"From the Mississippi Delta to South Australia," by Alpha Unit

Don Morrison salvages old galvanized sheet metal from sheds and farms throughout Australia. The older the metal, the better, he says; some of this reclaimed metal is over 100 years old. He takes it to his workshop in Summertown, South Australia, where he fashions it into metal-bodied acoustic guitars. Of his material he says:

Galvanised iron, or Galvo, is now an integral part of the Australian landscape and it seemed natural (to me at least!) to try it in a resonator guitar. The result is a truly awesome sound, very loud but with a surprisingly rounded tone. I should call it the Transcontinental guitar – genuine Aussie material, genuine Delta sound!

That “Delta sound” refers to Delta blues, one of the early forms of blues. This music arose in the Mississippi Delta, which, despite its name, is not a part of the actual delta of the Mississippi River. Rather, it is located in the northwestern part of Mississippi, bounded by the Mississippi River on the west and the Yazoo River on the east.

This alluvial floodplain is one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the world. It was here that Black field hands created the music we call blues, using chants, “field hollers,” and songs to make their work go faster. Ed Kopp writes:

While blues lyrics often deal with personal adversity, the music itself goes far beyond self-pity. The blues is also about overcoming hard luck, saying what you feel, ridding yourself of frustration, letting your hair down, and simply having fun.
The best blues is visceral, cathartic, and starkly emotional. From unbridled joy to deep sadness, no form of music communicates more genuine emotion.

Although the sound of a resonator guitar is iconic to blues, blues musicians didn’t start out playing the resonator. The earliest bluesmen played an instrument called the diddley bow.
The diddley bow has been called “the godfather of American roots instruments.” It is the simplest form of the guitar and is the first type of slide guitar used in America. It was very easy to make, consisting of a string of wire tensioned between two nails on a board. A bottle or can wedged under the wire would create tension for pitch. The player would pluck the string while sliding a piece of metal or glass on it to produce notes.

One-stringed bow instruments date back to antiquity and developed in various parts of East Asia and in the west coast and Congo regions of Africa. Rural Black Southerners crafted these instruments and taught their children to play them. They would sometimes build one-stringed zithers on a wall, “with a strand of baling wire, two thread spools for bridges, and a half-pint whiskey bottle for a slider,” as slide guitar player Big Joe Williams recalled to one researcher.

Boys who showed promise on the diddley bow could graduate to a guitar if they were lucky enough to get a hold of one. Musicians such as Lightnin’ Hopkins, Elmore James, and B. B. King all first learned to play on the diddley bow.

Once musicians could afford guitars they quickly abandoned the diddley bow. And when the resonator guitar came along, they had a way to present their music to even larger audiences. The resonator, with its crisp metallic ring, created the signature sound of Delta blues. When you listen to Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, Son House, or Bukka White – among many others – you’re listening to Delta blues. Others, such as John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, started out playing Delta blues.

This Delta sound is what craftsmen like Don Morrison aim to re-create. His resonators, like the very first of their kind, have built-in amplification – a feature that came about by demand.

Back in the early 1920s guitar players performing with dance orchestras couldn’t really stand out from the other players. Since there were no amplifiers, guitars were considered a part of the rhythm section instead of lead instruments. A vaudeville performer and promoter named George Beauchamp wanted an acoustic guitar that could play melodies over the orchestral instruments. He turned to John Dopyera, a violin repairman and luthier whose workshop was close to Beauchamp’s Los Angeles home.

John Dopyera and his brother Rudy experimented with various designs to achieve a smooth and balanced amplified sound and decided to mount cone-like aluminum resonators, similar to speaker cones, inside a metal guitar body. Dopyera found that using three smaller cones instead of one big cone gave the guitar the sound he’d been looking for. The tri-cone resonator guitar was born.

Beauchamp was impressed with the new design and proposed a business venture to Dopyera, who agreed. They created the National String Instrument Corporation in 1927. National guitars quickly became best sellers. The company soon created a wood-bodied model.

There were differences, though, between Beauchamp and Dopyera. Beauchamp preferred a single-cone resonator, not only because it was louder but because it was cheaper to make. For Dopyera, excellent sound and quality were top priorities. The two men finally went their separate ways when Dopyera found out that Beauchamp had claimed the patent for the single-cone resonator. In 1928 Dopyera quit National, with the intention of manufacturing his own single-cone resonator. John and his brother Emil formed the Dobro Manufacturing Company (named for the Dopyera Brothers).

