The Tony Schwartz Music Exchange Tape

In the mid-to-late 1970s, I lived in group houses with a broad assortment of interesting people. One of them was Seth Deitch, who had as part of his vast array of stuff an assortment of reel-to-reel tapes inherited from his father, the brilliant animator Gene Deitch.

Eventually we acquired a reel-to-reel machine and began the process of dubbing all these tapes onto cassette. They were in poor condition, so this amounted to a rescue operation.

Some of the material was old jazz, some of it was old radio commercials; one reel contained a set of 1949 performances by John Lee Hooker that many years later got released as “Jack Of Diamonds.”

And one reel held this extraordinary document:

Tony Schwartz, master of electronic media, created more than 20,000 radio and television spots for products, political candidates and non-profit public interest groups. Featured on programs by Bill Moyers, Phil Donahue and Sixty Minutes, among others, Schwartz has been described as a “media guru,” a “media genius” and a “media muscleman.” The tobacco industry even voluntarily stopped their advertising on radio and television after Schwartz’s produced the first anti-smoking ad to ever appear (children dressing in their parents’ clothing, in front of a mirror). The American Cancer Society credits this ad, and others that followed, with the tobacco industry’s decision to go off the air, rather than compete with Schwartz’s ad campaign.

Born in midtown Manhattan in 1923, a graduate of Peekskill High School (1941) and Pratt Institute (1944), Tony Schwartz had a unique philosophy of work: He only worked on projects that interested him, for whatever they could afford to pay.


For many years he was a Visiting Electronic professor at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, teaching physicians how to use media to deal with public health problems. He also taught at New York University and Columbia and Emerson colleges. Because Schwartz was unable to travel distances, he delivered all out of town talks remotely. Schwartz was a frequent lecturer at universities and conferences, and gave presentations on six of the seven continents (not Antarctica). He was awarded honorary doctorates from John Jay, Emerson and Stonehill Colleges.


“Documenting life in sound and pictures” is something Tony Schwartz begin in 1945, when he bought his first Webcor wire recorder and began to record the people and sounds around him. From this hobby developed one of the world’s largest and most diverse collections of voices, both prominent and unknown, street sounds and music, a collection that resulted in nineteen phonograph albums for Folkways and Columbia Records.


During the 1950s, Tony Schwartz sent this recording out into the world, presumably under an early version of a Creative Commons license.

While I was already getting interested in what was then called “Ethnic Music,” this recording was something completely different — dozens of different songs from all over the planet, each introduced by the same voice. I must have listened to the Tony Schwartz Exchange Tape a couple of hundred times over the next few years, but time marched on and the dubbed version of the Tony Tape came to rest in my collection alongside hundreds of other cassettes. In the early 2000s I duplicated it onto a CD, where it continued to lie dormant.

I bumped into Tony Schwartz’ name a few times on various Folkways lps, but never learned much about the man until I started listening to the Kitchen Sisters’ wonderful “Lost And Found Sound” series — and then I had a delightful shock of recognition. Give this audio portrait a listen.

Anyhow, I’ve been transferring all my sound files to my computer, and this one finally had its turn…and I says to myself, says I, “Well, this certainly deserves to be out in the world.”

Here you go, world.

I will put you in touch with Tony’s son.

3 Jun 2015, 7:02pm
by chris calo

Any information on this reel would be greatly appreciated

Thank You


3 Jun 2015, 7:01pm
by chris calo

TO Whom It May Concern,

I believe I have an original tony schwartz reel to reel. The reel is titled ” Nancy Age 13″


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