Mudcat Café message #759702 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #50010   Message #759702
Posted By: Susanne (skw)
04-Aug-02 - 04:23 PM
Thread Name: Help: Alan Lomax radio programme
Subject: RE: Help: Alan Lomax radio programme
Interesting review of that programme:

Folk music to me suggests morris dancers and maypoles so last week's Archive Hour: Southern Journeys about the late American folk musicologist Alan Lomax didn't immediately grab me.

Neither did the presenter, Lomax's English lover, the folk singer Shirley Collins, whose lacklustre voice reinforced all my prejudices. So much for packaging. I'm glad I persevered because this was an extraordinary story which could just as easily have been called Voices of the Powerless.

Collins toured the southern states with Lomax in 1959. This was before the Civil Rights Bill and they had to brave the Klan and a bunch of nigger-whipping sheriffs to gain access to the notorious prison farms of the Bible Belt, where Lomax recorded the inmates' original blues music, now part of the American heritage. It was Lomax who first discovered a lifer in Angola Prison, Louisiana, called Huddie Ledbetter.

Huddie's impassioned plea for a state pardon delivered in blues form with guitar accompaniment to the governor worked. Later, with his new name Leadbelly, he became a blues great, along with Muddy Waters and Memphis Slim, two more of Lomax's protégés. Some of the accounts of the prisoners' lives and the way they were treated are horrific. I'm glad it had a happy ending. Medieval history or musical history, radio really does make them real. (Sue Arnold, Observer, 28 July)