Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

Collector Records business records, circa 1937-2004, bulk 1960-1990

Collection ID:
Penn, Larry
McGee, Bobbie
Collector Records
Killen, Louis
Glazer, Joe, 1918-2006
circa 1937-2004
bulk 1960-1990
Physical Description:
34.28 Cubic feet
3 record boxes of business records; 8 record boxes, including 374 non-master audio reels (10", 7", 5", 4" and 2" reels); 160 10" reels in open stacks; 4 record boxes, including 853 audio cassettes; 1 record box, including 36 video cassettes; and 491 long play records, 45s and compact discs.
This collection documents the activities of Joe Glazer's record label Collector Records. Materials include the label's original commercial recordings, paper records related to day-to-day business operations and production, field recordings made by Joe Glazer, and Glazer's personal music collection.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The Collector Records business records, measuring 34.28 cubic feet, date from 1937-2004 and contain materials relating to founder Joe Glazer's work with the label, as well as his work as a participant in the labor movement.
The records include papers documenting the promotion, production, and business operations of Collector Records; original audiorecordings used for Collector Records masters; audiorecordings made in the field by Joe Glazer; video recordings of performances by and interviews with Joe Glazer, including performances at labor union events; audiorecordings of interviews with Joe Glazer; Collector Records recordings and releases; and Glazer's personal commercial music collection.

Records are arranged in 7 series:
  • Series 1: Promotional, Performance, and Record Planning Materials, 1971-2004
  • Series 2: Financial and Administrative Records, 1966-2003
  • Series 3: Open-reel Audiorecordings, 1937-1990
  • Series 4: Cassette Audiorecordings, 1949-2002
  • Series 5: Video Recordings, 1984-2004
  • Series 6: Digital Audio Tape (DAT) Audiorecordings, 1982-1994
  • Series 7: Published Audiorecordings

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Since the Industrial Revolution, working people have been organizing and campaigning for better treatment from their employers. The labor movement and its unions struggle for fair wages, safe working conditions, and many other benefits. Music is an important tool in the labor movement to motivate workers and help build solidarity. Labor songs detail political issues, glorify martyrs and heroes in the movement, and, most of all, inspire and uplift workers. Joe Glazer (1918-2006), often called "Labor's Troubadour," spent a lifetime as one of America's noted historians of labor song. His booming baritone and exuberant guitar have performed for millions of workers, strikers, and students. He was the author of several significant labor songs, notably "The Mill Was Made of Marble," which is a commentary on the need for cleaner, safer mill conditions for textile workers. In addition to his performing, he was employed by the United Rubber Workers, the Textile Workers Union of America, and the United States Information Agency over the course of his career.
Glazer founded Collector Records in 1970 to distribute his own recordings of labor songs and those of younger and newer performers he had met through his work—many of them through the Labor Heritage Foundation, which he founded in 1978, and its yearly Great Labor Arts Exchange. Some artists, such as Bobbie McGee, went on to become well-known folk singers, but many Collector artists remained at their jobs. Eddie Starr (1956-2003) was a third-generation Illinois steelworker who declined a life on the road as a rock musician, and took a factory job at home to support his family. Kenny Winfree was a textile worker when Glazer heard his bluegrass-style labor songs. He continues to work, now at an aircraft plant in Texas, where he is an active member of UAW Local 848.
Collector Records paints a clear picture of workers' struggles. Songs depict everyday hazards and ailments encountered on the job, allowing workers to express their situation and make audiences aware of their plight. "Cotton Mill Colic" is a classic folk song written in 1926 by David McCarn, a textile mill worker in North Carolina that describes the harsh conditions and low pay of mill-working life. The steelworker in "Corrido Minero" sings about the ever-present danger of working in a mine with outdated equipment. Newer workplace issues are expressed in labor songs as well. The worker in John O'Connor's song suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome, one of the most frequent of modern workplace afflictions, occurring among those who perform a great deal of computer data entry and causing extreme pain in the hands and arms.
Collector Records Business Records is a historic collection presenting music to inspire and motivate working people. The Glazer family donated the label's recordings, along with Glazer's original song and narrative recordings, business records, and personal commercial music collection to the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in 2006.

Shawn McCarthy, based on the original inventory by Steven Keillar and Brian Scott
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections acquired the Collector Records business records in 2006 through a donation by the Glazer family.
Processing Information
Prepared by Shawn McCarthy, 2007, based on the original inventory by Steven Keillar and Brian Scott. Revised by Stephanie Smith, 2010-11. Further revision by Kaitlyn Markert, 2013. Final revisions by Nichole Procopenko and Cecilia Peterson, 2015.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Access to the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections is by appointment only. Visit our website for more information on scheduling a visit or making a digitization request. Researchers interested in accessing born-digital records or audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies.
Conditions Governing Use
Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections. Please visit our website to learn more about submitting a request. The Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections make no guarantees concerning copyright or other intellectual property restrictions. Other usage conditions may apply; please see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for more information.
Preferred Citation
Collector Records business records, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution.

More Information
Shared Stewardship of Collections
Shared Stewardship of Collections
The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage acknowledges and respects the right of artists, performers, Folklife Festival participants, community-based scholars, and knowledge-keepers to collaboratively steward representations of themselves and their intangible cultural heritage in media produced, curated, and distributed by the Center. Making this collection accessible to the public is an ongoing process grounded in the Center's commitment to connecting living people and cultures to the materials this collection represents. To view the Center's full shared stewardship policy, which defines our protocols for addressing collections-related inquiries and concerns, please visit https://folklife.si.edu/archives#shared-stewardship.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Protest songs Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Political ballads and songs Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Digital audio tapes Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
VHS (videotape format) Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Labor movement -- Songs and music Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Audiocassettes Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Labor unions Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Audiotapes -- Open reel Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections
Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
600 Maryland Ave SW
Washington, D.C.