Thursday, June 21, 2012

Doggie Shit a Rice Straw


Somebody acquired an old acetate recording machine. We were all very poor so that blank acetates were hard to come by. You could record on both sides. I remember being invited to go out to a poetry session at Swarthmore where poets were going to play records of their own poems. Then there would be a generalized discussion on poetry. I found a blank acetate and recorded some pretentious poem I wrote. I think I still have a copy of it. It was titled by Woody [Guthrie]. He ran across it and gave it the title, "What town is this?" But I went out to Swarthmore somehow and sent my record up to the stage to be played. There was a very nice lady named Josephine Truslow Adams who was involved in that. I think she was my sponsor. She took the record and put it on. But, she put the wrong side on. On that side was a song Pete [Seeger] and Woody had recorded, Woody playing a country fiddle and Pete playing mandolin. It began with Woody yelling out, "Doggie shit a rice straw!" and then breaking out into this prodigious fiddle breakdown. So, the first thing this sedate poetry group heard, instead of my lovely literary effort, was "Doggie shit a rice straw" which shook them up a little bit. They took it off the machine and never did turn it over and put it on the other side.
-- Lee Hays, musician, folklorist, civil rights pioneer, and poet (who had a poem in POETRY magazine in 1940 ["a New York Times in every flowerpot"]), from "Song Out, Warning! Sing Out, Love!" : The Writings of Lee Hays, ed. by Robert S. Koppelman; Hays is best remembered as a member of The Almanac Singers and The Weavers, and as the writer of "If I Had a Hammer."  Video: Lee Hays, singing his famous song with The Weavers.

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