18 Minutes with Big Joe Williams

Born in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi in 1903, Joe Lee “Big Joe” Williams is a renowned blues musician known for his use of a nine-string guitar. He talks to Chris about making his living traveling with medicine shows, playing with a young Muddy Waters, and making records.

Big Joe Williams recording at Chris' house 1960
Big Joe Williams recording at Chris' house 1960
  • The Robert Stone Sacred Steel Archive: Elton Noble Interview 00:00
Interviewee: Big Joe Williams with Mary Williams and Marcellus Thomas
Interviewer: Chris Strachwitz
Date: 1960
Location: The home of Chris Strachwitz, Los Gatos, CA
Language: English

Also see:
Interview with Marcellus Thomas

This is an interview originally recorded for research purposes. It is presented here in its raw state, unedited except to remove some irrelevant sections and blank spaces. All rights to the interview are reserved by the Arhoolie Foundation. Please do not use anything from this website without permission.

Statement on the passing of Chris Strachwitz

Arhoolie Records Founder
July 1, 1931 – May 5, 2023

We celebrate the life of our founder, friend, and great record man Chris Strachwitz. He died peacefully at home in Marin County, CA, surrounded in his last days by dear friends and family. Over his 91 years, Chris captured the music that represents the best “down home music” the world has to offer.

He was at the forefront of nearly all the roots revivals over the last 60 years including blues, zydeco, Cajun, Norteño and Tejano music. His drive to document traditional music helped introduce the nation to our diverse musical heritage. He had the foresight to save music that might have otherwise been lost to obscurity and played a role in strengthening cultural traditions through his records, films, and most recently the Arhoolie Foundation. He cared for those around him, fought for royalties and recognition for Arhoolie artists, and provided counsel to countless musicians, writers, film makers, and academics.

Plans for a public celebration of his life will be announced in the coming weeks. Today we’re thinking of all that Chris brought to our lives and the lives of the musicians and fans with whom he shared his passion.