and, from back in October 1960, writing to Jack Kerouac “I ..read Leadbelly’s poems (songs) this afternoon. He’s great poet”.
and on one of his many portraits of Kerouac, Allen’s caption reads, “We used to wander dock sides under Manhattan’s bridges & thru truck parking lots along East River singing rawboned blues, Leadbelly’s ‘Black Girl’ or Eli Eli, chanting ‘Annabel Lee’ & shouting Hart Crane’s ‘O Harp Altar of the fury fused.’”
“Black girl, black Girl, don’t lie to me/ Tell me where did you sleep last night?/ In the pines, In the pines, Where the sun never shines/ I shivered the whole night through..”
In the 1940’s, when Allen was growing up, Leadbelly could be heard live on the local radio station WNYC He had his own show on WNYC from 1940-1941 called Folksongs of America. and between 1940 and his death in 1949 he also appeared frequently in the WNYC studios performing for Folk Songs for the Seven Million, the WNYC American Music Festival, the Metropolitan Review and on Oscar Brand’s Folksong Festival.
The story of Alan and his father John Lomax who “discovered” Lead Belly will have to wait for another posting
but here’s Alan on Lead Belly:
Allen owned copies (much played) of the old (LP) Folkways records, but in 2015 Smithsonian Singh-Folkways issued – “Lead Belly – The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, a five-disc, pretty-much-definitive, boxed set
Allen, from his 1982 interview with High Times (about listening to contemporary rock music):
“I get the same thrill. I get it to the point of weeping, listening to Leadbelly’s “Jim Crow Blues,” one of the rare things that’s total politics, total blues.”