Updated: Sep 17, 2022
When I look back on the trajectory of David's life, I often wonder what might have happened after he got to Nashville if John Lomax III hadn't become his manager. Before I get into that John Lomax story, I'd like to share a little of what I learned about the Lomax family during the course of my research.
Most musicians I've met know how important the Lomax family is to American music, and, indeed to the world's musical heritage. Most non-musicians I've met say they have never heard of them, so if you are in the latter group, please indulge a little history here because (a) they're worth knowing about, and (b) it will help you understand why John Lomax III was such an important figure in that David-trajectory.
Alan is probably the most famous Lomax, but he's not the first. His father, John Avery Lomax (1867-1948) is the Lomax who got the ball rolling, so to speak. John Avery is most well known as a musicologist, folklorist and educator whose childhood interest in writing down cowboy songs he learned in Texas triggered an astonishing life that included frequent travels over thousands of miles to the farthest corners of the U.S. to collect, record, preserve and curate songs for the Library of Congress. You can read about John Avery's weighty contribution to American music here.
John Avery and his wife Bess had four children: Alan, Bess Lomax Hawes, John Jr. and Shirley. Google them, and you'll find enough online about Alan, Bess and John Jr. and their contributions to the preservation of American music and world music (with respect to Alan) to keep you busy for months of reading. (I mentioned Alan Lomax in a previous post about Jean Ritchie, and shared a bit of the personal side of Alan in Pluck.) In fact, John Jr.'s biographical essay on The Association for Cultural Equity, founded by Alan, was written by John Jr.'s son, John Lomax III, the same John who became David's manager.
Phew, that's a lot of Lomaxes to sort out. But read about them. Musicians and even those who don't play but who love music owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Lomax family for the music that John Avery, Alan, and John Jr. saved from obscurity and that still inspire musicians today. And to Bess, for her work as a folklorist. They are an absolutely remarkable family.
John Avery's grandson, John Lomax III (left), found a himself on a different trajectory but was and is still steeped in music from the time he was born until today. He has played an important role in Nashville's music history through multiple channels and endeavors. Dulcimer players everywhere owe him a debt of gratitude for his work with David Schnaufer And, I owe him a lot more than that. More JL III in the next post.