Arhoolie Awards 2019

Now in their second year, the Arhoolie Awards honors musicians, organizations, and individuals who carry on and uplift roots and regional music styles.

These awards are neither applied for nor sought. Nominations are made by board members, friends, and experts in our field. Winners are chosen by the Arhoolie Foundation board of directors. Recipients receive $10,000 with no obligations: this award is simply meant to encourage, support, and shine a light on extraordinary people and organizations, and to help them continue doing what they do.

This year we presented three Arhoolie Awards, and a special Chris Strachwitz Legacy Award, onstage at the Second Annual Arhoolie Awards and Benefit Concert, held November 22, 2019 at The Chapel in San Francisco. Meet the recipients:

Linda Tillery

Linda Tillery
Linda Tillery
photo © Sandy Morris

Linda Tillery is a vocalist, percussionist, music producer, songwriter, music arranger, and educator. She got her start in the 1960s with the “San Francisco psychedelic soul band” The Loading Zone. Through much of the 1970s, in addition to solo performance, she worked as a session musician providing backing vocals and occasionally drums on albums by Santana, Boz Scaggs, Lenny White, and more.

In 1992, Linda founded the Cultural Heritage Choir, which is dedicated to helping “preserve and share the rich musical traditions of African-American roots music” including spirituals, work and play songs, field hollers and other slave songs in the folk tradition. She has been a member of the National Advisory Board for the Archives of African American Music & Culture in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University; and a visiting lecturer and artist at the San Francisco Jazz Center, conducting workshops on the Music of the African Diaspora.

Cedric Watson

Cedric Watson
photo © Phillip Gould

Cedric Watson is committed to keeping the old ways alive. Born in 1983, he grew up in Texas but moved to Lafayette, Louisiana in his early twenties to study fiddle and Creole French. He was drawn to traditional Cajun and Creole music, as well as old-school zydeco. He was a member of Cajun group the Pine Leaf Boys before starting his own band, Bijou Creole. Cedric has performed internationally, and wants “to present the Creole Nation of Louisiana to the Creole Nations in other parts of the world, to make these Creole cultures aware of the one in Louisiana, and vice versa.”1

An accomplished fiddler, vocalist, and accordionist, Cedric is a four-time Grammy nominee. Wilson Savoy of the Pine Leaf Boys is impressed and inspired by Cedric’s love for Louisiana’s traditional music and way of life: “I’ve never known someone to delve so deep into the music. He is a killer accordionist and fiddler, as well as a student of Creole French and a hunter, who prefers to hunt with a bow and arrow in the old fashioned way.”

Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center

AshkenazAshkenaz Music & Dance Community Center has been a Berkeley gathering place since 1968. It was originally a folk dance club, and has evolved to host an eclectic and varied mix of musical genres. A nonprofit social dance hall and performance venue that also presents dance classes, Ashkenaz is a major Bay Area venue for touring Cajun and zydeco bands from Louisiana, reggae groups from Jamaica, African bands, eastern European musics, flamenco and much more.

Ashkenaz has stayed true to its roots, offering a convivial and down-home atmosphere for community building, dancing, and roots music of all kinds. Local musician and Arhoolie Foundation board member Suzy Thompson states, “I can’t think of any place that is as perfect an example of the kind of musical melting pot that is the Bay Area — and I love that Ashkenaz continues to celebrate and provide a venue for all kinds of social dance.”

Elvin Bishop – 2019 Chris Strachwitz Legacy Award

Elvin Bishop

Ever since Rock & Roll and Blues Hall Of Famer Elvin Bishop first hit the scene with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band back in 1965, he’s blazed his own musical trail. Whether he was playing raw, eye-popping blues, or penning the evergreen radio hit Fooled Around And Fell In Love, or touring the world for decades delivering his original, good-time countrified blues, Bishop has always inspired his fans with his rowdy guitar playing and witty, slice-of-life songs. Rolling Stone calls Bishop “a legendary guitarist” whose playing is “impeccable and spirited…a distinguished American player.”

Late in 2015, Elvin Bishop formed The Big Fun Trio, with Bishop on guitar and vocals, and his friends Bob Welsh on piano and guitar and Willy Jordan on cajón (a hand-played Peruvian drumbox) and vocals. 

In the last few years alone Elvin Bishop has been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (this as a member of the Butterfield Blues Band). His hit song, Fooled Around & Fell In Love was also recently included on the Guardians of The Galaxy soundtrack, a #1 album. The song has also just been recorded by Country superstar Miranda Lambert and released in an all star video in September 2019, featuring Maren Morris, Elle King, Ashley McBryde, Tenille Townes and Caylee Hammack. Elvin is a 3 time Grammy nominee, most recently for his Big Fun Trio album, Something Smells Funky ‘Round Here, out now on Alligator Records.

Learn about past Arhoolie Award winners here.