Because National held the patent for his single-cone resonator, John Dopyera had to develop a new style of single-cone resonator. The single biggest change that he made was to the bridge of the guitar.

On a standard acoustic guitar, the bridge is glued directly to the top of the guitar. It has several functions: it holds the strings securely, sets the spacing of the strings, and acts as an external brace to the guitar body. Its other important job is transferring vibrations from the strings to the soundboard of the guitar. On a resonator guitar, the bridge is a part of the resonator cone.
For single-cone resonators, the cone has either a “biscuit” bridge or a “spider” bridge.
The National resonator used a biscuit cone, which is convex (pointing outward). Inside the tip of the cone sits a round wooden bridge (the biscuit), and set into the bridge is a small piece typically found on a guitar bridge – the saddle. The saddle keeps the strings elevated at the preferred height above the fretboard. The saddle transfers the string vibrations to the bridge and the bridge transfers them to the cone. The cone in turn vibrates, moving the air volume inside the guitar out through the sound holes.

For his Dobro resonator, John Dopyera decided to make his cone concave (pointing inward) and used an eight-legged “spider” bridge which straddled the cone. The vibrations from the strings travel from the saddle and down the spider “legs,” providing the cone with eight contact rods for vibration. The result is a loud, full-bodied tone.

Resonator guitars became popular in both blues and bluegrass. Dobro-style guitars, especially wood-bodied ones, were preferred by many bluegrass players. Blues players tended toward National-style tri-cone resonators. But plenty of guitarists break with tradition and use resonators in their own preferred ways.

Players liked resonators because, being louder than regular acoustic guitars, they could play for larger crowds in rural areas that didn’t have electricity for amplifiers. Street musicians, who had to set up without amplifiers, liked resonator guitars for the same reason.

Don Morrison makes both single-cone and tri-cone resonators. For his popular Rustbucket model, he says he flattens the corrugated steel sheets by walking on them so he can fit them through his ancient set of sheet metal rollers. Some of this old metal will still bear the makers’ stamps: Trademark Redcliffe, for example, or Lysaght Queen’s Head Australia or Emu Best. You’ll see these stamps on the backs of his guitars.

On some Rustbuckets he takes naturally weathered Galvo and adds an artificially rusted cone and sound holes, giving the guitar a distinctive, vintage look.

When he isn’t building resonators, Don Morrison is performing music, often Delta blues. During the ’90s his band, The Elmores, played blues classics by Elmore James and John Lee Hooker. He and his band Prawnhead are also a part of a “roots revolution” in popular music.

We honed our style on the streets and markets of Adelaide. We found the faster we played, the more money we made. We don’t play blues or folk, we don’t play country, we don’t play bluegrass, nor do we play rockabilly. But we play a mixture of all of those. We call it bluebilly.

Image courtesy of Slide Guitar for Beginners

Joni Mitchell, "Big Yellow Taxi"


A great environmentalist song from long ago, in 1970! That’s almost 50 years ago! This was off of her third album, Ladies of the Canyon, a reference to Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles where many hippies took up residence back then. There’s no way they could afford to live there now – it’s far too expensive. I have been through Laurel Canyon before, and it’s a beautiful drive. This was Joni’s third album and it is widely praised. Joni is originally Canadian, believe it or not. But by age 22, she was living in the US in Detroit, and by age 25, she was in Los Angeles. This song was covered by several other groups, most famously by Counting Crows, but I have heard that their version is not as good as this one.
I love Joni Mitchell, one of the great hippie folk-rock singers from the 1970’s. She was a genuine hippie. She lived in a large house on substantial acreage where she liked to wander about naked, smoke pot, and entertain various boyfriends.
And I would like to wish Joni Mitchell a happy 74th birthday. Yes, she is still with us. One more thing – she was always so beautiful. I have seen a photo of her at age 55, and she still looks fantastic. She was one of the greatest songwriters of our modern era.
Great epitaph for our planet with Donald Trump in the White House and Scott Pruitt as EPA head. Why do people who call themselves environmentalists vote Republican? How could they? Are there actually people who refer to themselves as environmentalists who nevertheless vote Republican? How can they justify it? Survey after survey shows majority support for all of our environmental laws, including the much-maligned Endangered Species Act. Yes, even the ESA has strong majority support. So majorities support environmentalism across the board, but a lot of them march off and vote Republican every year anyway. Go figure.

Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen, "This Land Is Our Land"

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me
And I went walking that ribbon of highway
And saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me the golden valley
This land was made for you and me
I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me, a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me
There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing
This land was made for you and me

In the squares of the city, in the shadow of a steeple
By the Relief Office, I’d seen my people
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?
Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking that freedom highway
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me
When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting
This land was made for you and me
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

Written by Woody Guthrie. Sung by Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger (age 80).
From the great inauguration of Barack Obama in 2008. I was in a doctor’s office and the news came on that Obama had won. I saw the crowds mobbing the streets, all marching towards the main park of Chicago. The volatile Spike Lee was there. “This changes everything!” He effused. There was a little Black girl sitting next to me, maybe seven years old. I asked her if she liked Obama. She nodded her head shyly. I had tears in my eyes. How dare these idiots call me racist! What sort of racist cries tears of joy when he hears that America just elected its first Black president?
The three bolded sections above are the “forbidden lyrics.” Although Guthrie included them when he wrote the song in 1940, they are seldom performed in modern versions as they were considered subversive as promoting socialism or Communism. The song is actually a great socialist anthem. Woody Guthrie was definitely a leftwinger.
Given the choice, I would rather have the land owned by me (the state) than owned by some private individual. What’s so great about private ownership of land? What’s better for me, land that I can walk on or land that I can’t walk on? How bout the land that I can walk on?
One of the reasons for China’s great success is that the state owns all the land. Everybody just leases the land where their home or farm is. In The Netherlands also, the state owns all the land. Everybody just leases out whatever land they use. Same thing in Cuba, but in Cuba now, almost everyone owns their own residence. And a great argument for China’s success against India’s failure is that much of the poverty, malnutrition, etc. in India is caused by the private ownership of land, especially in the rural areas. India said they were going to do land reforms and they claimed to do them over and over but the truth is that no real land reform has ever been done in India, and semi-feudal relations still prevail in the countryside. Hence the horrific poverty, starvation, etc.
One of the all-time great folk songs ever written. A purely American song like virtually no other. I believe we should replace that horrible Star Spangled Banner with this much better song. This song also captures the true American spirit. The land does indeed belong to all of us, you and me. All that land the government owns, it doesn’t belong to the government. It belongs to me! It’s my land, dammit! How dare the rich give away my land to malign corporations and the 1%! Forget that. You take my land, and you give it all away to the corporations and the rich to abuse and destroy. What sort of democracy is that?
Plutocratic rule is never democracy. How can it be? The plutocrats are what? 1% 5%? Where do idiot Americans get it in their heads that rule by the rich or the ruling class is somehow democracy. Aristocratic rule is never democracy at any time or in any place. It can’t be. You either have conservatism, which is rule by the rich or the aristocrats, or you have democracy, which is rule by the people. That’s your only two choices. One or the other? Which one do you want? The rich will never rule in favor of the people. They can’t. They literally cannot. They must rule in their class interests. It’s nearly a law of social science as hard and fast as a hard science rule.
Written by Woody Guthrie! One of the best working class folk singer-songwriters who ever lived. He was also a tough, macho guy, a redneck, a worker, a blue collar roughneck with a cigarette dangling from his mouth James Dean style. This is what the Left used to be before it was taken over by effeminate men, butch women, man-hating feminists, White-hating minorities who idolize common street thugs, anti-nationalists advocating to turn all of America into a teeming Third World Calcutta, all manner of sexual identity and sexual orientation freakazoids with so many weird subgroups that they are almost beyond classification, and in general idiots, fools, deviants and dumbasses.
Woody Guthrie is what the Left used to be. He’s what the Left is supposed to be. He was born too soon. He was Alt Left before there was an Alt Left!
This guitar kills fascists!

Peter Paul and Mary, "Puff the Magic Dragon"


Damn, this was one of my favorite songs when I was a boy.
It came out in 1963 when I was six years old.
When Kennedy got shot. When I saw my father cry for the first time sitting in the old chair grimly watching the flag draped coffin in the grim motorcade with the mournful music on the old black and white TV.
I remember where I was when I heard it. I was in a parking lot of a store. Then we were in the store. They shot the President! They shot the President! Everyone was running around this way and that, not making sense. Nothing was making sense. There was chaos everywhere you looked. The radio was turned on in the store, droning away with the brutal staccato newsmen’s voices. We went back out to our car. There was news, the same news, on every station and nothing else at all. It was in the afternoon, that’s all I know.
Everybody who was alive back then knows exactly what they were doing when they shot the President.
When democracy died. When the dream of America died with the Deep State coup. When the joke of American democracy was shown as the pathetic sham it’s always been, a think veneer for Deep State and oligarchic rule, the very story of America itself.
But this song was always nice. There was always something hauntingly beautiful about it. It’s a silly little kids song, but if it doesn’t warm your heart, then you don’t have one to heat up.
Listen and enjoy. From 1963! The concert, live from 1965. Dig those haircuts!

