The Folkways Records & Service Co. was founded by Moses Asch and Marian Distler in 1948 in New York City. Asch sought to record and document sounds and music from everywhere in the world. From 1948 until Asch's death in 1986, Folkways Records released 2,168 albums. In 1964, Asch helped MGM Records start Verve Folkways Records which evolved in 1967 into Verve Forecast Records. The albums are very diverse in content including traditional and contemporary music from around the world; spoken word, poetry, and multi-lingual instructional recordings; and field recordings of communities, individuals, and natural sounds. It was also an early proponent of the singers and songwriters, such as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Leadbelly, who formed the center of the American folk music revival.
The label became very influential on a generation of folk singers because of its release of a great number of old-time recordings by re-discovered performers from the 1920s and 1930s like Dock Boggs and Clarence Ashley, as well as contemporary performers like the New Lost City Ramblers. The Anthology of American Folk Music originally appeared on the Folkways label, as did the accompanying album to The Country Blues by Samuel Charters. Folkways was also one of the earliest companies to release albums of world music, including the Music of the World's Peoples collection edited by Henry Cowell. They also released many spoken word albums, and other unusual repertoire. The albums always came with a pull-out leaflet containing extensive sleeve notes.
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