Lomax gathered folk records along with his dad for the Library of Congress and popularized musicians including Lead Belly and Muddy Waters. His academic and popular work helped to shape the discipline of ethnomusicology and cultural history also to establish the folk revival of the 1960s. Lomax died in Sarasota, Florida, on July 19, 2002. His father, John Lomax, was scholar of Texas folk life who gathered the tunes of sharecroppers in the Deep South. Alan started traveling together with his dad when as a teen. Lomax attended Choate Rosemary Hall as well as the University of Texas before returning to the active set of folk music.
After finishing his studies, Lomax joined his dad in his fieldwork. Dad and son toured the South, collecting records for the Archive of American Song. It was during this excursion that Alan and John Lomax found the great blues singer Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly. The pair also printed several books together, including American Ballads and Folk Songs and Our Singing Country.
Within the span of his career, Alan Lomax gathered thousands of records and introduced musicians including Woody Guthrie and Muddy Waters to broad audiences. In 1938, he made a number of records of the celebrated pianist Jelly Roll Morton. Along with his work in America, Lomax spent much of the 1950s traveling, collecting folk records in Great Britain, Italy, and Spain together with the Caribbean. His wife, Elizabeth Goodman, and daughter Anna frequently followed him on these journeys. Lomax worked both to maintain and to popularize folk and blues music and musicians. He hosted a CBS radio show in The Big Apple featuring performers like Pete Seeger, who became nationally known.
While Lomax sought a broad audience, he also released a system of critical academic work on American folk music. He composed a biography of Jelly Roll Morton, Mr. Jelly Roll, which investigated the social and historic context for the growth of jazz. He received the National Medal of Arts in the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1986. He later adapted the novel into a movie. In 2000, Lomax was honored together with the Library of Congress Living Legend Award for his contributions to the analysis of folk life and music world-wide. He expired in Sarasota, Florida, on July 19, 2002.