Updated: Feb 12
In a city full of legendary figures, John is a bit of a legend himself.
He has worked for, with and/or is friends with some of the biggest names in Nashville. He managed Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, the Cactus Brothers, and David Schnaufer. He has worked as an historian, a librarian, a music journalist, editor, an author, a curator, a record producer and promoter, a successful businessman who exported music around the world until he just retired the business in 2021. He has been a conceptual artist, worked for filmmakers, and was an important go-to source for Ken Burns's documentary, Country Music. He is one of the primary keepers of the Lomax Family History flame. Rice University has an oral history of John's own life in their archives. And, at age 78, he just is getting started with his one-man show entitled "Lomax on Lomax" in which he shares stories of his remarkable family and performs a capella renditions of songs that his famous father and grandfather saved from oblivion and that now reside in the Library of Congress. In a notoriously tight-knit business that is suspicious of outsiders, he is both the ultimate insider and the least suspicious. He is the best kind of father and friend, one who always has your back and will give you the shirt off of his if you need it. If you have been friends with him long enough, he will send you the old-fashioned kind of handwritten letter in which he writes to tell you how much he treasures the friendship you share with him. I could go on and on, but you get my drift.
He certainly doesn't act as if he wants you to to treat him as somebody special; he just is. When a stranger named David Schnaufer showed up at his door unannounced in the mid- eighties, John was curious, so invited him in: "C'mon in and play me something." John is smart, and his respect for and recognition of David's talent was instantaneous that Sunday afternoon, informed as it was by a lifetime of immersion in music before Nashville and with his work and friendships with some of the best music business players in the world after moving to Nashville. The rest is history. John, and later, with his wife Melanie, would go on to produce several of David's first albums in Nashville, all of which
astonished critics and garnered rave reviews. Their award-winning Dulcimer Player Deluxe CD sold around the world and asked people to reconsider what a dulcimer was, what it could do, and why it appealed to all levels of players, from artists like Cyndi Lauper, Peter Frampton, Sting and Linda Ronstadt, to teenage punk rockers, to your amateur player grandmas who liked to socialize while making music with friends. John respected them all equally. Like David, he was determined to set the bar for professional dulcimer music production that would please everyone's ears. It's a testimony to their exquisite taste in music that almost forty years after they began their collaboration, the music on Dulcimer Player Deluxe still has the power to enchant listeners who hear it for the first time in 2022.
Next: John Lomax III, Part 3, and how Pluck likely never would have gotten written without him.