Been All Around This World is a podcast exploring the breadth and depth of folklorist Alan Lomax's seven decades of field recordings. From the earliest trips he made through the American South with his father, John A. Lomax, beginning in 1933, to his last documentary work in the early 1990s, the program will present seminal artists and performances alongside obscure, unidentified, and previously unheard singers and players, from around America and the world, drawn from the Alan Lomax Collection at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. It is produced and hosted by Nathan Salsburg, curator of the Alan Lomax Archive at the Association for Cultural Equity, the non-profit research center and advocacy organization that Lomax founded in 1983.
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Brutality and inhumanity were central to the Southern state prison farms, in their theory and their practice, and of them all, the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman Farm was (and remains) the most brutal and inhuman. Both John A. and Alan Lomax made repeated visits to Parchman, recording — under the eye of the disinterested white captains, sergeants, and warden, and the guns of the "trusty" prisoner-guards — a body of American song unmatched in its depth, dignity, and power. Folklorist and prison documentarian Bruce Jackson once said that the group work songs sung by the black inmates of the Southern penitentiary farms were means of "making it in Hell." Alan Lomax, writing in 1947, said that: "In the pen itself, we saw that the songs, quite literally kept the men alive and normal.... These songs, coming out of the filthy darkness of the pen, touched with exquisite musicality, are a testimony to the love of truth and beauty which is a universal human trait." In this episode, spurred by the ongoing horrors being reported in the Mississippi Department of Corrections in general and at Parchman in particular, we listen back over the four decades of recordings made by the four white folklorists (the Lomaxes, Herbert Halpert, and William Ferris) who took the trouble to visit the place and document the singing of its prisoners: work songs for clearing ground, felling trees, picking cotton, or breaking rocks, as well as solo field hollers, spirituals, and blues.
No one can mourn the passing of this song tradition and the system of black disenfranchisement and white supremacy that made it necessary to its singers. But, despite the 1971 class-auction lawsuit that forced federal reorganization of Parchman due to its epidemic use of "cruel and unusual punishment," it's only differently awful in 2020. In his harrowing "Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice," Michael Oshinsky provides a 1975 quote from a convict named Horace Carter, who’d been at Parchman for fifty years. What was missing in the “new” Parchman, Mr. Carter said, was “the feeling that work counted for something… awful bad as it was in most camps, that kept us tired and kept us together and made me feel better. I’m not looking to go backwards. I know the troubles at old Parchman better than any man alive. I’m 73 years old. But I look around today and see a place that makes me sad.” This episode was completed before the announcement that William Barr's Justice Department will open a civil rights investigation into conditions at Parchman. It's hard to imagine an administration with less sympathy for incarcerated people of color, but who knows, maybe, at last, Parchman Farm will be shuttered for good.
“These songs are a vivid reminder of a system of social control and forced labor that has endured in the South for centuries, and I do not believe that the pattern of Southern life can be fundamentally reshaped until what lies behind these roaring, ironic choruses is understood.” —Alan Lomax, 1958
For streaming audio of all of Alan Lomax's 1947, 1948, and 1959 Parchman Farm recordings, visit research.culturalequity.org.
[Bed music:] Unidentified ensemble, including Lonnie Robertson, guitar, and possibly "Black Eagle," cornet. Camp 1, April 1936.
*Frank Devine and unidentified man: In the Bye and Bye. Unidentified camp, August 1933.
*Bowlegs (real name unknown): Drink My Morning Tea. Camp 12, August 1933.
*Unidentified men: He Never Said A Mumblin' Word. Unidentified camp, August 1933.
*M.B. Barnes, Louella Dade, Passion Buckner, Alberta Turner, Bertha Riley, Lily Mallard, Christine Shannon, and Josephine Douglas: Oh Freedom. Women's camp, April 1936.
*Big Charlie Butler: Diamond Joe. Unidentified camp, March 1937.
[Bed music:] John Dudley: Cool Drink of Water Blues. Dairy camp, October 1959. *Mattie May Thomas: Workhouse Blues. Women's camp, May 1939.
