Open Thread - Thurs 22 Sep 2022: T-Bone Slim

T-Bone Slim: Wobbly Music, Poetry, Writing

Picture of T-Bone Slim when he was young

Last month I wrote a post which contained a tiny bit of history about the Wobblies (the IWW - Industrial Workers of the World) and one or two of their actions in the PacNW and mentioned a couple of their members (Joe Hill and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn). Kelly wrote a comment on that post about the Free Speech movement and the Wobbly actions in Fresno, CA.

One of the links Kelly mentioned, this one, led me down a different kinda learning tunnel because it included a video of a German band singing a song written by T-Bone Slim. I'd heard others sing the song, so I decided to learn about it, and its creator.

Wow. The song, 'The Popular Wobbly', is a parody of a 1917 hit called 'They Go Wild, Simply Wild, Over Me'. 'Popular Wobbly' first came out in 1920 in the IWW's Little Red Songbook. The song became one of those sung a lot in the 1960s Civil Right's Movement. Pete Seeger and Utah Phillips sang it, I'm sure that's where I heard it first as a youngster.

Here's the Video of the German Band singing the song:

A wee bit about T-Bone Slim: his real name was Matti Valentin (or Valentinpoika) Huhta, and he was born to Finnish immigrant parents in 1880 (or 1882) on Feb 14th, Happy Valentine's Day!, in Ashtabula, Ohio. So Joe Hill was Swedish, and T-Bone Slim came from Finnish parents; recently two of the best places for social democracy in the world. Makes ya kinda wonder about the influence of heritage, doesn't it?

T-Bone was well known in the IWW and contributed to the Little Red Songbook (new edition from 2010, internet archive edition from 1968), the IWW newspaper, different IWW books and more. He spent time traveling around as a hobo, working at various jobs all over the country. The IWW says:

T-bone Slim's columns tell us far more about the man than any biographical data we can find. Datelines and content tell us of his wanderings around the country, working the harvest on the plains, logging in the Pacific Northwest, visiting the IWW Working People's College in Duluth, or frequenting the hobo jungles near Chicago. The humor contained in them tells us something about the man.

T-Bone also worked on docks and barges on the rivers and coasts in the places he had wandered, and in the 1930's settled down in New York City.

The IWW continues:

He became the Captain of the Hudson River barge, "Casey", employed by the New York Trap Rock Corporation. He was a member of the Barge Captain's Local of the International Longshoremen's Association of the AFL, as well as the Marine Transport Workers Industrial Union 510 of the IWW, and was well known and respected at the union halls on the waterfront, where he sometimes played pinochle with the boys and discussed union affairs.

On May 15, 1942, a body was found floating near Pier 9 on the East River at 5:45PM by a patrolman. The body had been in the water for about 4 days, and showed no obvious signs of external injury. The case was ruled a drowning, and police speculated that the person had been drunk, fallen in the water, and drowned.

The body was not claimed, and was buried in a pauper's grave on Hart Island... known as Potter's Field. The body was identified, but the records do not tell us who identified it. It was Matt Valentine Huhta... T-bone Slim.

Huhta's death is as much a mystery as his life. Despite the police speculation of a drunk falling into the river and drowning, friends and associates all agree that Slim was not a drinker and none had ever seen him drunk. A few speculated that he might have been murdered . . . but no one has a motive, and no sign of violence was found on the body. Suicide? We may never know.

And John Westmorland's website says:

Adding further intrigue to the mystery of T-Bone Slim's death is the plot of a novel published in 1956- 'The Savage Streets'. The author, Floyd Miller, had worked on the New York waterfront during the late 30’s and early 40’s, while at the same time serving as a covert Stalinist infiltrator of the Socialist Workers Party. The plot of Miller’s book centers around the death of an old barge captain on The Hudson River who is described as a “Philosophical Wobbly" (IWW member). The official story was that the barge captain had a drunken accident. However as the plot unfolds it’s revealed that the old wobbly’s death was actually a murder carried out by powerful interests involved in a massive smuggling operation. In 1954, Floyd Miller confessed his spying activities to the FBI, and became a states witness in an espionage trial against his former handler. Two years later in 1956 he published his first novel The Savage Streets…

There's an upcoming album of T-Bone's work, which I'm looking forward to, done by John Westmoreland, who discovered by accident that his great grandmother's older brother was T-Bone Slim. So he's T-Bone's great grandnephew. Westmoreland has access to an unpublished collection of T-Bone's work, found in his family archives.

