Lomax, John Avery

Lomax, John Avery lōˈmăks [key], 1867–1948, American folklorist, b. Goodman, Miss. Lomax's first book, Cowboy Songs (1910), contained for the first time in print such songs as “The Old Chisholm Trail,” “Git Along Home Little Dogies,” and “Home on the Range.” Collecting and recording songs in Southern penitentiaries, he discovered Leadbelly, who provided the material for his Negro Folk Songs as Sung by Lead Belly (1936), which he compiled with his son, Alan Lomax, 1915–2002, b. Austin, Tex. In addition to the Leadbelly collection, father and son collaborated in compiling American Ballads and Folk Songs (1934), Our Singing Country (1941), and, with Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger, Folk Song: U.S.A. (1947) In 1983 Alan founded the Association for Cultural Equity (ACE) to enable the communities the songs came from to profit from them. ACE's Global Jukebox (2017) provides Internet access to more than 6,000 songs Lomax recorded or acquired; the project was completed by his daughter, the anthropologist Anna Lomax Wood.

The younger Lomax began his career as a folklorist and musicologist as a teenager when he recorded folk artists visited by his father. He was the first person to record not only Leadbelly, but such musical greats as Woody Guthrie and Muddy Waters. He also compiled The Folk Songs of North America (1960) and wrote a memoir of his Southern travels, The Land Where the Blues Began (1993).

See J. A. Lomax's autobiography (1947); biography of Alan Lomax by J. Szwed (2010); T. Piazza, The Southern Journey of Alan Lomax (2012).

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