"ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL FIGURES IN THE EARLY YEARS OF THE AMERICAN FOLK MUSIC MOVEMENT": FIRST EDITION OF JOHN AND ALAN LOMAX' NEGRO FOLK SONGS AS SUNG BY LEADBELLY, 1936
LOMAX, John A. and LOMAX, Alan. Negro Folk Songs As Sung by Lead Belly. New York: Macmillan, 1936. Quarto, original yellow cloth, original pictorial dust jacket. $2600.
First edition of the Lomax' collection of nearly 50 songs by Lead Belly, including classics such as Good Night Irene and Midnight Special, with frontispiece of Leadbelly by acclaimed jazz photographer Otto Hess, in very scarce original dust jacket.
"Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, was one of the most powerful figures in the early years of the American folk music movement… his performances radiated an overwhelming intensity that few artists have ever matched." Born in Louisiana, he early "mastered the 12-string guitar, which sounded in his hands like a small orchestra… and formed a duo with the legendary blues musician Blind Lemon Jefferson." Folklorist John Lomax and his son Alan, whose groundbreaking work made the folk song archives at the Library of Congress the largest in the world, traveled across America throughout the 1930s, making the first recordings of artists such as Woody Guthrie and Muddy Waters. "Lead Belly, with his particularly rich store of folk music and his brilliance as a performer, was probably the Lomax's greatest discovery. They made a recording of his theme song Good Night Irene on the same recording disc as his ballad that appealed to "Louisiana's Governor Oscar Allen for a pardon. By August 1st, Lead Belly was a free man." He then joined Alan Lomax, who was recording folk songs in prisons, and sang to encourage the inmates to record for Lomax. After traveling some 6000 miles, they went to New York City, where Lead Belly "delighted audiences who were astonished by the raw power of 'down home' music" (Songwriters Hall of Fame). Ledbetter's "work is distinguished for its wide range and variety, his full-throated singing with rough vibrato, and his accomplished highly rhythmic playing of the 12-string guitar" (New Grove 10:596). "Lomax himself continued to make records at a house in Westport, CT, a series of recordings that was donated to the Library of Congress and that formed the foundation" for Negro Folk Songs as Sung by Lead Belly (ANB). First edition, first printing. Copyright page with "Set up and printed. Published November, 1936": no statement of edition or printings. This volume's collection of 49 songs, each contextualized by Lead Belly, also includes classics such as "Frankie and Albert," "Midnight Special," "C.C. Rider" and "Shreveport Jail." With frontispiece; prefaced by Lead Belly's biography.
Book fine; light edge-wear with small chip to spine head of colorful near-fine dust jacket.