Check Out the People of Lorestan

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YI0DVXSbB00]
Here is a video of a people from Iran called Loris. They live in a place in Iran called Lorestan. They speak a language or languages closely related to Persian and one of the Kurdish languages. Apparently they are genetically related to both the Persians and Kurds.
There are some very interesting phenotypes in these men, though the hairdos seem like they are out of the 1970’s. The guys are dancing with each other, but that’s apparently their culture. As long as the guys don’t queer around with each other, I have nothing against men of other cultures showing physical affection, holding hands, dancing, whatever.
Some of these men look very standard European. Others look like Greeks. Still others have very interesting phenotypes that may be from the Caucasus. Others look like Gypsies. I was sent this video by a Lori friend of mine who refuses the “White” designation for some reason. He aid that his people, the Loris, are pure Aryan Iranids, with “no mountain nigger” in them. LOL, what’s “mountain nigger” in an Iranian context? What a funny term.
The music is interesting. I have heard some Pakistani music that sounds like this, and a lot of Punjabi music sounds like this.

Johnny Cash, "God's Gonna Cut You Down"

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJlN9jdQFSc&feature=list_other&playnext=1&list=AL94UKMTqg-9DBgF1IkgAz4GhXR7PVhf3Z]
This interesting music video is full of cameos by many of the world’s most famous rock stars and movie stars. See how many you can identify. I will start in the Comments section.
From the video: “Well, you know, Johnny always wore black. He wore black because he identified with the poor…and the downtrodden.”
A great proletarian singer, a working class hero!

Johnny Cash, "The Wanderer"

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0G2X0Zpgfw]
We punkers have always loved Johnny Cash. Check him out. He’s a punk! He’s one of the original punks, face it.
Look at how good looking he was a young man, and how dignified he was as an older man. He always had that sad look on his face. That’s the blues.
He’s also a working class hero. His songs are all about the working class, not about the idle rich.
You go Johnny! Even now, he’s singing from the grave.

Iris Dement, “The Wasteland of the Free”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhgb9hYjX3g&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PL5875AA879192AC3E]

The Bluegrass Left!

Let’s face it, the best folk music has always been leftwing. So has bluegrass. They’re both the music of the poor, the music of the people, both of which can never be anything but the music of the Left. Country music ought to be the music of the Left too, but for some odd reason, it’s the music of the Right.

Lyrics here.

“Protest Song,” by Alpha Unit

The public image of Woody Guthrie captivates me.

It’s quite a romantic image, even though there wasn’t anything romantic about much of his life. He is known mainly for being a songwriter – particularly for This Land is Your Land – and for being a Communist sympathizer, the worst badge you could wear in this country next to “Communist.” Some of you may have seen photographs of him on stage, his guitar sporting a label that read, “This Machine Kills Fascists.”

He began his career performing traditional music on the radio in Los Angeles. The way he ended up in California was the same way many of his fellow Oklahomans had – escaping the Dust Bowl. These “Okie” migrants were the object of a lot of resentment and sometimes abuse from California locals.

Woody Guthrie’s music found a ready audience among California Okies. It was during his time in radio that he began writing protest songs, one of which got the attention of a newscaster named Ed Robbin. He brought Guthrie into contact with some of the socialists and communists in Southern California.

Although never a member of the Communist Party, Guthrie wrote a column for The Daily Worker, ensuring his status as a fellow traveler. Success found him, but his lifelong fondness for being on the road and his discomfort with the entertainment business kept his life unstable. But his legacy is intact: the outsider giving a voice to all the other outsiders looking in on the American dream.

The Woody Guthrie song I love the most is a protest song not against injustice or fascism but against grown-up seriousness. It’s about one of my favorite things to do as a child and even now – going for a ride in the car.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUDtFdnn9oQ]

Homicidal Music

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Numk9kXDV1o]

Really, is there anything better than homicidal music? I don’t mean better than anything. Of course homicide itself is way more fun than just listening to songs about it, but unfortunately, most of us lead sheltered lives and can’t let our darkest fantasies run wild.

