Asch, Moses

Asch, Moses (“Moe”)

(1905–86) record producer; born in Warsaw, Poland. The son of novelist Sholem Asch, he came with his family to the U.S.A. (1909) and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He studied engineering in Koblenz, Germany. One of his first jobs was installing sound equipment in Yiddish theaters. In 1939 he founded Asch Records to record his father's stories but he soon turned to recording folk singers such as Josh White, Burl Ives, and Pete Seeger, and jazz musicians such as Coleman Hawkins and Mary Lou Williams. In 1948 he founded (with Marion Distler) Folkways Records and in addition to recording songs by Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and a large catalogue of folk, jazz, gospel, children's, and other traditional American music, he enlarged the Folkways catalogue to include folk and traditional music from literally every corner of the world. Folkways Records not only provided a service to those specializing in obscure ethnographic music but introduced blues and folk music that influenced several generations of young Americans. Always open to new proposals, Asch also issued unusual novelty recordings, from the sounds of frogs to electronic music; he also cofounded Oak Publications, a music publisher.
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The son of writer Sholem Asch, Moses lived for a while next door to Leon Trotsky in the Bronx.