migrant camps to perform.  


1940 January-February Moved to New York City; wrote "This Land Is Your Land" in reaction to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America."
[Consruction of Washington Shore Fish Ladder at downstream end of Bonneville Dam.]
Elevated structure and buildings. Lower Manhattan. Photograph by Arthur Rothstein, December 1941.
Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection, Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USF34-024346-D.
March Performed at "Grapes of Wrath Evening," organized by Will Geer to benefit the John Steinbeck Committee for Agricultural Workers; met Alan and Elizabeth Lomax, director Nicholas Ray, and folk singers Aunt Molly Jackson, Leadbelly, and Pete Seeger.
Recorded four hours of songs and stories for the Library of Congress's Archive of American Folk Song in the Department of the Interior recording lab.
Began to write autobiographical novel, Bound for Glory.
Spring-Summer Began to appear on CBS radio programs.
Recorded Dust Bowl Ballads for Victor Records in Camden, New Jersey (released in July).  
1941 May Commissioned by the U.S. Department of the Interior to write songs promoting the building of the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River in Washington state; composed twenty-six songs in thirty days.  
Summer Joined the Almanac Singers in New York for cross-country summer tour; recorded Deep Sea Chanteys and Whaling Ballads and Sod-buster Ballads with the Almanacs for General Records.  
Fall Moved to Greenwich Village, living and performing with the Almanac Singers.  
December In the wake of Pearl Harbor, began writing pro-war songs with the Almanac Singers.  
1942 Spring Narrated and played music for Folksay modern dance, choreographed by Sophie Maslow and featuring Marjorie Mazia as a dancer.  
Signed contract with E. P. Dutton publishing house for book.  
Began dating Marjorie Mazia.  
1943 March Bound for Glory published (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.).  
June Joined the Merchant Marine; shipped out on first of three voyages with Cisco Houston and Jimmy Longhi.  
November Returned to New York; moved to 3520 Mermaid Avenue, Coney Island.  
1944 April Met Moses (Moe) Asch and began to record in his studio in New York: the first recording of "This Land Is Your Land" and well over one hundred other songs.  
1945 March Released album of recordings made for Moe Asch through collaboration with Herbert Harris's Stinson Trading Company.  
May Inducted into the Army.  
November Married Marjorie in New York while on furlough (divorced July 1953).  
December Discharged from the Army.  
1946 Began writing children's songs and recording them for Moe Asch's label.  
Named to the board of directors of the newly formed People's Songs collective.  
1947 February Death of his and Marjorie's daughter Cathy Ann in fire.  


1950 The Weavers (Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, and Pete Seeger) recorded Guthrie's "So Long, It's Been Good to Know You."  
Music publisher Howie Richmond offered to publish and promote more of Guthrie's songs.  
1952 September Diagnosed with Huntington's Chorea.  
October Moved to Topanga Canyon, California; met Anneke Van Kirk Marshall.
[Woody Guthrie, half-length portrait, facing front, playing guitar]
[Woody Guthrie, half-length portrait, facing front, playing guitar].
New York World Telegram and Sun Collection, Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-120588.
1953 December Married Anneke Van Kirk (divorced summer 1956); returned to New York.
1954 April Pete Seeger began touring college campuses, introducing Guthrie's songs to new audiences.
September Checked into Brooklyn State Hospital.
1956 Launch of Guthrie Children's Trust Fund: Pete Seeger, Harold Leventhal, and Lou Gordon served as trustees overseeing Woody's estate, with Arlo, Joady, and Nora (Woody and Marjorie's children) as beneficiaries.
March Benefit concert for Guthrie Children's Trust Fund held at Pythian Hall in New York.
May Voluntarily checked out of Brooklyn State Hospital.
Involuntarily checked into Greystone Park in Morris Plains, New Jersey.  
1958 Kingston Trio scored popular success with folk ballad "Tom Dooley," signaling the beginning of an urban folk revival.  
1959 Bob and Sidsel Gleason began hosting Guthrie in their home in East Orange, New Jersey, every Sunday; folksingers gathered to play and pay homage.  

1960 and beyond

1961 January Visited by Bob Dylan.  
Spring Transferred to Brooklyn State Hospital.  
1964 Release of 1940 Library of Congress recordings as three-record set on Elektra (New York: EKL-271/272).  
1965 Publication of Born to Win, a collection of writings (New York: Macmillan).  
1966 April Commended by U.S. Department of the Interior for Columbia River songs, presented with Conservation Service Award, and honored by having substation of Bonneville Power Authority named for him.
[Consruction of Washington Shore Fish Ladder at downstream end of Bonneville Dam.]
[Construction of Washington Shore Fish Ladder at downstream end of Bonneville Dam.]
1 May 1937.
Historic American Buildings Survey, Prints and Photographs Division. Call Number: HABS, ORE,26-BONV, 2-F-90.
1967 Committee to Combat Huntington's Disease (CCHD) formed by Marjorie Guthrie.
October 3 Died, Brooklyn State Hospital, New York.
1971 Posthumously inducted into Songwriters' Hall of Fame.
1977 Posthumously inducted into Nashville Songwriters Foundation, Inc.
1988 Posthumously inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
1996 Posthumously awarded Lifetime Achievement Award by North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance.

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