Timeline

1915 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.
1929-30 Transfers to the Choate School, Wallingford, Connecticut.
1931-32 Attends Harvard University.
1932 Transfers to the University of Texas (B.A. Phi Beta Kappa 1936).
1933 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.
1934 Publishes, with John A. Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs, and records Huddie Ledbetter (Lead Belly) at Louisiana’s Angola State Penitentiary.
1935 Collaborates with Mary Elizabeth Barnicle and Zora Neale Hurston on collecting in Georgia and Florida, and continues trip with Barnicle in the Bahamas.
1936 Marries Elizabeth Lyttleton Harold in Haiti, and records over 50 hours of the country’s urban popular and folk music and ritual. 
1937 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.
1938 Records the biography of Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress.
1939 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.
1939-40           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.
1940 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.
1941 Publishes Our Singing Country, with John A. Lomax and Ruth Crawford Seeger.
1941-1942 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.
1942 Joins the U.S. Army and is assigned to the Armed Forces Radio Service, programming shows of American folk music for troops overseas.  
1943-1944 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 Lomax, born.
1946 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.
1948 Host and co-writer with Elizabeth Lyttleton of “On Top of Old Smokey,” a folk music program on the Mutual Broadcasting radio network.
1950-58 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.
1953-54 Makes first recorded survey of music in Spain.
1954-55 Makes comprehensive survey of Italian folk music with Diego Carpitella.
1955 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. 
1956 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.
1958 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.
1959-1960 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.
1960-1961 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.
1961 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).
1962 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 West Indies.
1962 The Cross Cultural Study of Expressive Style, with anthropologist Conrad Arensberg as co-director, becomes affiliated with Columbia University.
1966 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 of Science.
1967 Travels to Morocco with Joan Halifax to record traditional music, as well as speech samples for burgeoning Parlametrics project.
1968 Publishes, with Cantometrics staff, Folk Song Style and Culture, a collection and expansion of the papers delivered at the AAAS in 1966.
1977 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.
1978-85 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.
1983 Founds the Association for Cultural Equity to support his research and film projects.
1986 Receives the National Medal of Arts from President Reagan.
1989-94 Develops the Global Jukebox, a multi-media system for exploring and cross-analyzing the music and dance of the world.
1993 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.
1996-2002 Lives in retirement with his daughter and grandson in Florida.
2000 Named a “Living Legend” by the Librarian of Congress.
2001 Receives Honorary Doctorate from Tulane University.
2002 Dies in Holiday, Florida, at the age of 87.
2003 Posthumously receives Grammy Trustees Award.

 

 

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