*"22" (Benny Will Richardson) and group: It Makes A Long Time Man Feel Bad. Camp B, November or December 1947. *Ervin Webb and group: I'm Goin' Home. Dairy camp, October 1959.
*Johnny Lee Moore, Henry Mason, Ed Lewis and James Carter: Tom Devil. Camp B, October 1959.
[Bed music:] James Carter and group: Poor Lazarus. Camp B, October 1959.
*Unidentified prisoners: Water Boy Drowned In the Mobile Bay. Unidentified camp, August 1968.
*Heuston Earms: Ain't Been Able to Get Home No More / interview. Camp B, October 1959.
For further reading:
*Jackson, Bruce: Wake Up Dead Man: Afro-American Worksongs from Texas Prisons
*Oshinsky, Michael: "Worse Than Slavery": Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice.
For further listening:
*Parchman Farm: Photographs and Field Recordings, 1947–1959, 2-CD set + book (Dust-to-Digital)
*"Prison Songs," Vols. 1 and 2. Issued in the Alan Lomax Collection CD series (Rounder Records)
Intro: United Sacred Harp Musical Association Convention: The Bower of Prayer (#100) (Fyffe, Alabama, October 1959)
1. Allison's Sacred Harp Singers: Weeping Pilgrim (417) (Gennett 6583, Richmond, Indiana, 1928)
2. Alabama Sacred Harp Singers: Present Joys (318) (Columbia 15272, Atlanta, Georgia, 1928)
Interstitial: Martha Woodard, Mission (204) (Gadsden, Alabama, June 1982)
3. Alabama Sacred Harp Singing Convention: Ballstown (217) (Jefferson County Courthouse, Birmingham, Alabama, August 1942)
4. United Sacred Harp Musical Association Convention: The Parting Hand (62) + Hallelujah (146) + Amazing Grace (45) (Fyffe, Alabama, October 1959)
Interstitial: Martha Woodard, Murillo's Lesson (358) (Gadsden, Alabama, June 1982)
5. Wiregrass Sacred Harp Singers: How Long (Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Washington, D.C., August 1983)
6. Holly Springs Sacred Harp Convention: Help Me to Sing (376) (Holly Springs Primitive Baptist Church, H.S., Georgia, June 1982*)
7. Alan Lomax extemporizes on musico-historical dimensions of Sacred Harp, with Phil Summerlin and Buell Cobb (Holly Springs Primitive Baptist Church, H.S., Georgia, June 1982)
*An egregious error of chronology was made in this episode: Lomax's last shape-note recordings were in fact of the Wiregrass singers in 1983, as the Holly Springs recording took place in the summer of 1982 and not 1983 as repeatedly stated. Apologies!
An exploration of the African-American vernacular music of Tate and Panola Counties, in the Mississippi Hill Country.
1. Sid Hemphill and band: The Carrier Line (or the Carrier song). Sledge, Mississippi, August 1942.
2. Sid Hemphill and Lucius Smith: Going Away, Won't Be Long. Senatobia, Miss., September 1959.
3. Miles and Bob Pratcher: I'm Gonna Live Anyhow Until I Die. Como, Miss., 9/59.
4. Fred McDowell with Fanny Davis and Miles Pratcher: Shake 'Em On Down. Como, 9/59.
5. Rosa Lee Hemphill Hill: Faro. Como, 9/59.
6. Sidney Hemphill Carter: Pharoah. Senatobia, 9/59.
7. Ed Young; Lonnie Young, Sr.; G.D. Young: Ida Reed aka Oree aka Little and Low. Como, 9/59.
8. R.L. Burnside: Going Down South. Coldwater, Miss., August 1967. (Recorded by George Mitchell.)
9. R.L. Burnside: Coal Black Mattie. Como, August 1978.
10. Napoleon Strickland: Shake 'Em On Down. Como, 8/78.
11. Lucius Smith: New Railroad. Sardis, Miss., 8/78.
12. Othar Turner and band: My Babe. Gravel Springs, Miss., 8/78.
In the Fall of 1959, Alan Lomax, assisted by the English folksinger Shirley Collins, undertook a two-and-a-half month field-recording trip throughout the American South. With state of the art stereo microphones and tape machine, furnished by sponsor Atlantic Records, the pair traveled through Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, and North Carolina, making over 70 hours of recordings of fiddle tunes, banjo breakdowns, fife-and-drum marches, blues, unaccompanied ballads, penitentiary work songs and field hollers, and congregational singing from raucous Pentecostal Holiness churches to the mournful "lined-out" hymns of the Central Appalachians. Along the way, they made the first recordings of such icons as "Mississippi" Fred McDowell and Bessie Jones.
