THE ALMANAC SINGERS
AGNES 'SIS' CUNNINGHAM, accordion/vocal; MILLARD LAMPELL, vocal; BALDWIN 'BUTCH' HAWES, vocal/
If the FBI had a say in the matter, the Almanacs wouldn't have gotten the contract -- or any other. A bit behind the times, the Bureau had just discovered "Songs for John Doe," and decided the peace songs threatened wartime mobilization. Since the albums bore only the imprint "Almanac Records," though, the Bureau didn't know where to turn. J. Edgar Hoover sent out a memo, eventually forwarded to the Bridgeport police chief, asking if anybody knew anything about this Almanac gang.
On September 1, 1942, the special agent in charge of the FBI's New Haven office drove a hundred miles to a record-pressing firm in Newark, and discovered the masters of "John Doe" belonged to a company long extinct. Six month later, hot on the trail of the out-of-print records, the agent drove across Connecticut and the length of New Jersey to interrogate officials of the Radio Corporation of America. RCA, one of the most commercial record companies in the world, had never heard of the Almanacs. When the FBI agent asked them for a list of all the small record companies in the U.S., frustrated RCA executives suggested the FBI try reading Variety or Billboard....
After the RCA interview, various field offices tried to avoid jurisdiction; the New York office lost, and the file labeled "Gramophone Records of a Seditious Nature" reopened there. At this point, a year and a half had passed since the anti-war records had been issued. When the FBI finally walked into the office of Keynote Records, the manager baldly told them the discs were collector's items: "Things have changed since those were recorded."
Satisfied that subversion had been checked, on April 28, 1943, J. Edgar Hoover wrote the New York office to call off the chase. Hoover was irate because the three records that had started the investigation were now broken. "See to it," Hoover sternly noted, "that records are more carefully packed, in order that incidents of this type will not reoccur."
David Dunaway, How Can I Keep From Singing: Pete Seeger, New York, NY, 1990, pp. 102-106.