PHILADELPHIA LAWYER (AKA "RENO BLUES")

(WOODY GUTHRIE) (1937)
(as recorded by ROSE MADDOX & THE MADDOX BROTHERS, 1940s)


Any copyrighted material on these pages is used in "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).


DOWNLOAD AND LISTEN to a soundclip (Real Audio, 70 KB) of Guthrie's version.



WOODY GUTHRIE & "LEFTY LOU FROM OLD MIZOO"
"LEFTY LOU" (MAXINE CRISSMAN):
When we first started out, we didn't have too many songs; then that was how Woody started putting his own version to original old songs. And then after a while we ran out of those, and he started writing his own.

And he came up with "Oklahoma Hills" and "Reno Blues," and all those came about by accident, by a news clipping, when I found this clipping of the cowboy being shot, you know, in an argument over a girl in Reno. So Woody came up and he looked at it and wrote "Reno Blues" or "Philadelphia Lawyer" at that time.

And when we did it on the air, this man, a friend of the cowboy, wrote to us and sent a picture of the cowboy that had been shot.

ROSE MADDOX:
When my brothers and I first started in the music business, we used to follow the rodeos, and we'd set up in a bar and play.

And right across the street from us, in another bar, was Woody Guthrie and Jack Guthrie playing and singing and doing the same thing we was -- playin' for tips so they could get some food put in their stomach... And I would stand outside and listen, and that's when I learned the "Philadelphia Lawyer," which was then known as the "Reno Blues."

The last account I had was back in the late '40s, and it had sold over eight million then, and at that time, that was a lot of records...

"Hard Traveling" BBC TV documentary, c. 1985;
transcribed by Manfred Helfert.


Woody Guthrie was a writer of hundreds of songs, however, he composed very little music. His style was to parody folksongs, and 'Philadelphia Lawyer' is one of his best known parodies, which was based on the old folk ballad 'The Jealous Lover.' Woody wrote the lyrics sometime around August, 1937, while he was singing over KFVD in Los Angeles. He first titled it 'Reno Blues'.... It is possible that when it was sung over KFVD, that someone wrote it down and that it eventually was brought to the attention of Rose Maddox who recorded it. Her words are identical to Woody's version; only the title was changed to 'Philadelphia Lawyer.'

Guy Logsdon, University of Tulsa, OK; reprinted in Dorothy Horstman (ed.), Sing Your Heart Out, Country Boy, New York, NY, 1976, pp. 406-407.


Lyrics as recorded by ROSE MADDOX & THE MADDOX BROTHERS, 1940s;
transcribed by Manfred Helfert.
© 1949 Michael H. Goldsen, Inc.


Way out in Reno, Nevada,
Where romance blooms and fades,
A great Philadelphia lawyer
Was in love with a Hollywood maid.
"Come, love, and we will wander
Down where the lights are bright.
I'll win you a divorce from your husband,
And we can get married tonight."

Wild Bill was a gun-totin' cowboy,
Ten notches were carved in his gun.
And all the boys around Reno
Left Wild Bill's maiden alone.
One night when he was returning
From ridin' the range in the cold,
He dreamed of his Hollywood sweetheart,
Her love was as lasting as gold.

As he drew near her window,
A shadow he saw on the shade;
'Twas the great Philadelphia lawyer
Makin' love to Bill's Hollywood maid.
The night was as still as the desert,
The moon hangin' high overhead.
Bill listened awhile to the lawyer,
He could hear ev'ry word that he said:

"Your hands are so pretty and lovely,
Your form's so rare and divine.
Come go with me to the city
And leave this wild cowboy behind."
Now back in old Pennsylvania,
Among those beautiful pines,
There's one less Philadelphia lawyer
In old Philadelphia tonight.


TO TOP OF PAGE

TO WOODY GUTHRIE PAGE

TO AMERICAN HISTORY IN SONG PAGE

TO STARTING PAGE


Get your own Free Home Page