This trip came to be known as the Southern Journey, and we're devoting the second season of the podcast to its music and musicians on the occasion of its 60th anniversary. This first episode is a (highly cursory) survey.
For more on the Southern Journey and the artists recorded, consider these publications:
•Lomax, Alan: "The Land Where the Blues Began"
•Collins, Shirley: "America Over the Water" (currently  out of print, but being reissued 2020)
•Piazza, Tom: "The Southern Journey of Alan Lomax: Words, Photographs and Music"
•Five volumes of recordings compiled by Nathan Salsburg on the 50th anniversary of the Southern Journey. LPs issued by Mississippi Records (Portland, Ore.); digital downloads by ACE and available through the Lomax Archive Bandcamp.
1. Villagers of Cáceres, La Mancha: Christmas processional, Christmas Eve 1952
2. Merritt Boddie and Marigolds band: Christmas Machete, Gingerland, Nevis, July 1962
3. Norman Edmonds and the Old-Timers: Breaking Up Christmas, Hillsville, Virginia, August 1959
4. Sophie Loman Wing and group: All Night Long, St. Simons Island, Georgia, June 1935
5. Kelley Pace and prisoners: Holy Babe, Cumins State Farm, near Gould, Arkansas, 1942
6. Vera Ward Hall: No Room At the Inn / Last Month of the Year, Livingston, Alabama, October 1959
7. Phil Tanner: The Gower Wassail, Columbia Studios, London, 1937
8. Shirley and Dolly Collins: The Moon Shines Bright, from “For As Many As Will” (Topic, 1978)
9. 1959 United Sacred Harp Musical Association: Sherburne (#186), Fyffe, Alabama, September 1959
10. Villagers of Hío, Aragon: Buenas Entradas de Reyes, Hío, Galicia, November 1952
11. Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers with Hobart Smith, Nat Rahmings, and Ed Young: Yonder Come Day, St. Simons, Georgia, 1960. Preceded by 1962 discussion about the song between Jones and Antoinette Marchand.
And the complete 1957 BBC broadcast of “Sing Christmas and the Turn of the Year,” produced and hosted by Alan Lomax. Songs and performers listed here (although we have edited out Lomax's performance of "No Room At the Inn" for reasons [primarily] of file size).
Topical, protest, and resistance songs from Kentucky, Virginia, Arkansas, Trinidad by way of New York City, Oklahoma by way of California, and the Mississippi State Penitentiary, better known as Parchman Farm.
1. Sarah Ogan Gunning: I Hate the Capitalist System. NYC, November 1937.
2. Hobart Smith: Peg and Awl. Bluefield, Virginia, August 1959.
3. Big Bill Broonzy: Black, Brown and White Blues. Decca Studios, NYC, March 1947.
4. Lord Invader: Yankee Dollar. Town Hall, NYC, December 1947.
5. Woody Guthrie: Dust Bowl Refugees. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., March 1940.
6. Nimrod Workman: 42 Years. Mascot, Tennessee, July 1983.
7. Floyd Batts: Dangerous Blues. Parchman Farm Camp 11, Parchman, Mississippi, September 1959.
8. M.B. Barnes & prisoners: Oh Freedom. Parchman Farm Women's Camp, April 1936.
Songs from and/or of the sea (and one Great Lake), from Italy, Scotland, Grenada, the Georgia Sea Islands, and Lake Michigan.
- Captain A.H. Rasmussen: interview on chanties/Amsterdam Maid (fragment). Recorded in London, 1955.
- Daniel Aitkens & tombstone feast group: Blow the Man Down. Recorded in La Resource, Carriacou, Grenada, August 1962.
