The Southern Journey at 60

Original release date:
| Episode number:

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.

Southern Journey packing list

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 [2019] 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.