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Texas folklorist born

September
23
1867

On this day in 1867, John Avery Lomax, folklorist, was born in Goodman, Mississippi. His family moved to Bosque County, Texas, in 1869. As his home was located on a branch of the Chisholm Trail, Lomax heard many cowboy ballads and other folk songs; before he was twenty, he began to write some of them down. In 1906 he received a scholarship to Harvard University, where he was encouraged to undertake the systematic collection of western ballads. In the back room of the White Elephant Saloon in Fort Worth he found cowhands who knew many stanzas of "The Old Chisholm Trail." A Gypsy woman living in a truck near Fort Worth sang "Git Along, Little Dogies." In Abilene an old buffalo hunter gave Lomax the words and tune of "Buffalo Skinners." In San Antonio in 1908 a black saloonkeeper who had been a trail cook sang "Home on the Range." Lomax's first collection, Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads, was published in 1910. He went on to have a long and brilliant career as a collector of American folksongs, and encouraged the musical talents of Huddie Ledbetter and other performers.

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