Alan Lomax

January 31, 1915 - July 19, 2002
Alan Lomax portrait

Musicologist, writer, and producer Alan Lomax (b. Austin, Texas, 1915) spent over six decades working to promote knowledge and appreciation of the world’s folk music. He began his career in 1933 alongside his father, the pioneering folklorist John Avery Lomax, author of the best-selling Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads (1910). In 1934, the two launched an effort to expand the holdings of recorded folk music at the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress (established 1928), gathering thousands of field recordings of folk musicians throughout the American South, Southwest, Midwest, and Northeast, as well as in Haiti and the Bahamas. Their collecting resulted in several popular and influential anthologies of American folk songs, including American Ballads and Folk Songs (New York: Macmillan, 1934); Negro Folk Songs as Sung by Lead Belly (New York: Macmillan, 1936), the first in depth biographical study of an American folk musician; Our Singing Country (with Ruth Crawford Seeger) (New York: Macmillian, 1941); and Folk Song USA (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pierce 1947).

After completing a philosophy degree at the University of Texas in 1936, Lomax conducted field research in Haiti with his wife, Elizabeth Lyttleton Harold. The next year, Lomax was appointed Assistant in Charge of the Archive of American Folk Song. In 1939, while doing graduate work in anthropology at Columbia University, he produced the first of several radio series for CBS. American Folk SongsWellsprings of Music, and the prime-time series, Back Where I Come From, exposed national audiences to regional American music and such homegrown talents as Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Aunt Molly Jackson, Josh White, the Golden Gate Quartet, Burl Ives, and Pete Seeger.

A joint field trip conducted by the Library of Congress and Fisk University in 1941 and 1942, and described in Lomax’s 1993 memoir, The Land Where the Blues Began, took him even deeper into the musical and cultural world of the African American South. In the hill country of Mississippi, he documented styles of fife-and-drum and quills (panpipes) music, ground-hugging dance, and hocketing song that had kept remarkably close to their African roots. In the Delta he interviewed and made the first recordings of 29-year-old singer and guitarist McKinley Morganfield, later known as Muddy Waters. In 1947, for the fifth time, Lomax returned to Mississippi with the first portable tape recorder to make high-fidelity recordings of Delta church services and of the prisoners’ work songs at Parchman Farm (the notorious state penitentiary), which he ranked among the world’s great music.

In the 1950s, Lomax compiled and edited an 18-volume LP series for Columbia Records anthologizing world folk music (a project which anticipated a similar UNESCO world music series by several years). His collecting and his collaborations for this project — with Diego Carpitella in Italy, Seamus Ennis in Ireland, Peter Kennedy in England, and Hamish Henderson in Scotland — laid the foundations for folk song revivals in those countries. Lomax, Kennedy, and their colleagues introduced scores of listeners to British and world folk music through BBC radio and television.

Returning to the United States in 1958, Lomax set out on two more long field trips through the American South. His stereo Southern Journey recordings resulted in nineteen albums issued on the Atlantic and Prestige International labels in the early 1960s. In 1962 he made an extensive survey of traditional music in the Eastern Caribbean, also in stereo, under the auspices of the University of the West Indies. Together with his Haitian and Bahamian recordings of the 1930s, and recordings made in Santo Domingo in 1967, Lomax’s Caribbean corpus amounts to some 150 hours of music, interviews, and konts (story-songs).

While in his sixties, Lomax embarked on a final series of field trips to the American South and Southwest, this time with a film crew and script ideas for exploring several fertile regional and ethnic American musical cultures. This resulted in American Patchwork, a prize-winning five-hour television series, which aired on PBS in 1990. Also in 1990, Blues in the Mississippi Night was reissued on Rykodisc, and Sounds of the South, a four-CD set of Lomax’s 1959 Southern recordings, was reissued by Atlantic Records in 1993. The Alan Lomax Collection (1997–2007), a CD series anthologizing Lomax’s six-decade recording career, numbers over a hundred volumes.

