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Radio Ballads in Alan Lomax Archive

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GUEST,CJB 12 Apr 12 - 06:56 AM
Owen Woodson 12 Apr 12 - 07:11 AM
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Subject: Radio Ballads in Alan Lomax Archive
Date: 12 Apr 12 - 06:56 AM

American Radio Ballads

Whilst the BBC extolls the genre as innovative, could it be that Alan Lomax invented this form of documentary using folk song to knit together clips from interviewees?

It appears from the Alan Lomax Archive - now online - that indeed he not only devised the genre but also influenced Charles Parker's and Ewan MacColl's later adaption of it for the famed BBC Radio Ballads of the late 1950s/early 1960s.

The evidence is clear as Alan Lomax and one (BBC?) producer Roy Lockwood could well have been the original producers; the first such American Radio Ballad being the 'Chisholm Trail.'

Interestingly it was written for the BBC in New York. And it was then broadcast on the BBC Home Service in 1944. It has survived to be uploaded for listening (via streaming) on the Alan Lomax Archive website.

Show Details

:: Title :: The Chisholm Trail - Cattlemen in America

:: Station :: BBC (New York)

:: Date :: 00-00-1944

:: Description :: Produced by Roy Lockwood, The Chisholm Trail is "a ballad opera of the old west" with script written by Elizabeth Lomax and music arranged by Bess Lomax. This program is part of a series of feature programs produced by BBC in the United States presenting American life to British listeners.

:: Note 1 :: Original notes for TD144 read: Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie, et al - The Old Chisholm Trail, parts 1 & 3 - Ballad opera, CBS - A BBC/New York Production, directed by Roy Lockwood.

:: Note 2 :: Original notes for TD145 read: Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie et al - The Old Chisholm Trail, parts 2 & 4 - Ballad opera, CBS - A BBC/New York Production, directed by Roy Lockwood.

:: Note 3 :: Original notes for TD146 read: Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie, et al - The Old Chisholm Trail, part 5 - Ballad opera, CBS - A BBC/New York Production, directed by Roy Lockwood.


There were certainly many other musical documentaries involving Alan Lomax. Sadly at least one original master on glass was broken, rendering this impossible to restore. One wonders if there is an early home taping enthusiast of the calibre of the UK's late Bob Monkhouse,
who might, just might have recorded it.

However some have been recently re-issued in CD format.

I wonder which Radio Ballads have survived in the AlanLomax Archive which have yet to be restored? And which have been lost for all time?


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Subject: RE: Radio Ballads in Alan Lomax Archive
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 12 Apr 12 - 07:11 AM

I haven't heard these progammes so I confess to arguing from a position of ignorance. However, I doubt it could be said that Lomax invented the radio ballad form. What he did pioneer was the intercutting of songs and actuality, as per Blues in the Mississippi Night, and this doubtless had a considerable impact on Parker and MacColl.

Even so, Parker always cited American documentary radio producer Norman Corwin as his major influence. In particular, Lonesome Train and Ballad For Americans.

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