Homage To The Ballad Hunter

Life & Legacy of John A. Lomax: Bosque Museum hosts annual Lomax Gathering to honor one of Bosque County’s favorite sons Sept. 17 at Meridian’s John A. Lomax Amphitheater featuring talented musicians for fundraiser

MERIDIAN – Every small town has at least one hero or celebrity to cherish and honor in perpetuity. For Bosque County, and specifically Meridian, it is the internationally-renowned Ballad Hunter John Avery Lomax.

Raised in Meridian, Lomax was enamored as a young man with the cowboy songs and ballads he heard as the cow herds were moved up along the Chisholm Trail. This passion led to him becoming a folklorist and musicologist of note in the early 20th century. In his work with Harvard University, he documented the burgeoning music scene of the American South, focusing on folk music that ranges from prison and slave work songs to cowboy trail songs.

In years past, Meridian was host to a series of Lomax Gatherings, honoring their native son. But after the gatherings took an extended hiatus, a revival has been happening regarding this exceptional Bosque County resident.

Headlining award-winning entertainers Pipp Gillette, Jeff Gore and the Kristyn Harris Duo featuring Hailey Sandoz, the Bosque Museum once more honors this native son for the second straight year with their Lomax Gathering Fundraiser on September 17 at 6 p.m. in the John A. Lomax Amphitheater in Meridian.

Guests are welcome to arrive at 5:30 p.m. as food trucks will be on site for guests to purchase dinner before or during the show. Guests can sit on the amphitheater stones or bring their own lawn chairs or stadium seats. Tickets for this annual museum fundraiser are on sale through the museum website at BosqueMuseum.org or by calling 254-675-3820.

“The Bosque Museum is for the county, and since Meridian was Lomax’ hometown, it seemed perfect to hold the event there, especially now with the beautiful amphitheater,” Bosque Museum Director Erin Shields said, explaining the location of the event. “We’re excited to host our fundraiser there. It is unique in that this event will also be educational. So many folks don’t know or understand how influential John A. Lomax’s work was to modern music. Interwoven with the songs that our fantastic performers have lined up will be educational snippets about the life and legacy of Lomax.”

The Lomax Gathering honoring Lomax’ work is one of the museum’s annual fundraisers and will offer an evening of entertainment from exceptional, award-winning and iconic cowboy poets and performers.

Returning for the museum fundraiser will be the dynamic duo of Texas-bred musical powerhouse Kristyn Harris and violinist Hailey Sandoz. Both award-winning energetic and unique individual performers, they create musical magic when they hit the stage together with their impressive repertoire of both classic and original western and western swing tunes.

Harris is currently the five-time reigning International Western Music Association Entertainer of the Year – 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021 – and the youngest person to have received this honor. Her unique voice brought her all the way onto the 2018 season of ABC’s American Idol, where she sang and yodeled for the judges. Her voice is complimented on stage by her swing guitar playing, songwriting, and energetic stage presence.

Most recently, Harris was awarded the highly-prestigious 2021 Best Western Album from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum for her latest release, “A Place to Land.” She is influenced by classic western and western swing music and she finds inspiration in her passions trick riding, training horses and raising cattle.

Two-time IWMA Instrumentalist of the Year known for her exceptional fiddling and jazzy vocals, Sandoz is part of Harris’ band. Combined, Kristyn and Hailey make the perfect complement to each other’s talents.

Gillette was also one of the performers last year at the museum fundraiser. Gillette and his late brother Guy received the Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Traditional Western Album of 2011 and the 2013 Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Original Western Composition for their performance of the Waddie Mitchell song "Trade Off.” Gillette’s first solo CD, “Singing Songs by Waddie and Pipp” received the Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Traditional Western Album of 2016. His newest CD, “Pipp Gillette with Lloyd Wright” was released fall 2018.

Gilette won the 2016 Western Heritage Award for “Traditional Western Album” from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Gillette lives and works on the family ranch near Lovelady, TX, where his grandfather started raising cattle and cotton in 1912. Drawing on a lifelong interest in Western history and music, Gillette plays traditional cowboy music on guitar, banjo, harmonica and bones.

Newcomer to the museum’s Lomax Gathering fundraiser is Jeff Gore, who has been performing since he was four years old. He has spent the last 30 years traveling and singing Cowboy and Gospel music all over the United States and abroad. The 1997 recipient of Male Vocalist of the Year award in Cowboy Music from the Academy of Western Artists and a lifetime achievement award for Western Music by the American Cowboy Culture Association in 2005.  He has also produced and acted on television, has appeared in film – most notably The Good Old Boys and Nail 32.

In spite of these and other accomplishments, Gore is proudest when he is asked to ride out with a crew of cowboys at the wagon on ranches from Texas to Idaho. He and his wife Donna of over 38 years have two daughters who live with their husbands in Abilene, and five grandsons. Jeff grew up working on ranches and still does, living out and singing about the cowboy life.

This lineup of artists capture what Lomax so passionately sought out in his youth – the ballads and songs the cowboys sang, watching the campfire embers die down, dulling the wish to be home in a comfortable bed and all the while calming the cattle as they settled in for the night.

Lomax life’s work of collecting and recording folk songs and ballads of the Deep South spanned many, many years, and later including his son Alan – also a distinguished collector of folk music -- on his journeys. Their work culminated in over 10 books related to the preservation of American folk music. Lomax’ greatest achievement to this day is the collection of over ten thousand recordings and ballads in the Library of Congress, preserved for all eternity.

With the construction of the beautiful limestone John A. Lomax amphitheater, located by the Meridian Park, offering a wonderful view of pecan trees, Meridian has an iconic venue that is fitting for a revival of the cowboy music and poetry gatherings. And with it just recently being nationally designated a United for Libraries Literary Landmark, makes it all the more special.


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