Associated with:
LC Name Source: LC Name Authority File
Appears in 14304 items.
Title Contributor(s) Date Track
Unidentified man 1938-01-01
Ferry dock in lake 1938-01-01
Unidentified men at church service 1938-01-01
Holiness preacher at church service 1938-01-01
Unidentified man in front of barn 1938-01-01
Toy-maker Willard Watson (second cousin of Doc Watson) of Watauga County, North Carolina 1938-01-01
Calf roping at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Cowboys at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Gates at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Cowboy and raccoon on horseback at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Cowboys at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Unidentified woman at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Calf roping at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Clown at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Horseback entertainer at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Unidentified female string band (with fiddle, guitar, and mandolin) at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Horseback entertainer at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Announcer at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Announcer at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Elderly women at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Announcer at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Unidentified woman at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Unidentified female string band (with fiddle, guitar, and mandolin) at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Cowboys at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Unidentified boy 1944-09-01
Unidentified female string band (with fiddle, guitar, and mandolin) at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Announcer at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Horseback entertainer at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Bullrider at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Clown at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Bullrider at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Unidentified girl 1944-09-01
Unidentified children 1944-09-01
Unidentified 1944-09-01
Unidentified 1944-09-01
Unidentified girl 1944-09-01
Bullrider at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Unidentified children 1944-09-01
Unidentified man in rocking chair on porch 1944-09-01
Unidentified children 1944-09-01
Unidentified boy 1944-09-01
Bullrider at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Unidentified man 1944-09-01
Unidentified girl 1944-09-01
Unidentified girl 1944-09-01
Unidentified man 1944-09-01
Unidentified man in rocking chair on porch 1944-09-01
Cowboys at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Model-T car with rodeo flyer 1944-09-01
Unidentified man in rocking chair on porch 1944-09-01
Unidentified woman serving popcorn at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Unidentified girl 1944-09-01
Bullrider at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Unidentified girl (over-exposed) 1944-09-01
Unidentified girl 1944-09-01
Unidentified girls 1944-09-01
Unidentified man in rocking chair on porch 1944-09-01
Unidentified female string band (with fiddle, guitar, and mandolin) at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Model-T car with rodeo flyer 1944-09-01
Calf roping at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Unidentified man in rocking chair on porch 1944-09-01
Unidentified man in rocking chair on porch 1944-09-01
Bullrider at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Calf roping at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Rodeo clown drinking bottle of soda at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Unidentified woman serving popcorn at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Calf roping at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Unidentified girls 1944-09-01
