Saturday, 26 January 2008


John Lomax, testy and indefatigable old folklorist and field recorder of pre-war blues, died on this day, January 26, in 1948 - in other words, 60 years ago today. He was 80 years old.

He was, of course, the man who, with his wife Ruby, interviewed Blind Willie McTell for the Library of Congress in 1940 in Atlanta.

Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes looks at this in some detail, including revealing for the first time which Atlanta hotel the interview took place in - and hence where that great, mysterious photo was taken, of McTell inside the Lomaxes' hotel room - and also examines and describes the parts of the interview that most people have never heard, even when they're perfectly familiar with the so-called Complete Library of Congress recording that is commonly available on CD.

As a result of what these unheard passages reveal, this chapter also argues that in the way the encounter with McTell has been portrayed, Lomax, often condemned by contemporary folklorists for his many shortcomings, has in truth been more sinned against than sinning.

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