The label was founded by William Russell in 1944, who ran the label almost entirely by himself for most of the rest of his life (sometimes with the help of others on individual recording sessions. Russell started the label to issue his recordings of early jazz musicians like Bunk Johnson and George Lewis that he recorded in New Orleans, Louisiana.
About 1990, Russell sold the label to George H. Buck, who added it to his GHB/Jazzology Records group and began issuing the recordings on compact disc. Russell was surprised when the first cd issue of his Bunk Johnson recordings quickly sold more copies than had all of the American Music analogue disc records in the preceeding decades.
In addition to Russell's recordings, Buck also reissues on cd historic recordings of New Orleans jazz originally on other labels, including Icon Records.