Calf roping at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Unidentified female string band (with fiddle, guitar, and mandolin) at Lincoln Park rodeo 1944-09-01
Hamish Henderson with lamb 1951
Oss Oss Wee Oss! (1953) Recordist: Kennedy, Peter; Recordist: Pickow, George
I Heard Scotland Singing Performer: MacLeod, Kitty; Performer: Strachan, John; Performer: MacColl, Ewan; Performer: Gillies, Mary 1951-12-04
Painting of cemetery by unidentified artist 1952-06-01
Cats in mosaiced courtyard 1952-06-01
Unidentified man and child at table 1952-06-01
Unidentified family outside cafe 1952-06-01
Unidentified woman with cat 1952-06-01
Unidentified woman and children 1952-06-01
Cat in mosaiced courtyard 1952-06-01
Unidentified woman in alleyway 1952-06-01
Cat in window 1952-06-01
Woman in mosaiced courtyard 1952-06-01
Unidentified girl 1952-06-01
Woman painting with cat 1952-06-01
Women with cats in doorway 1952-06-01
Woman with two cats 1952-06-01
Unidentified young woman 1952-06-01
Unidentified men 1952-06-01
Unidentified man 1952-06-01
Military serviceman at cafe 1952-06-01
Unidentified young men with mule 1952-06-01
Old woman and young man 1952-06-01
Woman with cattle in alleyway 1952-06-01
Old woman and child 1952-06-01
Unidentified boy 1952-06-01
Unidentified man 1952-06-01
Constantin Brailoiu at cafe 1952-06-01
Constantin Brailoiu at cafe 1952-06-01
Constantin Brailoiu at cafe 1952-06-01
Public letter writer 1952-06-01
Fruit stand at street market 1952-06-01
Unidentified woman at cafe 1952-06-01
Young woman at door 1952-06-23
Alan Lomax testing microphone at the Palma Festival 1952-06-23
Unidentified woman at stairs 1952-06-23
Alan Lomax recording at the Palma Festival 1952-06-23
Unidentified woman and young girl 1952-06-23
Young woman at door 1952-06-23
Streetcar 1952-06-23
Young woman in streetcar 1952-06-23
Unidentified woman at stairs 1952-06-23
Young girl 1952-06-23
Girls dancing in a ring at the Palma Festival 1952-06-23
Juan Marti 1952-07-04
Toymaker and boy 1952-07-04
Member of the Valdemossa folklore group 1952-07-04
Member of the Valdemossa folklore group 1952-07-04
Jaume Salva 1952-07-04
Young man in sailboat 1952-07-04
Unidentified women 1952-07-04
Members of the Valdemossa folklore group 1952-07-04
Unidentified young woman 1952-07-04
Members of the Valdemossa folklore group 1952-07-04
Toymaker and boy 1952-07-04
Antònia Estrada singing lullaby to child 1952-07-04
Francesca Mas Torres 1952-07-04
Recording the harvest 1952-07-04
Francesca Mas Torres at fruit harvest 1952-07-04
Donkey in orchard 1952-07-04
Francesca Mas Torres at fruit harvest 1952-07-04
Francesca Mas Torres in orchard with donkey 1952-07-04
Francesca Mas Torres in orchard with donkey 1952-07-04
Donkey in orchard 1952-07-04
Francesca Mas Torres at fruit harvest 1952-07-04
Antònia Estrada singing lullaby to child 1952-07-04
Fruit and straw harvest 1952-07-04
Francesca Mas Torres at fruit harvest 1952-07-04
Antònia Estrada singing lullaby to child 1952-07-04
Francesca Mas Torres at fruit harvest 1952-07-04
Francesca Mas Torres (in hat) and unidentified young woman 1952-07-04
Francesca Mas Torres 1952-07-04
Harvest 1952-07-04
Francesca Mas Torres at fruit harvest 1952-07-04
Fruit harvest 1952-07-04
Francesca Mas Torres at fruit harvest 1952-07-04
Sebastià Ordinas at microphone 1952-07-05
Sebastià Ordinas with flute and tabor 1952-07-05
Antònia Ordinas, daughter of Sebastià Ordinas 1952-07-05
Francesc Capó 1952-07-06
Maria Capó 1952-07-06
Maria Capó 1952-07-06
Bartomeu Bernat 1952-07-06
Catalina Mateu 1952-07-06
Miquel Capó 1952-07-06
Francesc Capó 1952-07-06
Catalina Mateu 1952-07-06
Farm boss 1952-07-15
Car on ferry between Ibiza and Formentera 1952-07-15
Windmills in field 1952-07-15
Passengers on ferry between Ibiza and Formentera 1952-07-15
Miller 1952-07-15
Windmill 1952-07-15
Windmill in field 1952-07-15
