Growing up beside the Chisholm Trail, captivated by the songs of passing cowboys and his bosom friend, an African American farmhand, John A. Lomax developed a passion for American folk songs that ultimately made him one of the foremost authorities on this fundamental aspect of Americana. Across many decades and throughout the country, Lomax and his informants created over five thousand recordings of America’s musical heritage, including ballads, blues, children’s songs, fiddle tunes, field hollers, lullabies, play-party songs, religious dramas, spirituals, and work songs. He acted as honorary curator of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress, directed the Slave Narrative Project of the WPA, and cofounded the Texas Folklore Society. Lomax’s books include Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads, American Ballads and Folk Songs, Negro Folk Songs as Sung by Leadbelly, and Our Singing Country, the last three coauthored with his son Alan Lomax.
Adventures of a Ballad Hunter is a memoir of Lomax’s eventful life. It recalls his early years and the fruitful decades he spent on the road collecting folk songs, on his own and later with son Alan and second wife Ruby Terrill Lomax. Vibrant, amusing, often haunting stories of the people he met and recorded are the gems of this book, which also gives lyrics for dozens of songs. Adventures of a Ballad Hunter illuminates vital traditions in American popular culture and the labor that has gone into their preservation.