Buddy Holly, Woody Guthrie, and Alternate History SF

Quite possibly the best record review I ever read was an alternate history tale in disguise. I’ve spent a decent chunk of free time scouring the online archives of the great Americana magazine No Depression trying to find a reprint I could post here.  No dice.

The review was for Billy Bragg and Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue, Volume II.  This was the album where they put their music and arrangements to a batch of Woody Guthrie songs that Woody never lived long enough to record.

Rather than just heap praise on the album (a foregone conclusion given the magazine’s readership and the quality of the music), the reviewer wrote a story where Woody Guthrie didn‘t die.  Instead, he hooked up with Buddy Holly and kick-started the folk-rock phenomenon seven years earlier than it actually happened.

(Six years doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re talking about the difference between 1958 to 1965, it might as well be decades.)

The review celebrated Guthrie, Holly, and the whole history of post-1950s American music.  The big question for me was “Why did the review work?”  Why shoehorn Buddy Holly into Woody Guthrie’s story?

Answer: Buddy is the official go-to guy for desiderium and “might have beens,” in music and in science fiction.  Who else would you use?

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