Folkways Records

Folkways Records is an independent American record label which was founded in 1948 by Moses Asch and Marian Distler. Since the acquisition by the Smithsonian Institution in 1987, the label is called today Smithsonian Folkways.


Moses Asch was not inexperienced in leading record companies, because in 1939 he had founded Asch Records, which he merged with Stinson Records 1941 Asch - Stinson. This label went bankrupt in December 1945. Finally he founded in May 1948 Folkways Records & Service Corporation with a loan of $ 10,000 from his father. Managing Director was as nominee Marian Distler, because Asch was not allowed to be managers because of bankruptcy. Distler was his long-time assistant at the previous record companies and put Asch as their consultant.

In line with the intentions of its founder, the label specialized from the outset to music that was not mass- recyclable and therefore of no interest to the commercial record companies in the music industry. Non-commercial, neglected music should get a place here. Therefore Folkways began working with jazz recordings, square dance recordings, folk music of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, ethnic and world music. This niche market has been served by Asch consistently and in high intensity, because the catalog grew week by at least one LP. Singles were not released.

Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and his friends Cisco Houston practiced in their songs often sharp criticism of social and political grievances and so brought a new style to the former folk scene. A milestone was the most produced by Asch in his own studio Patriotic This Land Is Your Land by Guthrie, taken after 25 April 1944., The now anthemic similar song came from a highly productive recording session with 160 songs that had arisen within just 14 days. Other representatives of the early folk scene at Folkways Huddie Ledbetter and Josh were White ( " Negro Folk Songs ").

Long before the term " world music " came into vogue, Folkways already took music from artists from all over the world. Series on musical instruments were played as well as children's songs, sounds of nature, songs of the women's movement and music of the classical avant-garde. There were also recordings of social and political events, such as the hearing of Bertolt Brecht before the Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947 and the documentation for the Civil Rights March in Washington, DC In 1963.

In Reissue area Folkways worked and published a large number of shots then re-discovered artists from the 1920s and 1930s, such as Clarence Ashley and Dock Boggs. Furthermore, the record label songbooks, teaching materials and later video was out.

When Moses Asch died on 19 October 1986 adopted on 28 February 1987, the Smithsonian Institution, the record companies, together with master recordings and archive to ensure that the catalog is not only maintained as a national treasure, but has also been newly upgraded. This was done firstly by establishing a web presence and, second, that the Smithsonian an ever growing number of remastered recordings from the 2168 LPs ( with over 22,000 songs ) comprehensive catalog of unkommerziellsten music of the USA re-released. To date, the already introduced by Moses Asch principle is that almost all the plates are ever rehearsed repeatedly reissued and made available as an interested new audience.

Folkways had in the course of its existence, a significant influence on the development of today's popular music. This was not least at the birthday party for the fortieth anniversary of the record label in 1988, to the guests such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, U2, Brian Wilson, Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal and many other homed. From this, the LP A Vision Shared was: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly (Columbia Records, August 1988), the proceeds of which were used to finance the purchase price for Folkways.