Lufkin Recordings

During their field recording sessions in fall 1940, John A. and Ruby T. Lomax visited the Lufkin area collecting songs that ranged from gospel music to blues to popular 19th century tunes.

In Keltys, a lumber mill town then just outside of Lufkin, instead of documenting work songs they had found in other company towns and camps, the Lomaxes recorded the Angelina Four singing harmonies and spiritual music. Four African American men comprising the quartet worked for the Angelina County Lumber Company in Keltys but according to the Lomaxes' catalogued materials, the only song likely associated with their work was "Angelina Longleaf Pine," which was identified as a "singing commercial." Three of the quartet lived in the "Negro quarters," an area on the east side of Keltys for African American employees. The fourth member of the quartet, Alphonso H. Charlton, worked at the lumber mill but lived just outside Keltys.

In addition to the commercial, the Angelina Four recorded 14 other songs, including "Pullman Passenger Train," "When I Was a Little Boy," and several spirituals. On six of the quartet's gospel recordings, Bess Lomax, John's daughter who was then in her late teens, is listed as a "recordist" indicating she may have joined her father and stepmother for part of their 1940 tour.

Within the city limits of Lufkin, the Lomaxes recorded three songs performed by Lillie Cochran Stegall, a 70-year-old white woman who was married to a former teacher and justice of the peace. Stegall shared popular songs from the 19th century, including the minstrel piece, "Mary's Gone wid de Coon."

While in Lufkin, they also recorded a dozen songs with a professional musician identified as Finous "Flat Foot" Rockmore who likely spelled his last name as "Roquemore." Rockmore played guitar as he performed blues, folk music and at least one work song listed as "Levee Work Song" in the Lomaxes' records. Rockmore, who noted in 1942 that he played in "a string band about" Lufkin, also recorded two monologues which reflect John Lomax's interest in documenting oral history, an effort he emphasized while working for the Federal Writers' Project four years earlier.

Images

Angelina Four

Angelina Four

In 1940, this group of lumber mill employees known as the Angelina Four recorded more than a dozen songs for John A. Lomax. His wife Ruby T. Lomax took this photo of the quartet, very likely at the home of Joseph H. Kurth who founded the Angelina County Lumber Company. | Source: American Folklife Center, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Lumber Mill Quartet

Lumber Mill Quartet

These employees of the Angelina County Lumber Company (l-r: Alphonso H. Charlton, T.J. Bailey, Jerry Watkins and Jethro "Jabbo" Williams) formed the Angelina Four, a quartet recorded by the Lomaxes in 1940. | Source: American Folklife Center, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Keltys Postcard

Keltys Postcard

This postcard shows the view from above of the Angelina County Lumber Company in Keltys, a company town that today is part of the City of Lufkin. | Source: Edwards News Co., Texas Transportation Archive View File Details Page

Alphonso H. Charlton

Alphonso H. Charlton

Listed as "A.H. Charlton" in the Lomaxes' records, Alphonso Horatio Charlton worked as a load trimmer at the mill in Keltys, a company town operated by the Angelina County Lumber. Charlton turned 28 in October 1940, the month John A. and Ruby T. Lomax recorded him. | Source: American Folklife Center, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Jethro Williams

Jethro Williams

At 42, Jethro "Jabbo" Williams was the oldest member of the Angelina Four, the quartet the Lomax team recorded in Keltys in 1940. Like the other members of the quartet, Williams worked at the lumber mill. | Source: American Folklife Center, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey

Identified as "T.J. Bailey" in the Lomaxes' records, Tom J. Bailey was a laborer at the Angelina County Lumber Company's lumber mill in Keltys in 1940. He was about 25 when John A. and Ruby T. Lomax recorded the Angelina Four, the quartet Bailey belonged to. | Source: American Folklife Center, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Audio

Traveling Man

Finous Rockmore sang and played guitar on "Traveling Man" for the Lomaxes during their visit to Lufkin in 1940. He told John A. Lomax in a recorded oral history that he first learned guitar when he was about 15. | Source: American Folklife Center, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Boll Weevil

Finous Rockmore performed at least a dozen songs recorded by John A. and Ruby T. Lomax in Lufkin in 1940, including "Boll Weevil." The boll weevil, a beetle that devastated cotton crops in the South, was a common theme in many folk songs in the early 20th century. | Source: American Folklife Center, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Amy Bertsch, “Lufkin Recordings,” East Texas History, accessed July 22, 2017, http://easttexashistory.org/items/show/31.

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