FORGOTTEN AMERICAN MUSIC MASTERS
Seedy Jeffries was an American folksinger/songwriter, guitar/harmonica player, political activist, union organizer, painter, woodworker, pacifist, philosopher/poet, pontificator, cigarette roller, bindle consultant, essayist, expert whittler and accomplished whistler whose work often centered around the struggles of America’s poor, the efforts of workers to organize into unions and how pretty trees and flowers are.
Seedy’s critics accused him of being a rabble-rousing, communist-sympathising, unwashed, lazy, antagonizing, instigator and bum who would just as soon steal a cooling pie off a window sill as do one lick of honest work.
Seedy was born during the Dustbowl and into an actual bowl filled with dust (his mother went into labor during a particularly violent dust storm in Oklahoma in 1934). His family lived in the town of Sepatamaweeowacano, which after an oil boom in 1936, saw tremendous growth, but then up and went bust just three years later. Seedy’s father Seedy Sr., was a cranky old bean of a man who made the family many enemies in town due to his progressive politics. Seedy, Sr. leaned so far to the left that locals said he made Tobias Chesterton . Flagwell look like R.J. Wilkins MacAllister III, but politcial historians are unsure what that even means.
In his younger years, Seedy crisscrossed the country hopping freight cars and travelling with America’s free-spirited (some would say freeloading) underclass. During this time he wrote 3,000 songs, some containing only a single chord strummed repeatedly as Seedy complained about some such thing this or that Republican did or didn’t do. Seedy was also known to fill notebooks with sketches that were so dirty even grizzled old hobos confessed were “against God and all that is Holy on the Earth,” which never once stopped them from gathering around the campfire to look at them.
In the early 1960s, in an effort to appeal to a larger audience, Seedy’s manager urged him to join a folk trio and capitalize on the nascent Greenwich Village folk scene. Seedy formed the trio Patty, Sue and Seedy who cut their teeth as musicians by playing in the coffee houses of New York City covering classic Seedy tunes such as “This Land Ain’t So Bad, Mostly,”“I Ain’t Workin’ for You, You Dick,” and “Ain’t That a Bitch?” Seedy’s autobiography, This Train is Bound for Tulsa (Goddamnit) inspired millions of young people to take to the road in pursuit of personal fulfilment with many of them just getting the clap instead.
Seedy finally went electric on September 13, 1973 when he was electrocuted in his bathtub while making toast.
Originally published in RW#23, 2015
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