I’d like to begin a series where I pair a single photograph with an archival sound recording. For this first one, I focus on a photograph of bluesman Blind Willie McTell that was taken by Ruby Lomax on November 5, 1940 in a room of the Robert Fulton Hotel (which was located at the corner of Luckie and Cone Streets in downtown Atlanta). Ruby was the wife of John Lomax, who at the time was the Curator of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress. The Lomaxes travelled extensively throughout the South in the late 30s and early 40s, collecting extensive field recordings of vernacular music. In this recording excerpt, John introduces McTell and then the musician delivers a monologue about the various forms of blues. I particularly like how McTell describes the blues of the 1920s as developing an “alley lope.” Michael Gray recently released an excellent book about McTell, and several pages of this book focus on the Lomaxes’ recording of McTell at the Robert Fulton Hotel in 1940.
Still + Sound 1: Blind Willie McTell at the Robert Fulton Hotel