||January 31, born in Austin, Texas, to Bess Brown Lomax
and folksong and cowboy poetry collector John Avery Lomax. Educated
at home and at Terrill Preparatory School, Dallas.
||Transfers to the Choate School, Wallingford, Connecticut.
||Attends Harvard University.
||Transfers to the University of Texas (B.A. Phi Beta Kappa 1936).
||Accompanies father John on their first field trip for the Library
of Congress, recording in eastern Kentucky and the state penitentiaries
of Tennessee, Texas, and Mississippi.
||Publishes, with John A. Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs,
and records Huddie Ledbetter (Lead Belly) at Louisiana’s Angola
||Collaborates with Mary Elizabeth Barnicle and Zora Neale Hurston
on collecting in Georgia and Florida, and continues trip with Barnicle
in the Bahamas.
||Marries Elizabeth Lyttleton Harold in Haiti, and records over 50
hours of the country’s urban popular and folk music and ritual.
||Made first federally funded staff member of the Library of Congress’s
Archive of American Folk Song, serving as “assistant in charge” and
earning an annual salary of $620; publishes, with John A. Lomax, Negro
Songs as Sung By Lead Belly, the first book devoted to an American
vernacular musician; conducts extensive recording trip with his wife,
Elizabeth, in Eastern Kentucky.
||Records the biography of Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton
in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress.
||Performs, alongside the Coon Creek Girls and Kate Smith, at a White
House concert put on by Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt for King
George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
||Writes, directs, and hosts American Folk Songs,
a twenty-six week survey for the CBS radio series American School
of the Air with Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, the Golden Gate Quartet,
Burl Ives, Aunt Molly Jackson, Alan himself, and field pickups of square
dancing, French-Canadian and lumberjack songs; series was continued
as Wellsprings of Music, which also ran for 26 weeks on the
CBS radio network. Back Where I Come From, written and co-produced
by Nicholas Ray (later to direct such films as Rebel Without a
Cause) was a later, coast-to-coast broadcast featuring many of
the above performers. Lomax continued to do special broadcast projects
for the war effort while in the Army during WWII.
||Conducts 5-hour oral history session with Woody Guthrie at the Library
of Congress. Appears in Will Geer’s Grapes of Wrath Evening,
a concert staged on the set of the Broadway production of Tobacco
Road and featuring Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, and others.
||Publishes Our Singing Country, with John A. Lomax and Ruth
||Collaborates with Lewis Jones, John W. Work, and Samuel Adams of
Fisk University on the Coahoma Country Survey, collecting sacred and
secular music in the Mississippi Delta and making the first recordings
of McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters) and David “Honeyboy” Edwards.
||Joins the U.S. Army and is assigned to the Armed Forces Radio Service,
programming shows of American folk music for troops overseas.
||Takes a job at the Office of War Information producing morale-boosting
radio programs such as “Bound for Glory,” featuring Sonny
Terry and Woody Guthrie, and “The Martins and The Coys,” written
by Elizabeth Lyttleton and starring Guthrie, Burl Ives, and Pete Seeger,
in which a fictional family feud is resolved for the sake of a united
front against the Axis. Produces the series Transatlantic Call:
People to People, for soldiers overseas. Daughter, Anna Lyttleton
||Produces, with People’s Songs, Inc., a series of midnight concerts
at New York City’s Town Hall, including Blues at Midnight, Ballads
at Midnight, Strings at Midnight, and Calypso at Midnight. Works as
advisor on folk music for Decca Records and, with Pete Seeger, who
had assisted with a similar task at the Library of Congress in the
late 1930s, combs through hundreds of old-time recordings in Decca’s
catalog to find and reissue examples of authentic Americana.
||Host and co-writer with Elizabeth Lyttleton of “On Top of Old
Smokey,” a folk music program on the Mutual Broadcasting
||Moves to Britain. While living in London, records the traditional
music of England, Scotland, and Ireland, working with folklorists Peter
Kennedy, Hamish Henderson, and Seamus Ennis, and other collections.
Makes numerous radio and television broadcasts of folk music for the
BBC and becomes a leading figure in the British folk revival.
||Makes first recorded survey of music in Spain.
||Makes comprehensive survey of Italian folk music with Diego Carpitella.
||Serves as editor of Columbia Masterworks’ World Library
of Folk and Primitive Music, the first recorded survey of world
folk song. 18 volumes will appear over the next several years.
||Publishes first article on Cantometrics, based on his work in Italy
and Spain, in Nuovi Argomenti, a journal founded by Alberto
Moravia, Alberto Carocci, and Leonardo Sciascia. Lomax was proud of
his association with leftwing Italian intellectuals, but said they
were shocked by the “barbarity” of music on his recordings.
||Returns to the U.S. Presents views on singing style and sexual restrictions
at meeting of the American Antholopological Association, by invitation
of friend Margaret Mead.
||Launches a major field trip sponsored by Atlantic Records, recording,
in stereo, traditional music in Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi,
Tennessee, Arkansas, and the Georgia Sea Islands, assisted by British
folksinger Shirley Collins, and later his daughter, Anna Lomax. These
recordings were released as the Southern Folk Heritage series
on Atlantic Records and as Southern Journey on Prestige Records.
||Receives American Council of Learned Societies fellowship to investigate
vocal qualities and study communications theory with Ray Birdwhistell,
Edward Hall, and George and Edith Trager.
||Launches, with Victor Grauer, the Cantometrics project, a comparative
study of expressive styles and culture which broadened to include movement
(Choreometrics) and speaking style (Parlametrics).
||On a six-month field trip to the West Indies, records traditional
music of English-, French-, and Spanish-speaking Caribbean, as well
as of Hindu community in Trinidad, sponsored by the University of the
||The Cross Cultural Study of Expressive Style, with anthropologist
Conrad Arensberg as co-director, becomes affiliated with Columbia University.
||Delivers, with the staff of the Cantometrics project, a day-long
report entitled Frontiers of Anthropology: Cantometrics and Culture to
the Anthropology section of the American Association for the Advancement
||Travels to Morocco with Joan Halifax to record traditional music,
as well as speech samples for burgeoning Parlametrics project.
||Publishes, with Cantometrics staff, Folk Song Style and Culture,
a collection and expansion of the papers delivered at the AAAS in 1966.
||Serves as musical consultant to the 1977 Voyager space probe project
directed by Carl Sagan, including the blues and jazz of Blind Willie
Johnson and Louis Armstrong, Andean panpipes and Navajo chants, polyphonic
vocal music from the Mbuti (Zairean pygmy tribe) and Caucasus Georgians,
alongside the works of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven.
||Makes field trips to Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia,
North Carolina, and Arizona to videotape regional American culture
for American Patchwork, a seriesthat aired on PBS in 1990.
||Founds the Association for Cultural Equity to support his research
and film projects.
||Receives the National Medal of Arts from President Reagan.
||Develops the Global Jukebox, a multi-media system for exploring and
cross-analyzing the music and dance of the world.
||Receives the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for non-fiction
for The Land Where the Blues Began, a memoir of his work in
the South from the 1930s to the 1980s.
||Lives in retirement with his daughter and grandson in Florida.
||Named a “Living Legend” by the Librarian of Congress.
||Receives Honorary Doctorate from Tulane University.
||Dies in Holiday, Florida, at the age of 87.
||Posthumously receives Grammy Trustees Award.