For decades, Alan Lomax traveled across America, the Caribbean and Europe, with a recorder and a camera in hand, trying to document traditional folk cultures before they disappeared.
Lomax was, in fact, the most famous American folklorist of the 20th century — the first person to record blues greats Muddy Waters and Lead Belly, the man who took down the oral histories of Jelly Roll Morton and Woody Guthrie, the chronicler of religious rites in Haiti and “ring shout” rituals from the Sea Islands off the Atlantic coast.
In his notebooks, Lomax documented his encounters with performers, his extensive travel and his collaborations with famous figures such as Pete Seeger, Zora Neale Hurston and his folklorist father, John Lomax. The Lomax family, friends and colleagues transcribed many of the performances and interviews he undertook during his years of fieldwork — including his stint as a Library employee from 1937 to 1942.
An interesting link found among my daily reading