Growing up beside the Chisholm Trail, captivated by the songs of passing cowboys and his bosom friend, an African American farmhand, John A. Lomax developed a passion for American folk songs that ultimately made him one of the foremost authorities on this fundamental aspect of Americana. Across many decades and throughout the country, Lomax and his informants created over five thousand recordings of America's musical heritage, including ballads, blues, children's songs, fiddle tunes, field hollers, lullabies, play-party songs, religious dramas, spirituals, and work songs. He acted as honorary curator of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress, directed the Slave Narrative Project of the WPA, and cofounded the Texas Folklore Society. Lomax's books include Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads, American Ballads and Folk Songs, Negro Folk Songs as Sung by Leadbelly, and Our Singing Country, the last three coauthored with his son Alan Lomax.
Adventures of a Ballad Hunter is a memoir of Lomax's eventful life. It recalls his early years and the fruitful decades he spent on the road collecting folk songs, on his own and later with son Alan and second wife Ruby Terrill Lomax. Vibrant, amusing, often haunting stories of the people he met and recorded are the gems of this book, which also gives lyrics for dozens of songs. Adventures of a Ballad Hunter illuminates vital traditions in American popular culture and the labor that has gone into their preservation.
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John A. Lomax (1867–1948) recorded classics such as “Home on the Range” and “Goodnight Irene” and with son Alan helped launch the musical careers of Leadbelly and Pete Seeger. His extensive recordings and papers are housed in the Library of Congress and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.Review:
"At long last, John Lomax’s account of his efforts to elevate folk songs to the realm of high literature is back in print. It’s a story of one man’s struggle to get singers to sing for him, scholars to pay attention, and for all Americans to hear their own history unfold before them in song. A true American odyssey." (
John Szwed, author of Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World)
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