|:: Description ::
||90.2 WBUR, Boston, NPR station: "The Connection" memorial program about Alan Lomax with Studs Terkel, Bill Nowlin, co-founder of Rounder Records, and John Cohen, photographer and performer with the New Lost City Ramblers. Host: Robert Siegel
|:: Project ::
||"The Connection" Alan Lomax memorial
|:: Date Range ::
||07-25-2002 to 07-25-2002
|:: Particpants ::
|:: Subjects ::
|Lead Belly - Alan Lomax and his father's meeting with|
|Folk revival - Alan Lomax and the|
|Aunt Molly Jackson and Alan Lomax|
|Big Bill Broonzy - Alan Lomax|
|Weavers, The - and the Almanac Singers|
|"Goodnight, Irene" - evolution of "Goodnight Irene" as sung by Lead Belly|
|Iron Head's "Love My Darlin O", sung by Alan Lomax|
|Carl Sandburg's friendship with John A. Lomax|
|Wade Ward interviewed by Alan Lomax|
|Dale Poe - old-time musician interviewed by Alan Lomax|
|Charley Higgins interviewed by Alan Lomax|
|Scottish children's game songs recorded by Alan Lomax|
|Cajun music - Alan Lomax's championing of|
|Bluegrass - Alan Lomax's early interest in|
|Bahamian music - Alan Lomax's early interest in|
|:: Cultures ::
|:: Holdings ::
|:: Notes ::
||Tape begins with a false start and several minutes of silence as they adjust a recording of the news.
"The Connection" program opens with a clip of "Po Lazarus," which had been featured in recent film and Grammy winning CD,"O Brother, Where Art Thou."
Discussion of the place of folk music and the 1950s folk revival. Terkel: the revival was an extension of an earlier, more explicitly political movement. The Weavers were an incarnation of the Almanac Singers. The importance of Lead Belly to the folk revival. According to Studs Terkel, John A. Lomax really wrote Carl Sandburg's book. Alan had as social conscience. His life was about the twentieth century. He took his tape recorder into churches and taverns, black and white.
Bill Nowlin: Alan Lomax was a crusader, that's why we admire him. Aunt Molly Jackson lived with him for almost a year. He traveled widely in the British Isles and Italy, and in Spain, almost on the run from the Franco regime, as the first person, and in some senses almost the last to record rural folk traditions as they were about to disappear.
Clip of Lead Belly's original recording of "Goodnight, Irene" with talking introduction and verse "I'll take morphine and die" [omitted by the Weavers in their hit version].
Discussion of Lead Belly and the widespread image of Lomax presented him in prison stripes [sic]. He wanted to bring this music to people with a dramatic flair that seems over the edge to people today. Bill Nowlin suspects that Lead Belly appreciated a comfortable life in Connecticut rather than a prison farm in the South. [Note: Alan Lomax is here being conflated with his father, John A. Lomax. Lead Belly appeared in prison stripes in one of the first Time-Life March of Time newsreels, he accompanied John A. Lomax's lectures wearing overalls while performing]
Studs Terkel on the atmosphere of the 1940s when people in the north knew little about the south. He mentions the Henry Wallace campaign. Clip from "The Midnight Special" is heard in the background.
Studs Terkel: In educating people about what was happening in the South, Alan Lomax went to people who were the actual bards: Aunt Molly Jackson and Lead Belly. [Break]
More conversation between Robert Siegel and Studs Terkel on the context of the 1940s.
Studs Terkel talks about how Alan traveled in Europe with Big Bill Broonzy, "the greatest of all country blues singers," and presented him on radio in Britain where he was heard by young people in Liverpool and their parents. Alan's travels in Spain and Italy and his, according to Terkel, "romantic" ideas about Cantometrics. According to Terkel, Alan Lomax had no fear in pursuit of his calling, he walked into Harlem on the day of Martin Luther King's assassination in search of music accompanied by a "trembling" English friend, despite the palpable anti-white feeling on that day.
Robert Siegel mentions Alan Lomax's recordings of interviews as well as music: he plays a clip of Alan with old-time musicians Uncle Charlie Higgins, Wade Ward, and Dale Poe.
John Cohen: Alan Lomax was an inspiration to me, to Mike Seeger, and to Ralph Rinzler. We tried to imitate him.
Bob Siegel asks John Cohen what happens when a song such as "Goodnight Irene" becomes a commercial hit [the hit record featured an orchestral accompaniment and sanatized lyrics].
John Cohen: Generally it is good but it can be a barrier to hearing the real thing. Compromises happen when music becomes a commodity. Alan Lomax knew that.
Studs Terkel: I'm glad people heard "Irene," but it's not a sing-along; there's longing in it. Alan's contribution was beyond the music: he saw music in its original form by the original artists as a point of salvation.
"Brother Blue," a listener from Boston: Lomaxes were like angels on this earth. Lead Belly opened my mind and heart. Alan's and Studs Terkel's was sacred transforming work. I honor these people. Alan Lomax opened me up to people of different religious backgrounds and to what it is to be human.
Listener Max from Burlington complains that in the "construction" of American folk music the American South gets the most attention. Why not music from New England.
John Cohen: Every region has its own music. Problem is I never heard any regional musician refer to himself as a "folk" musician.
Studs Terkel: Big Bill Broonzy used to say "Of course it's folk music, I never heard horses sing it."
Sample clips of Muddy Waters and of Alan Lomax singing the Scotch-Irish "Love My Darlin', O" from John Cohen's CD "There Is No Eye," in an African-American singing style learned from prisoner Iron Head Baker.
Kevin from Fall River: on the commodification of art and the opportunities missed by NPR when it sticks to middle class culture and doesn't document that of marginal groups.
Discussion of bluegrass and hip hop.
Gabe from Jamaica Plains: Songs are a snapshot in time. They evolve in the hands of performers.
Mary from Massachusetts calls in to say she was one a group of children recorded by Alan in Scotland in 1951 singing a poignant jump rope rhyme about a wounded soldier dying for the Union Jack. She has read Studs Terkel's books.
Studs Terkel: Alan Lomax and Woody Guthrie had respect for the child and the wonder of childhood. Alan Lomax played a role in bluegrass' popularity; he wrote a seminal article - "Folk Music in Overdrive" - before bluegrass attained wide exposure.
John Cohen: Alan seemed to have a hand at the beginning of things. He gave Muddy Waters encouragement so that he went up to Chicago, recorded Cajun music in the 1930s, music from the Bahamas. Witness recent success of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"
Program closes with Woody Guthrie singing "Do Re Mi" over the credits to "The Connection."