Monday, November 21, 2011

Alan Lomax

Folk Singer week continues with this picture of Alan Lomax. We feature him not so much for what he sang, but what he did. From the 1930's through the 1940's Alan went across the country and recorded "real" folk music from real people. One of the more interesting aspects of his project was his recordings of prison Chain Gangs and other prison work crews. The prisoners would sing to make the work easier, and the tools they used became percussion for their music. As an example of one of his Chain Gang recordings, we present Po' Lasrus below. 

Interestingly, this authentic Chain Gang recording was used in the opening scene of the hit movie "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" 

Even more interesting, they were actually able to track down the main guy singing on the recording, and he got a completely unexpected, and very generous check for the use of his voice.


  1. Hey, thank you.
    That was a very interesting recording.
    Again thank you.

  2. Sorry that I didn't comment yesterday, but I was busy, busy, busy.
    So I wioll comment today a few times to make up for it.

  3. On this comment I got a very short Word Verification, so I will use it up.
    Generally the ones that come up for me are 8 or 9 or more letters long

  4. Another short Word Verification. How about that.

  5. I'm a fan of folk. Thanks for the great photos and history behind them. Lomax deserves much praise. : )

  6. I am pleased as a pig in slop, enjoying folk singers week!!
    I don't understand any of the danged music nowadays. All it is is a bunch of noise with young ladies acting like harlets in videos! And don't even get me started on the foul language. I can't believe that dumb parents let their kids listen to this trash!!
    Ol' Pete Seeger may have been a commie, but at least he never cursed in his songs and he always treated the audience as a gentleman. ONe of my favorites is 'On Top of Old Smokey" and also "Erie Canal". Those songs had meaning.
    And I'll fill ya in on a little information on Woody Guthrie. Ol' Woody may have had some commie beliefs but he was refused admittance to the American Communist Party becasue they insisted that he disavow his religious beliefs and he refused. Now theres a decent man!!!
    Where have all of the good songs gone???? No good music, no respect for elders, no wonder this country is in the danged shape it is in!!!!
    You keep posting the pics young man, and I'll keep lookin' at 'em!!!!

  7. If it weren't for Alan Lomax and his portable recording machine (aluminum records and all) we would have lost the entire generation of early American music.


  8. Thank you for the video. Such wonderful histoy Mr.Lomax left for us. He must have been a kind and thoughtful person.

  9. Pete Seeger is still alive and performing, I find that amazing! I wonder if there are any other folk singers from that era still around.

  10. THANK YOU so much for the wonderful photos, sound recordings and accompanying backstory. You could extend this enterprise almost indefinitely - Please please!

  11. Greetings from Finland! You have wonderful pictures, I have been visiting your site for a long time and really appreciate your effort. I'll enjoy the week with pictures of musicians especially, as I myself work at a music archive. Alan Lomax was an interesting person. Thanks for the great photos and all the information behind them!

  12. Anybody remember the movie "the color purple"? What was the song the railroad workers were singing? This reminds me of that.


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