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Pete Seeger (RIP)

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How Waist Deep in the Big Muddy Finally Got on Network Television in 1968


Most of my life I have assumed that the kind of songs I sing would not normally get played on the airwaves. I pointed to examples like Woody Guthrie’s song, “This Land Is Your Land” to show that they don’t have to get played on the airwaves. If it’s a real good song, it will get spread around anyway.

But in 1967 I wrote what I thought was a real good song, and I knew there wasn’t time for it to get around the country. People were being killed every day in Vietnam. I had a recording contract with Columbia Records at that time, and my friends there even agreed to put out a record of it; but the sales department just laughed at us both. The records stayed on the shelves and weren’t even sent to the stores.

But two young comedians had a successful television show, and they asked their bosses if I could be a guest on their show. The Smothers Brothers were turned down by CBS TV at first, but finally they said O.K. I flew out to California and sang some songs that had been sung by American soldiers in four different wars-the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, and lastly this song, “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.”
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