Windmill 1952-07-15
View of Formentera from the sea 1952-07-15
View of Formentera from the sea 1952-07-15
Miller 1952-07-15
Old woman spinning wool 1952-07-15
Windmill in field 1952-07-15
Passengers on ferry between Ibiza and Formentera 1952-07-15
Old woman spinning wool 1952-07-15
Woman on ferry between Ibiza and Formentera 1952-07-15
Horse-drawn carriages on pier 1952-07-15
Old woman spinning wool 1952-07-15
Passengers on ferry between Ibiza and Formentera 1952-07-15
Windmill in field 1952-07-15
Peasant woman 1952-07-15
Peasant family on road to mill 1952-07-15
Old woman spinning wool 1952-07-15
Peasant woman by fig tree 1952-07-15
Old woman spinning wool 1952-07-15
Two women in boathouse 1952-07-15
Car on ferry between Ibiza and Formentera 1952-07-15
Two women in boathouse 1952-07-15
Feet of dancers 1952-07-15
Maria Torres and Joan Costa Portes dancing 1952-07-15
Isabel Costa Joan and Joan Costa Portes dancing 1952-07-15
Peasant woman 1952-07-15
Joan Costa Portes dancing with castanets 1952-07-15
Isabel Costa Joan and Joan Costa Portes dancing 1952-07-15
Woman and child on ferry between Ibiza and Formentera 1952-07-15
Passengers on ferry between Ibiza and Formentera 1952-07-15
Joan Costa Portes (with castanets) and Jaume Roig Mayans (with drum) 1952-07-15
Maria Torres 1952-07-15
Old woman 1952-07-15
Joan Costa Portas with castanets 1952-07-15
Farmers and farmhouse 1952-07-15
Francisca Escandell Ferrer (with drum) and Isabel Costa Joan 1952-07-15
Isabel Costa Joan and Joan Costa Portes dancing 1952-07-15
Church 1952-07-15
Unidentified woman in traditional costume 1952-07-15
Maria Torres and unidentified man dancing 1952-07-15
Phoenician statues in castanet-playing position 1952-07-18
Miquel Bonet (right) and unidentified man 1952-07-18
Port of Sant Josep 1952-07-18
Port of Sant Josep 1952-07-18
Port of Sant Josep 1952-07-18
Port of Sant Josep 1952-07-18
Phoenician statues in castanet-playing position 1952-07-18
Josep Marí Prats (center) with members of the Ribas family 1952-07-18
Maria Ribas Tur with tabor 1952-07-18
Maria Ribas Tur with tabor 1952-07-18
Phoenician statues in castanet-playing position 1952-07-18
Phoenician statues in castanet-playing position 1952-07-18
Maria Ribas Tur (left) and two unidentified women 1952-07-18
From left to right: Antoni Riera, Maria Marí Marí, unidentified man, Josep Marí Prats, unidentified children and man 1952-07-18
Pedro, blind street singer in the walled city 1952-07-18
Mossèn Isidor Macabich Llobet 1952-07-18
Blind street singer by statue 1952-07-18
Beggar woman 1952-07-18
Maria Marí Marí 1952-07-18
Phoenician statues in castanet-playing position 1952-07-18
Beggar woman 1952-07-18
Portal Nou, Dalt Vila (Upper Town), Sant Josep 1952-07-18
Unidentified woman ("A friend," in Lomax's diary) 1952-07-18
Painters Antonio Marí Ribas (left) and Joan Ribas 1952-07-18
Josep Marí Prats (with espasí), Miquel Bonet (with flute and tabor), and Josep Cardona (with castanets) 1952-07-18
Vicent Ribas (with tabor) and Catalina Marí Ribas 1952-07-18
Josep Marí Prats (with espasí), Miquel Bonet (with flute and tabor), and Josep Cardona (with castanets) 1952-07-18
Josep Marí Prats (with espasí), Miquel Bonet (with flute and tabor), and Josep Cardona (with castanets) 1952-07-18
Left to right: Josep Marí Prats, Miquel Bonet (with flute and tabor), and Josep Cardona 1952-07-18
Flute and tabor 1952-07-18
Cheese shop 1952-07-18
Cheese shop 1952-07-18
Antoni Riera with tabor 1952-07-18
Miquel Bonet with flute and tabor 1952-07-18
Catalina Marí Ribas 1952-07-18
Church in town square 1952-07-18
Maria Marí Marí 1952-07-18
Port of Sant Josep 1952-07-18
Unidentified man and cart 1952-08-05
Unidentified dulzaina player 1952-08-05
Family on beach 1952-08-05
Old woman 1952-08-05
Sunbathers on beach 1952-08-05
Unidentified man in cart 1952-08-05
Family on beach 1952-08-05
Unidentified dulzaina player 1952-08-05
Antonio Escrihuela singing the Valenciana 1952-08-05