This video is the unpublished poem 'Resurrection' written by T-Bone, sung to music created by Westmoreland, you can access the video off of Westmoreland's website as well.

And here's Utah Phillips singing the Lumberjack's Prayer, another popular song, at one time, written by T-Bone Slim.

So, thanks for reading, enjoy the music, and here's the open thread - and remember, everything is interesting if you dive deep enough, so tell us about where you're diving!

Share
up
17 users have voted.

Comments

Sima's picture

That I really like: 'Only the poor break laws — the rich evade them.' Sounds about right to me!

Got the garlic bed almost ready for planting. Will probably plant it next week. Husband is getting in loads of hay to store in the barn for the goats for winter. Boy, has the price of that gone up! Once upon a time it was 17 bucks a bale, it's now 29!! *faint*

So what is everyone doing? Whatcha learning, or relearning, or enjoying, or listening to?

up
14 users have voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so

Last square bales I bought about 5 years ago, were $8. Alfalfa was about $10 per bale. Round bale is now $85, more or less.
Glad I do not have horses now. I could afford to care for them, but the cost would have an impact upon my basic living expenses. My lifestyle would change considerably.
Next year, how will farmers grow hay without fertilizer? wtf?
Hang in there, Sima.
Thanks for the bio and music of this fine wobbly of yore.

up
9 users have voted.
Sima's picture

@on the cusp
So square? They aren't huge, they weight 110 pounds. Husband stacks them four or five high, by himself! Me, I feel good if I can pull one off the stack and get it opened to feed to the goats.

Feeding the animals is now, as you said, a major part of our expenses. Vacation money, and fun money, is now partly spent on hay and grain. Will it ever go back to normal? I can wish, but doubt it.

We are switching to more locally grown hay, goats get no more alfalfa, that's for sure!

up
6 users have voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so

@Sima used in Texas since hay balers became a thing.
Despite fertilizing and seeding my hay fields for 14% protein, I later discovered wild grasses had the same or higher percentage.
Food, water, and vet bills would today really alter my lifestyle.

up
6 users have voted.
Sima's picture

@on the cusp
containing local grasses. I like it, the goats like it. My husband isn't sure, so we buy hay from eastern Wa. It's mostly orchard grass. It's really good, the goats like it better than alfalfa and waste a lot less of it. But still, I'd like to do that local stuff. Mind you, the goats have big pastures, so it's only for late fall to late winter that we have to buy hay.

We've had our driest summer ever here. EVER. We had a lot of rain in late Spring though, so the pastures only really dried out bad at the end of July. I can't imagine trying to feed horses now, even here, never mind in Texas!

up
5 users have voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so

@Sima 3 cuts for hay a year, last cut right at Halloween. I was typically producing about 800 to 1,200 square bales a year off 10 acres. Even during drought, I could get 500 to 600 off 2 cuttings. I never had to buy for my small herd of cattle or horses. Hay loses some of its' protein yearly, but second year hay is still good, if properly stored and not moldy. I wouldn't hesitate to feed 3rd year to any animal other than a horse.
I only fed my horses one tiny flake of alfalfa per day when we were in dressage competition season, or if winter was particularly cold. Too much will cause a horse to founder. Cows in recovery of some illness or injury might get a big flake daily, although that was rare. It was a treat, not a necessity.
I look back on the costs of doing my farming thing, my horse ranch thing, and I know absolutely, I would not be able to afford it now, without a significant lifestyle diminution.
That you, or anyone, keeps it going at such sacrifice makes my heart go out to you and them.
You have my heart.

up
2 users have voted.
QMS's picture

The fall equinox arrives on Thursday, September 22, 2022, at 9:04 P.M. EDT in the Northern Hemisphere. The equinox occurs at the same moment worldwide.

Break out the rakes!

