“Songs To Grow On: Nursery Days” by Woody Guthrie - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1946Album Chart of the Decade: 1940s

TJR says

The birth of Woody and Marjorie’s daughter Cathy in 1943, playfully nicknamed “Stackabones,” was a major change for Woody. He revelled in spending the day playing with her. Jeff Place in 1999 wrote: “Back in New York City in order to allow Woody the freedom of writing and now married to him, Marjorie worked as a dancer, while he spent much time with their daughter Cathy as well as writing. He often stated that many of his children' songs were written by her, and, indeed, she did inspire most of the children's songs he wrote in 1945 and later. However, Woody also had written songs for his children from his first marriage. He had an imagination and fantasy that made him almost childlike in many of his actions, and he could put himself into a child's shoes. His younger sister recalled that when she was little, Woody, when speaking to her, would always get down where he could look her in the eye-she did not have to look up at him as with all other adults. With this belief in the simplicity and innocence of childhood Woody became a contemporary Rousseau; the child is a free spirit of nature. Moe Asch recognized this, and in 1946 (Guthrie biographer Ed Cray has it in February and March) called Woody into the studio for recording sessions of children's songs.” Following their usual style of creating concept albums these would be dubbed the "Songs To Grow On" series.

“Nursery Days”, the first in the series, was one of the first album sets to be issued on the new DISC label. Woody's unique approach was to write songs that dealt with topics important to children written in language used by children. Every song calls the kids to action – mentally and physically: “Wake Up” (Mr Motivator’s morning stretch routine), “Clean-O” (encouraging good personal hygiene), “Dance Around” (personal expression), “Put Your Finger In The Air” (daft fun) and “Don’t You Push Me Down” (play, don’t fight). I would love to comment on the closing song “Jig Along Home” but, to my dismay, I was thwarted in my attempt to complete my recreation of this set due to the unavailability of that track. If anyone knows where I can buy a copy do please let me know!

In her introductory notes for this set, the children's music authority Beatrice Landeck was full of praise: “Woody's verses are full of gusto and vitality. He combines delicious-sounding words with down-to-earth imagery and flavors the whole with humor.” His friend, the composer Earl Robinson, would later explain: “The real Woody as I knew him was childlike, inventive, exuberant, brilliant, lovable, manic…. No wonder he wrote such terrific songs for kids. He could observe and penetrate kids' minds, and he knew how to deflate swelled heads.”

The Jukebox Rebel

A [03:10] 5.2.png Woody Guthrie - Wake Up (Woody Guthrie) Folk
B [03:01] 5.1.png Woody Guthrie - Clean-O (Woody Guthrie) Folk
C [02:15] 4.2.png Woody Guthrie - Dance Around (Woody Guthrie) Folk
D [02:55] 4.2.png Woody Guthrie - Put Your Finger In The Air (Woody Guthrie) Folk
E [02:27] 4.1.png Woody Guthrie - Don’t You Push Me Down (Woody Guthrie) Folk
F [00:00] 0.0000.png Woody Guthrie - Jig Along Home (Woody Guthrie) Folk
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