Leadbelly & Woody Guthrie Live! On WNYC 1940

This week Henrietta and Eli discuss outlaw ballads and how criminals are transformed into popular heroes. In conjunction with that and of extra special interest, they rebroadcast a show Henrietta produced for WNYC radio back in 1940. It is Leadbelly’s show and he has as his guest, Woody Guthrie. This program has not been heard since it was first broadcast 67 years ago! Down Home would like to thank WNYC and archivist Andy Lanset for providing us with this rare material.

Leadbelly & Woody Guthrie Live! On WNYC 1940

Henrietta and Eli would like to remind the listeners about the January 27th anti-war march in Washington D.C. For more information click here.


  1. hot dog, that was fantastic. thanks for the free listen. i think that might’ve been cisco singin’ bass on stewball hard to tell, though. i jest found your show, here, and like it an awful bunch. poor folks in this country are still writin n singin ballads, n tellin stories, but that damned ole “american idol” sorta notion of music seems to be purty big right now. i guess i find that most folks out here in indiana’ll watch the mtv until you git out yer gittar, n sing em outta their slumber. i guess its about exposure, really. everybody’s gotta song, someone just needs to sing it, that’s all.
    taker easy,

  2. That show – and that document in itself – is just so wonderful I can hardly believe it! Thank you so much for the listen…
    I just found out about your site – I’m french and currently living in Romania, and those two elements make it very difficult to listen to as much good music as I’d like to. Thanks again,

  3. Marc Conrad

    Thanks for this program. What fun.
    Leadbelly was to the folksinging and the blues what Satchel Paige was to baseball. Their contributions to their respective disciplines were immense but both struggled with finances. One wonders how important timing is. Both men would be wealthy if they lived today.

    I recall the first time I heard Leadbelly when my father and a friend listened to Irene, Goodnight Irene, off a small 78 rpm. My dad told me about LB’s checkered past. The combination of his voice, poignancy of his stories and reputation stuck with me forever.

    It is fun to know that Leadbelly and Guthrie performed together. Thanks again.

  4. Jim Lutz

    Tharnks sooo much for sharing this show with us. I closed my eyes and for just a moment I was back there in ’40, skipping around the dial and finding a piece of myself talking right back to me. Heroes don’t kill they lift our spirits when we need it most. Thanks again for sharing these true American heroes…

  5. Damien in Australia

    Hi, just wondering if this is the same as the tape the the Smithsonian put out with Guthrie and Leadbelly? Does anyone know, and if it’s not, can anyone tell me where I may be able to purchase that recording?

  6. Incredible! I thought I’d heard everything he did, but I missed that one. Incidentally, if anyone would like to read a great dramatization of Leadbelly’s violent and tragic life, my new novel, “THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL,” is available in both hard and soft cover at amazon.com and you can read all about its history at my web site, http://www.edaddeo.com.

    Ed in California

  7. Graham Carter

    That was AMAZING !!!! It was all fantastic but my favourite was “We shall be free”. Imagine being in that room with Woody, Leadbelly, Sonny Terry and possibly Cisco. Wow!

  8. Great stuff. Although I listened to the recording before way back when it’s still a pleasure to find it here, a place that I have just discovered. I do hope more jewels will come up.
    Keep up the good work, fellows!

  9. James Brown

    Just found this today and listened to Lead Belly and the man was a genius of our times.. Dylan must have been a great fan of his. The man is an unsung Hero…….

  10. I also just want to say thank you for posting this great historic recording, also the introduction by the great Henrietta Yurchenco. Especially being also a non-profit radio person, it’s such a shame I missed her in her lifetime and just learned about her recently.

  11. Lester Forbes

    WOW! this is such a special recording! thanks you for posting this, I’m listening in Manchester, England and I found this page when I was searching for Leadbelly songs.

    are there any more of Leadbelly’s radio programmes ?

  12. Martin Field

    I am just so excited to hear one of the pioneers of American Bluegrass/ Folk music,and to have the great man, Woodie Guthrie also, makes it more special.

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