Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pete Seeger - "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy"

Here's Pete Seeger performing an anti-war song "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" during a second-season episode of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Seeger had been largely off television and radio since the early '50s due to blacklisting. His influential folk group - The Weavers - raised the suspicion of the FBI by performing too many protest songs and publicly supporting labor unions. In 1955, Seeger refused to testify at the House Committee on Un-American Activities hearings.

During his first appearance on the Smothers show, CBS refused to air this song. His performance for the studio audience never aired. On his second appearance, however, CBS had become a bit more amenable to the show (and its high ratings) - and Seeger was allowed to do "Big Muddy".

"The Big Fool" referenced in the song was interpreted by many to be then-President Lyndon Johnson, and the "Big Muddy" as Vietnam (not World War II as the lyrics indicate).

The performance was viewed by 12 million households - and not long after it aired, Lyndon Johnson withdrew his candidacy for re-election. I'm sure it wasn't a direct result of this appearance, but it sure couldn't have helped.