Woody (far left) with the Pampa Junior Chamber of Commerce Band, Pampa, Texas, 1936.
when Okemah's boomtown period went bust, Woody left for Texas.
In the panhandle town of Pampa, he fell in love with Mary Jennings,
the younger sister of a friend and musician named Matt Jennings.
Woody and Mary were married in 1933, and together had three children,
Gwen, Sue and Bill.
It was with Matt Jennings
and Cluster Baker that Woody made his first attempt at a musical
career, forming The Corn Cob Trio and later the Pampa Junior Chamber
of Commerce Band. It was also in Pampa that Woody first discovered
a love and talent for drawing and painting, an interest he would
pursue throughout his life.
If the Great
Depression made it hard for Woody to support his family, the onslaught
of the Great Dust Storm period, which hit the Great Plains in
1935, made it impossible. Drought and dust forced thousands of
desperate farmers and unemployed workers from Oklahoma, Kansas,
Tennessee, and Georgia to head west in search of work. Woody,
like hundreds of “dustbowl refugees,” hit Route 66,
also looking for a way to support his family, who remained back
and hungry, Woody hitchhiked, rode freight trains, and even walked
his way to California, taking whatever small jobs he could. In
exchange for bed and board, Woody painted signs and played guitar
and sang in saloons along the way, developing a love for traveling
the open road—a lifelong habit he would often repeat.
“If there was anybody around there that did not play some instrument I did not see them... We played for rodeos, centennials, carnivals, parades, fairs, just bustdown parties, and played several nights and days a week just to hear our own boards rattle and our strings roar around in the wind. It was along in these days I commenced singing, I guess it was singing."