Thanks for the wobbly T-Bones Sima. Will go well on Negril. Wink

Exterior2-TheCaves-Jamaica-CRHotel.jpg.png
up
11 users have voted.
Sima's picture

@QMS
Thanks for the reminder about it, I'd forgotten. Hah, shows how distracted I've been lately! Nice pic of the island too. We've got lots of raking to do here, might let out the goats first, they clean up a lot of old dried leaves. I guess they are like cookies for them Smile

up
4 users have voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so

is on the way. Thanks for your garlic essay of a few weeks ago. You reminded me to put in my order.
Here is Diana Beresford-Kroeger on the benefits of garlic.

2:35 minutes

I've been reading Beresford-Kroeger's book The Global Forest Here are a few samples from her book.

In the 1950's the global surface was 30% covered with forests and in 2005 it was in the range of 5%.

It is not necessary to use trees for pulp. All vascular plants can produce pulp and some can do it better than others. There are 250,000 plants that can make pulp for paper. One of these is Cannabis salvia-- hemp. Unfortunately hemp has a resin that has ruined combines when farmers attempted to harvest it. But there is a solution to that problem.

It is estimated that feral pollinators increase the average farm crop yield by 20% Trees help increase pollinator numbers by providing the diversity of pollen and waxes that bees need.

This book is an inventory of crucial benefits that trees provide. I find it fascinating.

Thanks for the interesting Wobbly info. I look forward to reading/listening to your post tonight.

up
9 users have voted.
Sima's picture

@randtntx
And that the piece I did on that reminded you! I really like the Beresford-Kroeger video as well. I didn't realize that about garlic and onions (and all alliums), that they help prevent cancer. Bodes well for me, I guess, I eat so much garlic and so many onions!

I love the quotes from Beresford-Kroeger's book. Thank you for those. Now I gotta find a copy of the book to read.

Have fun planting the garlic when it arrives. I dunno why, but I really enjoy garlic planting. Maybe because it's about the last planting of the season?

up
5 users have voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so

@Sima . I certainly do. I think I will probably have to read it again because it's so full of stuff that I want to try and remember. She has written a handful of books and they are all on my to-read list. I read her book To Speak For The Trees last month and recommend that one as well.

You did remind me about the garlic, and thank you! I think it was that very day that I put in my order. I anticipate having fun with the planting. I'm looking forward to the cooler temperatures of October. Fall gardening in my neck of the woods is infinitely more enjoyable than summer gardening.

Have a good one and thanks again.

up
5 users have voted.
Lookout's picture

Music has always been part of the "movement". Thanks for sharing your pieces today.

Not far from here is the town of Aragon, GA. Si Kahn a union organizer represented in the movie "Norma Ray" wrote this about the mill town he tried to organized. TPTB closed down the mill to prevent the organizing effort.

Aragon mill.jpg

...But her efforts ultimately succeeded, as the Amalgamated Clothing Workers won the right to represent the plant's employees on Aug. 28, 1974. Sutton later became a paid organizer for the union, which through a series of mergers became part of UNITE HERE before splitting off this year to form Workers United, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union.
https://www.facingsouth.org/2009/09/real-norma-rae-dies-of-cancer-after-...

As an aside, Norma Rae was filmed in Opelika, AL when I was in college in Auburn. I knew many of the extras. Now that's an old memory...

up
8 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout Nice song!
That was a good movie. The CIA doesn't allow those movies anymore, methinks.

up
6 users have voted.
Sima's picture

@Lookout
What a great song. The movie 'Norma Rae' was great too, I learned a lot from it when I saw it when I was a teen. Maybe movies like that are what woke me up. I don't know. Working with IC testers on assembly lines also helped. Thank you for the links, I have learned more from them! Glad to bring up an old memory about the movie extras too!

up
5 users have voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so

Sima's picture

@Lookout
Si Kahn's CD, Aragon Mill: the Bluegrass Sessions. Couldn't resist. Thanks for the ear worm rabbit hole! Smile

up
6 users have voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so

@Lookout , of the Si Kahn tune as well as the movie 'Norma Rae'. Thanks Lookout.

up
5 users have voted.