This is a great song, “If I Had a Gun” by a great new singer. Her name is Diana Jones, and she’s 45 years old. She has an interesting history. She was adopted and never knew her real parents. Moved around the Northeast a lot as a kid, ran away from home at 15 and lived on the streets for a while, then to dead-end jobs, and finally she got accepted at a major university.

She got a degree, then went into an MFA program at another university. Later she wandered around Europe, the whole time painting and playing folk songs trying to sound like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.

Around 10 years ago, she decided to look up her birth parents. It was hard to do, but she finally found them in Tennessee. She went to visit them, and there they were, people who looked just like her, mountain people. Her grandfather took her to Great Smoky Mountains National Park where they have a redone old village.

There they bought an Alan Lomax album. Alan Lomax was an interesting guy. He was a professor at a university, a musicologist who wandered around recording “forgotten music,” especially folk music.

They were listening to the songs, called mountain music, on the way home, and to her surprise, her grandfather knew them all. Turns out he had been a mountain music musician. That got her interested in the genre, and she has been recording mountain music ever since. The phrase mountain music is hardly known, but this type of music is better known as “old-time music.”

This is is the original American folk music.

It goes back to the early 1800’s and possibly even prior. Its roots were generally in English, Scottish and Irish folk music, and you can hear some of that in this song. The banjo is an essential instrument in this genre, and it has an interesting history in the US.

Most of us think that the Black contribution to US music began at the latest in the early 1900’s with Ragtime. Not the case. The banjo in the US was originally a Black instrument, modeled after some sort of an instrument used in Africa.

In Appalachia, Black musicians introduced the banjo in the early 1800’s. There are not many Blacks in Appalachia now, but there were more back then. There were few if any slaves there, even though most of the Appalachian states were slave states. In the Appalachian parts of these states, there was no use for Black slaves.

Many Black slave runaways probably ended up there after taking off from plantations in Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. Once you got into the mountains, probably nobody was going to find you anyway, and the mountain folk didn’t care about runaway slaves. These areas were very isolated. Many people never left their small Appalachian town in their lives, and most outsiders never went there.

Old-time music was biggest in Appalachia, but it was also present elsewhere, such as in New England, the Midwest, the South and the West. Since these other areas were less isolated, old-time music tended to go out as people were exposed to newer styles, but the remoteness of Appalachia allowed the music to continue on into the 20th Century relatively unchanged.

Old-time music is folk music, but it is not country or bluegrass music. But! Both country music and bluegrass music came out of old-time music. What’s fascinating is that we never think of all the all-White, redneck country and bluegrass music as being even remotely Black-influenced, but if they both came out of Black-influenced old-time music, there is even Black influence in the Whitest of American music.

I’m not too wild about folk proper, and a lot of bluegrass leaves me cold, but this song is killer! I’ve never heard a woman write a song about murdering her abusive husband before – what a great topic!

Her guitar? A 1967 Gibson. What else?

Further, it’s an excellent rejoinder to “Hey Joe,” the great song by Jimi Hendrix.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mBjG9chIFw]

Another great homicidal song is “Violence” by Mott the Hoople. Mott was only one of the greatest rock bands of all time, but almost no one has heard of them these days. They were a pretty big underground band in the 1970’s, and their albums Mott and The Hoople were pretty big hits, but then they broke up. Ian Hunter later went solo.

Viiiii-o-lence, viiiii-o-lence, it’s the only thing that’ll make you see sense!

Well, of course. Once you’ve experienced violence up close and personal, you will respect if for the rest of your life. That’s how it makes you see sense.

I’m a missing link, poolroom stink, I can’t talk
(Well that’s too bad)
What’s going on, something’s wrong, I can’t work
Can’t go to school, the teacher’s a fool, the preacher’s a jerk
(Well that’s such a drag)
Got nothing to do, street-corner blues, and nowhere to walk
Violence, violence
It’s the only thing that’ll make you see sense
Gotta fight, nothing’s right, livin’ nowhere
(That’s so sad)
Watch out for the gun, snake on the run, hide in my hair
You keep your mouth shut, or you’ll get cut. Haha – I like to scare
(Bet you’re so mad)
I’m a battery louse, a superstar mouse, I don’t care
Get off my back or I’ll attack, ‘n I don’t owe you nothin’ (OK)
Head for your hole, you’re sick and you’re old
‘N I’m here to tell you something
Violence, violence
It’s the only thing that’ll make you see sense

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2LbujFtaUQ]

From the punk era, there was “Homicide” by 999. Great song!

