John Troutman is Curator of Music and Musical Instruments at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, and is the museum's chair of the Division of Culture & the Arts. He is the project director and lead curator of Entertainment Nation, the museumʻs award-winning permanent exhibition on the history, power and politics of entertainment in the United States, and is the co-editor of the exhibitionʻs accompanying catalog. Troutman edited music researcher and folklorist Robert "Mack" McCormick's manuscript, Biography of a Phantom: A Robert Johnson Blues Odyssey, published in 2023. His co-curated exhibit on McCormickʻs legendary archive opened at the museum in the same year. He co-produced a six-LP box set from the field recordings of Mack McCormick, released on Smithsonian Folkways. For this project, Troutman received two 2024 Grammy nominations for "Best Album Notes" and "Best Historical Album."
His book Indian Blues: American Indians and the Politics of Music, 1879-1934, won the Western History Association's biennial 2011 W. Turrentine Jackson Prize for a first book on any aspect of the American West. His book Kīkā Kila: How the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Changed the Sound of Modern Music, won five book awards, including the Organization of American Historians' Lawrence W. Levine Award for the "Best Book in American Cultural History," the IASPM-US Woody Guthrie Award for the "most outstanding book on popular music," and the American Musicological Society's Music in American Culture Award. Troutman's essays have been featured in several anthologies, magazines, and journals.
Troutman served as a consultant on American Epic, a Robert Redford/ Jack White/ T-Bone Burnett executive-produced PBS/BBC documentary on American music, and is featured on the prize-winning Rezolution Pictures documentary, Rumble: the Indians Who Rocked the World. He has been interviewed for features by The Washington Post, NPR's All Things Considered, The Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning, and more.
Troutman was raised in Dothan, Alabama. He studied anthropology at Emory University, and earned a master's degree in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona. He earned his PhD in history from the University of Texas at Austin. A semi-professional musician on pedal steel and guitar, he contributed steel guitar to the album Grand Isle, by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, which was nominated for a 2012 Grammy Award for "Best Regional Roots Music Album." He has performed on stage with numerous musical luminaries including CC Adcock, Elvis Costello, Robert Plant, Dr. John, Willie Nelson's Band, David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Ani DiFranco, and Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine).