Flying Fish Records

Last updated
Flying Fish Records
Founded1974 (1974)
FounderBruce Kaplan
Distributor(s) Rounder Records
Genre Folk, bluegrass, country, blues, dancefloor
Country of originU.S.
LocationChicago, Illinois
Official website

Flying Fish Records was a record label founded in Chicago in 1974 that specialized in folk, blues, and country music. In the 1990s the label was sold to Rounder Records.


Bruce Kaplan, the label's founder, was a native of Chicago and the son of a president of Zenith Electronics. He studied anthropology at the University of Chicago and became president of the school's folklore society. He began Flying Fish in 1974 to concentrate on traditional and contemporary folk music, though the catalog grew to include blues, bluegrass, country, jazz, reggae, dancefloor and rock. [1]

When Kaplan started the label, most similarly oriented companies produced albums with decidedly "homemade" packaging (e.g. cover art, etc.) and marketed the albums to a relatively narrow audience of aficionados. Kaplan realized that music of this sort had the potential to reach a wider audience, but needed to be packaged in a professional manner; people not already devotees were unlikely to take a chance on something that did not look like it came from a "real" record company. Kaplan also invested in broader promotion of the music (wide provision of albums to radio; targeted advertising to back up tours). Essentially, he located a niche between the hit-based promotion model of the major labels and the faith of the small independents that the music would find its own audience.[ citation needed ] Flying Fish recording artists were able to find that audience at the local Evanston, Illinois, venue Amazingrace Coffeehouse, which presented numerous artists off the roster, including Vassar Clements, John Hartford, New Grass Revival, Norman Blake, and Claudia Schmidt. [2]

Starting with the Hillbilly Jazz double album featuring fiddler Vassar Clements, and following up with a Grammy Award winning album by John Hartford, Flying Fish Records's success with this niche approach led to similar changes by many other roots labels of the period.[ citation needed ]

In December 1992, Kaplan developed an ear infection that did not respond to antibiotic treatment and he died unexpectedly. After a brief period under the direction of longtime employee Jim Netter, supported by Kaplan's widow Sandra Shifrin (a social worker), the label was sold to Rounder Records, where Kaplan had worked as a producer for a brief period before founding Flying Fish. The label bought Hogeye Music in the mid-1980s. Flying Fish distributed Blind Pig Records and Rooster Blues.


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  1. Kening, Dan (17 December 1992). "Bruce Kaplan of Flying Fish Records". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  2. "Who Played At Amazingrace?". 1974-12-14. Retrieved 2015-10-24.
  3. "Muevete! (Move It!)". AllMusic . Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  4. "Little Mike & the Tornadoes - Biography & History". AllMusic . Retrieved 11 October 2017.