I believe…in homicide!

Resign to it…

Yo!

Sorry for this morbid post, but I was in a killer mood tonite and I could not resist.

Bruce Springsteen, "This Land is Your Land"

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yuc4BI5NWU&fmt=18]
A truly great video of Bruce Springsteen doing one of the greatest (or as Springsteen says, the greatest) songs about America ever written, This Land is Your Land. No matter what you think of Springsteen, I think you have to admit that this is one Hell of a killer rendition. I like it better than Guthrie’s original and a lot of the folkie renditions by Pete Seeger, Alto Guthrie and others.
The song was written by Leftist (Communist, really) Woody Guthrie in February 1940. This is one of those songs that really captures the essence of what America is really all about.
It’s a song that all real Americans, that means not only Whites but Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and any other assimilated groups, should embrace. If you can’t embrace this song because your heart is still stuck in Calcutta or Tijuana or Guatemala City or San Salvador or wherever, you’re not assimilated. That’s all there is to it.
Springsteen’s albums, especially from the 1980’s, really hearken back to a working class White American heartland that seems to be dead and gone.
Driving through California towns that have been turned by the 100’s into Tijuana or San Salvador, the last thing I want to sing is This Land is Your Land. If there was another version called This Land is Not Your Land, I would sing that instead. Increasingly, this feels like elegiac requiem from an America gone and never to return. Oh well, we still have memories, some of us do anyway.
It’s a beautiful song anyway, and it’s actually a very leftwing song (hardly anyone ever seems to recognize this), especially the “forgotten lyrics”, one stanza of which Springsteen revives for this rendition. Most Americans have never heard of the “forgotten stanzas” since they are never sung in the version taught to schoolkids.
Most people have not analyzed this song very well. In order to do so, you need to understand Guthrie’s life, for the song is actually autobiographical. It was written during WW2, but it is about events that took place 9 years earlier when he was 19 years old. Guthrie left  Texas in the midst of the Dust Bowl that laid millions of acres of prime farmland to waste.
The refugees moved West to California, in particular the Central Valley farming region, where they became known as the “Okies.” There are still many White descendants of these Okies here in the Central Valley where I live. They are sort of “redneck” and working class, but I don’t mind them that much.
There is one that lives in my apartment complex and at first I did not like him too much. I complained to a Black female friend about him, and she said, “Oh, he’s an Okie! They’re worse than niggers!
The movement of Okies to the Central Valley was not an easy one and it was memorialized for all time in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck is one of the all-time great California writers and Grapes is a fantastic American novel.
It was also made into a film but I never checked it out. But check out the book Grapes if you ever get a chance. Steinbeck also wrote some other acclaimed books, but I forget if I read them or not. They all dealt with California.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

This stanza is simply a paean to America and in particular its natural beauty.

As I went walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

This stanza is about Guthrie and his young wife heading out from Oklahoma to California along the famous Highway 66, a great American highway long memorialized in many folk, country, country-rock, rockabilly, etc. songs. The golden valley was California’s Central Valley, one of the most productive agricultural regions on Earth.

I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
Saying this land was made for you and me.

This stanza is again about the trek from Oklahoma to California. The “sparkling sands of her diamond deserts” refers to the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona that the highway passes through.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.

This part is a little hard to understand. “…The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling” must refer to the wheat fields of Oklahoma and the dust clouds of the Dust Bowl. But this line, “A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting” must refer to California. There’s a lot of fog in the Central Valley of California, and there is not much fog in Oklahoma, unless maybe you are near a lake.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

This is one of the famous “missing stanzas” that (with variations) is not often played, but sometimes it is, especially by the folkies. This is obviously a Commie dig at private property rights in the US. Such rights were particularly belligerently enforced in 1930’s America, when labor and environmental laws basically did not even exist.

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

This stanza is almost never heard, but it sounds pretty nice. The second half of it below is a lot more common.

In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

This is a very radical verse, apparently referring to the relief offices patronized by the Okies in Depression-era California. It’s interesting that almost no Americans have ever heard of these lines. This stanza is played by Springsteen, to his credit, above.