Alan Lomax’s Massive Music Archive Is Online: Features 17,000 Historic Blues & Folk Recordings

A huge trea­sure trove of songs and inter­views record­ed by the leg­endary folk­lorist Alan Lomax from the 1940s into the 1990s have been dig­i­tized and made avail­able online for free lis­ten­ing. The Asso­ci­a­tion for Cul­tur­al Equi­ty, a non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion found­ed by Lomax in the 1980s, has post­ed some 17,000 record­ings.

“For the first time,” Cul­tur­al Equi­ty Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Don Flem­ing told NPR’s Joel Rose, “every­thing that we’ve dig­i­tized of Alan’s field record­ing trips are online, on our Web site. It’s every take, all the way through. False takes, inter­views, music.”

It’s an amaz­ing resource. For a quick taste, here are a few exam­ples from one of the best-known areas of Lomax’s research, his record­ings of tra­di­tion­al African Amer­i­can cul­ture:

But that’s just scratch­ing the sur­face of what’s inside the enor­mous archive. Lomax’s work extend­ed far beyond the Deep South, into oth­er areas and cul­tures of Amer­i­ca, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia. “He believed that all cul­tures should be looked at on an even play­ing field,” his daugh­ter Anna Lomax Wood told NPR. “Not that they’re all alike. But they should be giv­en the same dig­ni­ty, or they had the same dig­ni­ty and worth as any oth­er.”

You can lis­ten to Rose’s piece about the archive on the NPR web­site, as well as a 1990 inter­view with Lomax by Ter­ry Gross of Fresh Air, which includes sam­ple record­ings from Woody Guthrie, Jel­ly Roll Mor­ton, Lead Bel­ly and Mis­sis­sip­pi Fred McDow­ell. To dive into the Lomax audio archive, you can search the vast col­lec­tion by artist, date, genre, coun­try and oth­er cat­e­gories.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post orig­i­nal­ly appeared on our site in March 2012.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

New, Inter­ac­tive Web Site Puts Online Thou­sands of Inter­na­tion­al Folk Songs Record­ed by the Great Folk­lorist Alan Lomax

Stream 35 Hours of Clas­sic Blues, Folk, & Blue­grass Record­ings from Smith­son­ian Folk­ways: 837 Tracks Fea­tur­ing Lead Bel­ly, Woody Guthrie & More

Woody Guthrie Cre­ates a Doo­dle-Filled List of 33 New Year’s Res­o­lu­tions (1943): Beat Fas­cism, Write a Song a Day, and Keep the Hop­ing Machine Run­ning

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Comments (10)
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  • Susan Winslow says:

    I fell in love with his col­lec­tions back in the mid 60s and can’t tell you how excit­ed I am!

  • Joni Boone says:

    OMGood­ness!!! Looks like I’m going to be too busy to be reached for a loooooong while!!!

  • Jak Anderson says:


  • Jim Hare says:

    Folk­lorist Alan Lomax is as much a trea­sure as the folk artist he helped to give audi­ence to. 🎼

  • Marilyn Shepard says:

    This is a won­der­ful resource for all music edu­ca­tors!!! Thank you so Very much❤️🎶❤️🎶❤️😁❤️

  • Vic Ellisor says:

    Always enjoy­able to step back into the past, and share time with 19th and 20th cen­tu­ry musi­cians.

  • Eduardo Mamcasz says:

    This is very amaz­ing. I’m from Brasil but I’m a blues’slave. I have 3 jour­neys along ALL away the Mis­sis­sipi Valey. From S to N. Thanks a lot.

  • Henry Wimmer says:

    Alan Lomax is a true hero!
    I salute the eth­no­mu­si­col­o­gist who cel­e­brates & pre­serves for all the musi­cal his­to­ry of yes­ter­year. The Lomax record­ings are an inspi­ra­tion to fine folks like Chris S. at Arhoolie & Down Home Music & built the foun­da­tion for shops like mine, Open Mind Music. I raise my glass, tip my cap & spin my record in his hon­or.

  • Tami Simpson says:

    My Grand­pa was a musi­cian in the 40’s and 50’s in Amar­il­lo, Tx and I have some pho­to’s of him in a band called the Lomax Band. I haven’t been able to find any infor­ma­tion on this band back then. My moth­er did tell me it was a jazz kind of swing band and that was all she knew and could remem­ber. Any­body out there know any­thing this and is it the same bunch of Lomax’s?

  • Bob Epstein says:

    In 1950 we went to Wssh­ing­ton DC and lis­tened to some of Lomax’s record­ings at the Library of Con­gress.

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