Nevada State College professor contributes to GRAMMY nominated historical album

By Mandi Enger

Nevada State College (NSC) Associate Professor of History Pete La Chapelle is a proud contributor to the “Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection” released by Smithsonian Folkway Recordings this July in celebration of folksinger Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday. This week, the Recording Academy announced that the three-CD box set had been nominated for the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards in two categories: best historical album and best packaging for a boxed set.  

In the historical album category, the 57-track Woody Guthrie set will compete with other retrospective albums featuring the work of artists such as Paul McCartney and The Beach Boys.  

“It is exciting that our project was nominated,” La Chapelle said. “Woody, composer of such songs as ‘This Land is Your Land,” left an indelible mark on American music history. Much of the credit for this great set goes to co-producers Jeff Place and Robert Santelli, audio engineer Pete Reiniger, and art director Fritz Klaetke, but I am glad that I got to play a part in it as well.”  

La Chapelle’s contribution adds to the set’s overall historical significance. Besides various early radio performances and a rare recording of Guthrie singing the unabridged lyrics of “This Land is Your Land,” the Guthrie set contains four songs recovered by La Chapelle during his doctoral research at the University of Southern California (USC) in 1999. The songs titled “Skid Row Serenade,” “Them Big City Ways,” “Do Re Mi,” and “I Ain’t Got No Home (In This World Anymore),” are the oldest-known Guthrie recordings to-date.  

La Chapelle additionally contributed an essay detailing his research and findings to the large format book that accompanies the set.

After completing his dissertation at USC, La Chapelle turned his research into a book, "Proud to Be an Okie: Cultural Politics, Country Music, and Migration to Southern California," which includes a chapter about these four early recordings which Guthrie recorded in Los Angeles, most likely in 1939.

Joining the NSC Department of Humanities in 2006, La Chapelle current teaches courses such as U.S. Western History, American Experience and Constitutional Change, and Popular Culture in Twentieth Century America.

“I look forward to sharing this nomination experience with the NSC campus,” added La Chapelle. “I hope the nomination of the Guthrie album inspires students and other faculty members to continually research their areas of passion.”  

The 55th Annual GRAMMYs are scheduled to take place Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013.

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