Smithsonian Folkways - History - Folkways Records

Folkways Records

In 1905, Moses "Moe" Asch was born in Poland. His father, Sholem Asch, a successful author, made enough money to move the family to Paris in 1912. In 1914, Sholem left Paris for work in New York City and, a year later, sent for his family. The experience at Ellis Island was traumatic for 10-year-old Moe, and, based on his own account, memory was seared into his mind. Sholem believed in educating his fellow man through his literature, and Moe showed that same passion through his chosen career of audio engineering.

In the mid-1920s, Asch studied radio engineering in Germany, a center for the new science. When he returned to the United States, he worked for various electronic firms before opening his own radio repair business, Radio Labs, during the Great Depression. In this business, Moe built equipment for radio stations and installed recorders for air use. Asch wrote in a 1961 article, “Forming one of the first independent record companies it was natural for me to want to record folk music and people’s expression of their wants, needs and experiences.”

In 1940, Sholem invited his son with him to New Jersey to meet physicist and humanitarian Albert Einstein, who encouraged Moe to record and document the sounds of the world, which Asch took to be his life calling. Soon after that meeting, in early 1940, Asch founded Asch Records with a small staff and studio located in downtown Manhattan, New York. He allowed any artist to come and record at no charge, in contrast to bigger studios that charged artists fees for using recording equipment. Because of his open-door policy, Asch attracted many young and/or unique "would-be" artists. Due to the American Federation of Musicians’ 1942 strike against major record labels, small labels such as Asch’s filled the void in sales for distributors. The label grew and became more successful through deals with other producers, including Norman Granz. This partnership proved successful, leading to the concept of recording live concerts. These recordings came close to Asch’s vision of documenting “real” sound, and, because there were no studio fees, were less expensive to produce. Around this time, Asch began another record label, Disc Records, though this fell through in a short time. Asch received recordings from Granz of an up-and-coming pianist named Nat Cole, which he decided to issue on a record in fall 1946. He invested a large amount of money in publicity and advertising, for the first time attempting to break into the pop charts. Due to a snowstorm, shipping was delayed past the holiday rush, causing Asch Records to fall into bankruptcy. As one of the terms of his bankruptcy, Asch was barred from starting another label. To get around this, in July 1948, Marion Distler, Asch’s longtime assistant, became the president of a new label, Folkways Records and Service Corporation. Asch was hired as her “consultant,” and Folkways Records was created. It was at this time that Asch created his plan for keeping all of the Folkways records in print, regardless of demand. In this way, he figured that demand, though small, would continue for decades. He famously remarked, “Just because the letter J is less popular than the letter S, you don’t take it out of the dictionary.”

Folkways Records released over 2,000 recordings between the years 1949 and 1987, spanning many genres, including jazz, folk, classical, avant-garde, and world music. Over the years of Folkways Records, Asch recorded some of the biggest names in music, including Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Pete Seeger, Duke Ellington, James P. Johnson, Dizzy Gillespie, John Cage, and Charles Ives. Reissues of the early blues and folk recordings from Folkways, such as Harry Smith's well-known Anthology of American Folk Music, fueled several generations of folk revivals, inspiring young musicians such as Dave van Ronk, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and Bob Dylan.

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Other articles related to "folkways records, folkways, record, records":

Smithsonian Folkways - History - Smithsonian Institution
... looking for someone to continue the Folkways Records collection after him, Asch found Ralph Rinzler, who was then artistic director of the Smithsonian’s annual Folklife Festival ... There was opposition to the transfer, with some members of the Smithsonian citing the Folkways collection’s “uneven quality” and “balance of repertory.” Despite these ... but his family finished the passing of the Folkways Records to the Smithsonian in 1987 ...
Smithsonian Folkways
... Smithsonian Folkways is the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution ... The label was founded in 1987 after the family of Moses Asch, founder of Folkways Records, donated the entire Folkways Records label to the Smithsonian ... policy that each of the more than 2,000 albums of Folkways Records remain in print forever, regardless of sales ...
Kevin Roth - Discography
1975 Kevin Roth Sings and Plays Dulcimer (Folkways Records) 1976 Somebody Give Me Direction (Folkways Records) 1976 The Other Side of the Mountain (Folkways Records) 1977 The. 2 (Folkways Records) 1979 Dulcimer Instruction Album (Folkways Records) 1980 New Wind (Folkways Records) 1981 The Living and the Breathing Wind (Folkways Records ... Marlboro Records) 1990 Animal Crackers and Other Tasty Tunes (Marlboro Records) 1992 The Gentleness of Living (Marlboro Records) 1992 Daddysongs (Sony Kids) 1992 Dinosaurs Dragons (Sony Kids) 1992 ...
Folkways Records - Smithsonian
... acquired Asch's Folkways recordings and business files after his death in 1986 ... The Smithsonian Folkways website uses the internet to make the recordings available as streaming samples, DRM-free digital downloads in MP3 and lossless FLAC format, and on CDs via mail order ... A complete set of the Folkways recordings was also donated to the University of Alberta where Michael Asch, Moe Asch's son, was an anthropology professor ...

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