Lead Belly’s music withstands the test of time. A collection of his top compilation albums now available for you to listen to anywhere and anytime.
A look into some of the record labels that shined a light into Lead Belly’s career, showcasing his music to the world for all generations to hear.
John and Alan Lomax, who initially discovered Lead Belly, made the first ever recordings of him. The Library of Congress, a research library that works for the United States Congress, archived these recordings. They were then released by Rounder Records, which include Midnight Special (1991), Gwin Dig a Hole to Put the Devil In (1991), Let It Shine on Me (1991), The Titanic (1994) and many more.
Victor Records was founded by Eldridge R. Johnson, who was an engineer at the time making gramophones. In 1939, after Lead Belly was imprisoned and the Lomax’s took him to New York, he was signed to Victor Records. By 1940, he began recording six sides which would then become The Midnight Special and Other Southern Prison Songs album. The album featured the Golden Gate Quartet, a vocal gospel group who accompanied Lead Belly.
The Folkways recordings of Lead Belly were made for Moses Asch who founded Folkways. Asch donated his entire label to the Smithsonian under the condition that each of his 2,000+ albums remain in print forever. In 1987, the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings was established. Recordings made specifically for Asch were released in a three-volume series, Where Did You Sleep Last Summer (1996), Bourgeois Blues (1997) and Shout on (1998). They also have released many other recorded collections such as Lead Belly Sings Folk Songs (1989) and Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection (2015).