Woody Guthrie, born in Okemah, was named after President Woodrow Wilson. He discovered at a young age his ability to make up songs on the spot, and as a teenager in Pampa, Texas, formed a group called the Corncob Trio.
His music had a wry and sometimes biting sense of humor, but he chose to sing feel-good songs and humorous songs, instead of singing about his own misery.
During the 1950’s and 60’s a new generation discovered Woody Guthrie. Many of his songs became quite popular through the renditions of folk singer Bob Dylan, who spent much of his early career trying to emulate Woody in musical style, dress, and posture. Woody’s profound influence on American music as a whole is reflected in his influence on artists such as Dylan.
In 1967, after a heroic 15-year struggle with Huntington’s Disease, Woody died. A year before his death he was given the Conservation Service Award by the U.S. Department of the Interior, because of his love for the land that is contained in so many of his songs and writings.