1913 Massacre

(28 December 2020 WKSU Public Radio)

Ramblin' Jack is currently touring with Josh White, Jr. and Odetta. They called their show "Glory Bound." We caught up with all three of them when their show came through Cleveland. Odetta said to us, "Now you ARE going to talk to Ramblin' Jack. He's gonna feel left out if you don't." We never had any intention of leaving him out. And he was still very animated over an hour after the concert! He told us, "It's always been very difficult for me to sit down except on a horse or some kind of a truck, or something that moves. I just don't like to sit still. That's been the whole problem all along in my life."

Each hour of Ornaments and Icing we try to find one vintage recording of a holiday song, and get a brief interview to enrich the hearing of it. When we considered a classic, Woody Guthrie came to mind. And he has perhaps no better living representative than Ramblin' Jack. But his only Christmas song is this very dark social commentary about an unfortunate event. We thought that while the message of the 1913 Massacre was certainly worthy, the song was too heavy for the sound of our show. Then the world changed. In fact, by September 11, just about all the other contributions had already been submitted, and so no one had addressed the new reality. That fell to our producer, Joe Gunderman.

But it also changed the atmosphere. The holidays were going to be different this year. Serious issues were again headlines that touched us all. In order to acknowledge September 11, the show would have a very serious moment. And to remind ourselves that those moments are with us all too often, we decided to revisit Woody's song, well rendered by Ramblin' Jack thirty years ago.

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