- Big John Davis, Henry Morrison, and Georgia Sea Island Singers: Hop Along, Let’s Get Her. Recorded in St. Simons Island, Georgia, October 1959.
- Elizabeth Austin and group: Sailing In the Boat When the Tide Runs Strong. Recorded in Old Bight, Cat Island, Bahamas, 1935.
- Dominick Gallagher: The Gallagher Boys. Recorded at Beaver Island, Michigan, 1938.
- Penny Morrison and group: Cha déid mi do dh’fhear gun bhàta (I’ll Not Go To A Man Without A Boat). Recorded at Balivanich, Benbecula, Scotland, June 1951.
- Michele Ilari and fishermen: Cialomi (tuna fishing chants). Recorded off Agrigento, Sicily, Italy, June 1954.
- Jean Glaud: Hooray Irena. Recorded in Gouyave, Carriacou, Grenada, August 1962.
- Lomax interview with Newton Joseph, interspersed with chanteys (“Hi-Lo Boys” and “Long Time Ago”), L’Esterre, Carriacou, 1962.
The Lomaxes are well-known for the recordings they made of artists who went on to become famous and influential figures in traditional and popular music alike: Lead Belly, Bessie Jones, Woody Guthrie, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Muddy Waters. But there are countless wonderful singers and players in the Lomax collections about whom we know next to nothing or nothing whatsoever, and this episode focuses on some of them, with music from Memphis, Cajun Louisiana, Morocco, Sint Eustatius, Romania, and two songs from the Mississippi Delta (one by way of Detroit).
1. Unidentified woman: All Power Is In His Hands. Recorded at the Coahoma County Agricultural High School, Coahoma, Mississippi, July 1942.
2. Cecil Augusta*: Crawford's Jump. Memphis, Tennessee, October 1959.
3. Sampson Pittman with Calvin Frazier: I Been Down the Circle Before. Detroit, Michigan, November 1938.
4. Unidentified: Strigaturi. Dragus, Romania, August 1964.
5. Alice Gibbs: Jerusalem Cuckoo (I Am A Donkey Driver). St. Eustatius (Statia), 1967.
6. Unidentified: Cajun mazurka. Kaplan, Louisiana, 1934.
7. Unidentified Amazigh man: Al-Hamdulillah (Thanks Be to God). Aguelmouss, Ouarzazate, Souss-Massa-Drâa, Morocco. September 1967.
*The man long misidentified as "Cecil Augusta" has, since this episode was released, been identified as Augusta Crawford! An article piecing together the few discernible details of his life is forthcoming in 2020.
Dance tunes from Arkansas, Abruzzo, the island of Dominica, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a front porch in the North Carolina Piedmont, and an excerpt from the "Dancing Around the World" episode of Alan Lomax's 1948 "Your Ballad Man" radio show.
1. Said excerpt, early 1948, Mutual Broadcasting System.
2. Edward King: Le Jour D L'an (New Years Day). Recorded in Baraga, Michigan, October 1938.
3. Neal Morris & Uncle Charlie Higgins: Wave the Ocean, Wave the Sea. Timbo, Arkansas, September 1959.
4. Sonia Carbon and group: Bo Mwen Che. Woodford Hill, Dominica, June 1962.
5. Unidentified singers with Liborio Garanfa (guitar) and Giuseppe Gavita (violin): Saltarella. Scanno, Abruzzo, Italy, December 1954.
6. Algia Mae Hinton: front porch boogie. Johnston County, North Carolina, July 1983.
A selection of songs concerning love in its vagaries, timed for Valentine's Day. Performances from Atlanta, Georgia; Cajun Louisiana; Scotland; Southwest Virginia; Turkmenistan; Eastern Kentucky, and the Arkansas Ozarks.
Coahama – A podcast based on the 1941 – ’42 study of music and other oral expressions conducted in Coahoma County, Mississippi by the Library of Congress (LOC) together with researchers from Fisk University in Nashville.
As a companion to our repatriation of the Historic Mississippi Lomax Recordings, a series of podcasts, hosted by blues scholar Scott Barretta, was produced in collaboration with the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University.