In many ways, the era from 1925 to 1950 represents the Golden Age of roots music. It was during these years that the rich, vibrant tradition of folk music made its way onto the new mass media of radio and records. This was the age when far-sighted collectors and ambitious commercial record companies began preserving parts of this vast, complicated heritage, and helped spread it around the world, where it stimulated many of the great genres of pop: jazz, blues, gospel, western swing, rockabilly, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll.

These fragile 78 RPM records, produced in an age before tape, before mixing, before multiple microphones, often in makeshift studios, carried the message of this powerful music into coal camps, railroad yards, juke joints, small town barber shops, the porches of thousands of farm houses and company towns — wherever people could grab a few moments of rest from their work and relax to the sounds of a music that was uniquely theirs.