What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name “Woody Guthrie?”
I’m guessing that it’s not “children’s songs.”
(I would really like to know your answer to that question!)
Well, Woody Guthrie was a dad. He fathered eight children – starting with Gwendolyn Gail, born in 1935 and lastly Lorinna Lynn, born in 1954 – and reportedly wrote songs for all of them. Woody was, however, especially inspired by his daughter Cathy Ann, born in 1943; his first child with Marjorie Mazia, his second wife.
The first collection of Woody Guthrie’s children’s songs to appear on record came out in 1946. Titled: Songs To Grow On: Nursery Days, it was released as a set of three, 78-rpm discs by Moses Asch on his Disc Recordings label.
A second collection of six songs came out on Disc Recordings in 1947. This set was titled: Songs To Grow On: Work Songs for Nursery Days.
Woody wrote most of the songs for the second collection in late September, 1946, while Marjorie, Cathy and he were vacationing with Alan Lomax and his family in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.*
The first song on Songs To Grow On: Work Songs for Nursery Days is called “Build My House.”
I learned this exceptionally fun tune from a 1990 Smithsonian Folkways cassette album called “a fish that’s A song: 19 songs and stories for children.”
Give a listen!
Here’s the chorus, if you want to sing along:
“Bling blang, hammer with my hammer / Zingo zango, cutting with my saw.”
I hope you enjoyed that!
“Build My House” was retitled “Bling-Blang” when Moses Asch included it on the 1956 Folkways Records LP Songs To Grow On For Mother And Child.
Woody Guthrie wrote the liner notes for that album and offered these “instructions” for how he hoped the songs would be used by parents and children alike.
“Watch the kids. Do like they do. Act like they act. Yell like they yell. Dance the ways you see them dance. Sing like they sing. Work and rest the way kids do.
You’ll be healthier. You’ll feel wealthier. You’ll talk wiser. You’ll go higher, do better and live longer here amongst us if you’ll just only jump in here and swim around in these songs and do like the kids do.
I don’t want the kids to be grownup. I want to see the grown folks be kids.”
Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born this day, July 14, 1912 in Okemah, Oklahoma.
*From the liner notes with the Smithsonian Folkways CD Woody Guthrie – Hard Travelin’: The Asch Recordings, Vol.3, by Guy Logsdon & Jeff Place.