Founded in 1948 by Moses Asch and Marian Distler, Folkways Records was responsible for recording and publishing some of America’s most iconic folk songs and artists, including Woody Guthrie. The label was instrumental in bringing folk music into the American mainstream. From 1948 until 1986, the tiny staff of devoted musicologists released 2,168 albums, encompassing poetry, spoken word, natural sounds, traditional, ethnic and contemporary music from around the world.
The Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington D.C. acquired Folkways Recordings in 1896 upon the passing of founder Moses Asch with the condition that all of the firm’s titles would remain in print forever. As Mr. Asch said, “Just because the letter J is less popular than the letter S, you don’t take it out of the dictionary.”
Smithsonian Folkways has expanded on this invaluable legacy, adding record labels and adding over 375 new recordings capturing and celebrating the sounds of world.
Global ImageWorks now has over 45,000 of these recordings available for commercial licensing. A quick look and listen to the vast offerings uncovers gems like Louie Armstrong at the National Press Club singing Hello Dolly, a 1973 recording of Che Guevara and a little Cotton Eyed Joe.
Also worth noting is that as a non profit, Smithsonian shares licensing revenue with the artists and supports creation of new content.
A truly enjoyable experience and valuable resource for researchers everywhere.