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BrooklynJay Tom Taylor ? Did Woody---Where is he? (16) RE: Tom Taylor ? Did Woody---Where is he? 17 Oct 17

A little digging turned up this nice article from the Temple Daily Telegram website. Although the article is a little over 5 years old, it seems to fill in some of the gaps about Tom Taylor and his Woody Guthrie show.

Temple Daily Telegram article


Two men with Bell County roots bound for, and by, glory

By Patricia Benoit TDT Jul 16, 2012

Tom Taylor rambled around in search of singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie, the Dust Bowl troubador. Along the way, Taylor discovered himself and what makes life worth living.

The prolific poet of the Great Depression in the 1930s, Guthrie became the voice of a generation as he sang about rejection and being down and out, but he led a troubled life. In his lifetime, Guthrie wrote perhaps a thousand songs. Taylor hasn't written that many, but he has the soul-satisfying contentment Guthrie never found.

This weekend marked the 100th birthday of Woody Guthrie, born July 14, 1912, in Okemah, Okla., and grew up in Pampa.

Woodrow Wilson "Woody" Guthrie (1912–1967) was the son of Charles Edward and Nora Belle Tanner Guthrie. Charles was the son of Jeremiah Pearsall Guthrie. Locals can take a little credit for him, because Guthrie's father, Charley, and grandfather, Jerry P., hailed from west Bell County. In an interesting musical twist, Taylor helped perpetuate Guthrie's image and life just after his death.

The Guthries hailed from Crossville, a loosely organized farming community straddling the Bell and Coryell county lines, now part of Fort Hood and about three miles from the present location of Metroplex Medical Center in Killeen.

The settlement began in 1872 - probably about the time the Guthries moved to Bell County. Crossville also provided area farmers with a general store, grist mill, cotton gin and one-room school. Ample water from a small branch of the eastern Clear Creek made Crossville a handy stopover for travelers.

Grandfather Jerry P. Guthrie was prosperous enough to send Charley to Salado College, where he graduated. Charley managed to parlay his education into a job briefly as a Bell County clerk in the 1890s. When the railroads arrived in the early 1880s, Crossville dwindled and many moved on to Copperas Cove and Killeen. Jerry P. moved his family, including Charley, north to Indian Territory in 1897. Charley and his wife and two young children in 1907 moved to Okemah, where Woody was born.

In his memoirs, Guthrie recalled his father was a gifted musician who learned songs from Mexican immigrants, black workers and his Scot-Irish ancestors who all converged in 19th-century Bell County. That mixed musical heritage helped shape and inspire the young Woody.

About the time Guthrie died of Huntington's disease, Taylor was working on his master's from the University of Texas at Austin in speech and drama. He discovered Woody Guthrie's material almost by happenstance, looking for a thesis topic. Guthrie's voice on a taped interview was a revelation, he said.

Several rewrites later, his one-man show evolved into a full-blown success. From academia to Austin performance venues, Taylor's one-man show took off. From there, he was invited to Scotland, and the show moved on to London, where it garnered glowing reviews.

For the next decade, Taylor became an inveterate wanderer as he and Guthrie cohabitated on stage. His travels with Guthrie garnered him praise, notoriety and friendships with the singer's close pals Will Geer and Burl Ives. Taylor also performed in the White House at the invitation of President Jimmy Carter. Guthrie's widow as well as his children and grandchildren also were special fans and supporters of his performance.

For a decade, Taylor toured 300 days a year throughout the United States and overseas as his wife and two young children stayed back in Temple.

Taylor admitted that not all of Guthrie's life was good. "He was terribly irresponsible with family but he had special moments with his children. He had a great spirit," he said. "There's no denying his genius. In some ways I loved him, but as I grew as a father, we moved apart."

Then, in 1980, as Lily Tomlin produced the Guthrie show in Beverly Hills, Taylor hit a personal crisis as the long months on the road took a heavy toll.

"I had to go home," Taylor said. "I told my manager, ‘Thanks for the ride, but it's not worth my family.' I can't be the husband and father I need to be."

He returned to Bell County to reconnect with his roots and to those he loved. He got "a real job" and never regretted his decision.

Nevertheless, Guthrie's spirit might have lingered, because Taylor embarked on a productive creative period, writing and composing on his own. He found his true calling as a storyteller.

Nowadays, Taylor is retired and selective about his gigs, devoting himself to youth and church groups. He and buddy Scott Brookshire - whose nom de guerre is Century Man - perform locally as Bubba's Bible and Tire. And, he has just returned from a recent two-week performance tour in Israel with a group of other entertainers and raconteurs.

For Taylor, Guthrie's life reveals an important life lesson: "Take care of your family and your land; be a hard worker and fight against those things that would destroy that."

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