About John A. Lomax Jr.
In 1969, my father John Avery Lomax Jr. (1907-1974), sat down in his Houston, Texas home with a cassette deck and recorded about 160 of his favorite songs winnowed from 60 years of hearing them and at least from the 1930s on, singing them. This disc stands as a time capsule of this Texas folksinger's 1950s and 60s repertoire.
I grew up listening to my dad sing these songs as he had grown up listening to his dad sing them. As a youth, it didn't really dawn on me that I had been born into one of America's premier folk music families and that other kids hadn't grown up hearing these songs too.
My brother Joseph Franklin Lomax, kept the tapes until his death, whereupon I inherited them and brought them to Nashville, my home since 1973.
Our dad, a muscular six-footer, sang in a booming baritone voice - he was not a trained vocalist - but rather a singer who learned by doing. What he lacked in polish and professionalism, he made up for with a proud and passionate delivery.
My father made a fine living as a successful real estate developer, providing for his wife Margaret ("Mimi"), Joe and me - but his passion was music - specifically the cowboy songs, prison laments and Appalachian ballads he learned growing up in Austin. He never tired of sharing these songs of our heritage - rearranging some, condensing others and creating a few along the way. He sang them until the day that he died.
To me, this is music at its purest - a song and a voice - surely the starting point for all the music that has followed, from the first crude instruments up to symphony orchestras.
Despite his occupational demands, John A. found the time to manage, book and tour with blues titan Lightning Hopkins and helped establish the Houston Folklore Society, which provided key early exposure for Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams and K.T. Oslin. With Mark McCormick, he led Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwicz to Mance Lipscomb, who became the first Arhoolie artist. In the 50s, John also released two albums of his most cherished selections for Folkways Records both of which are still available today.
Thus you can imagine my excitement when I discovered the living room cassettes from 1969, recorded in his inimitable a cappella delivery and characteristic zest! I had them transferred to disc and listened to all the songs many times. Here in this CD is the first batch - preserved so my children, their children and folks everywhere can enjoy these slices of America's treasured past. Hope you like them - there's lots more waiting to be released.
This project involves many Lomaxes, spanning four generations, with their birthdays spread from 1867-1979! My father learned many of these songs from his father, the pioneering folklorist John Avery Lomax. John Jr's brother Alan, who carried on and extended the field recording / folk preservation work, was also involved in the recording and promotion of many of the selections. My brother Joseph, who had begun singing professionally in the early 1980s, kept the recordings safe from 1969-1988. Alan's daughter, Dr. Anna Lomax Wood and our cousin Nicholas Hawes made song suggestions. My son, Texas writer John Nova Lomax, lent his ears to the project. My daughter, photographer Amanda Margaret Lomax, provided insights into photo selection. And my sweet wife Melanie provided her usual insights and support. I'd call that Maximum Lomax!
John Lomax III / 2016