Arhoolie Foundation Project Chronology

1995 – Distribution of 500 free copies of “Corridos y Tragedias de la Frontera”
A grant from the Rex Foundation funded the distribution of approximately 500 free copies of the double CD “Corridos y Tragedias de la Frontera” (CD 7019/20), produced by Arhoolie Records, to about 500 public libraries throughout the Southwest where these ballads originated.

This historic double CD collection from “The Golden Era of the Recorded Corrido: 1928-1937” presents twenty-seven examples of the Mexican Border Ballad tradition. These commercially recorded story songs document and chronicle celebrated heroes and events, as well as minor fictional characters and folk tales. The corrido or ballad tradition has evolved over the past 150 years to become one of the most vital components of Mexican and Mexican-American popular culture and literature, and continues to thrive to this day on both sides of the border. The versions presented in the collection are in most cases the first recordings ever made of these corridos, and are sung mostly by regional male duets who lived and worked along the border, with guitar accompaniment. The accompanying 164-page illustrated book with notes by folklorist Phillip Sonnichsen details the history and circumstances surrounding most of these classic stories.

The enclosed book also includes complete transcriptions and translations of all the corridos along with short biographies of some of the singers. Sound restoration of the original 78 discs was performed by George Morrow to remove extraneous noises inherent in the old pressings. Great care, however, has been taken to preserve the original ambiance of these historic discs.

1996 – Documenting and Cataloging the Mexican Peerless Label

Discos Peerless S.A. was Mexico’s first major record producing and manufacturing firm. The Peerless label, probably under the ownership of Gustavo Klinkwort, first appeared around 1929 with a 7000 series, which included several releases by singer, composer, and pianist, Agustín Lara, who would soon become one of the major stars of Mexican popular music.



1996 – International Conference on the Corrido
Chris-Jaime-Guillermo squareIn 1996 the Arhoolie Foundation contributed to the presentation of two well-known corridistas and their conjuntos from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico to appear in person at the second International Conference on the Corrido held in January 1996 in Austin, TX, under the auspices of the Center For Mexican-American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Several Corrido Conferences have been held since then‚ all largely due to the persistent efforts of the late Prof. Guillermo Hernandez of the UCLA Chicano Studies Center.


1998 – Film: “Red Alexander: Shipwright and Folk Artist”
red-alexanderThe Arhoolie Foundation produced this lovely documentary film about Robert ‘Red’ Alexander, a shipwright and folk artist who builds miniature ships in bottles, among other projects. Funding came from Archie Green and the local shipwright union. The film was directed by Chris Simon. Arhoolie Foundation (AF DVD 202)..



1998 – Film: “Everything But The Squeak”
7962938The Arhoolie Foundation produced the video documentary entitled “Everything But The Squeak” in conjunction with Documentary Arts Inc. of Dallas, TX. The film documents a Cajun Country boucherie (butchering of a hog and eating it!) and other Cajun/Creole traditions in the Eunice, LA area. The DVD features a jam session at the Savoy Music Store, music by Aldus Roger, Ken Smith, Donald Thibodeaux & Cajun Fever at Fred’s Lounge in Mamou with Tante Sue, the Huval brothers, and more. Arhoolie Foundation (AF DVD 201) The film is now available to view for free here..


2001 – Film: “Sacred Steel”
DVD203The Arhoolie Foundation, in cooperation with the Documentary Arts Foundation, produced this documentary film under the direction of Robert Stone. “Sacred Steel” shows the development and use of the steel guitar in assisting the services and leading the “praise music” in the House Of God denomination of these Holiness-Pentecostal churches. Find the film here.



2001-2002 – Sacred Steel Instrument Fund
steelfund1The purpose of the Sacred Steel Instrument Fund was to provide a source of instruments to talented musicians, to support the African-American sacred steel guitar musical tradition, and to encourage those musicians to continue the tradition by sharing instruments.

For several years, at the Sacred Steel Convention in Florida, instruments and equipment were donated to deserving musicians. The instruments were originally donated to the Arhoolie Foundation’s Sacred Steel Instrument Fund by various individuals and businesses. A selection committee chose promising players from applicants whom they felt would benefit or be encouraged by receiving an upgraded model guitar, new or used. Fourteen musicians received instruments and equipment from the fund.

2001-2003 – Viva la Charreria Mexicana
charreria-mexicanaIn 2001 the Arhoolie Foundation received a grant from the California Traditional Arts Advancement Program, a program of the Fund for Folk Culture supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, to partially fund “Viva la Charreria Mexicana,” a project documenting the rich tradition of the charreria in California. Read more…


2003 – Frontera Collection Image Archive
LydiaMendoza2Volunteer/intern Mindy Gross cataloged and scanned over 1100 photos of musicians, record company catalogs, and other historic images related to the recordings in the Frontera Collection. These images were collected by Chris Strachwitz over the years and donated to the Foundation in 2004. Also included are images donated by various musicians and their relatives along with other collectors, especially Billy Roy Morales who has contributed his efforts in regards to early Norteño musicians. We encourage anyone who has such visual or audio materials and are willing to sell or donate them, to contact us.

2004 – Film: “I Hear What You See”
kennyhallIn 2004 the Arhoolie Foundation received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Traditional Arts Advancement Program (a program of the Fund For Folk Culture) for the film “I Hear What You See,” directed by Chris Simon. Additional funding was provided by the Arhoolie Foundation and the Fresno Folklore Society, and matching funds were received from the Sage Foundation.

The film documents the music and life of 80-year-old blind fiddler, singer, mandolin player, and storyteller Kenny Hall, who influenced many old-time traditionalists. Find the film here.

2004-2005 – Assisting Film Student Wilson Savoy
savoy-horaceIn 2004-2005 the Arhoolie Foundation, through a generous contribution from Ed Littlefield Jr., Julia Derby, and the Sage Foundation, was able to assist Wilson Savoy in honing his skills as director, cinematographer and editor for several short DVD projects. These films include: “Hard Pressed but Never Crushed” (about the life and struggles of Louisiana musician Horace Trahan), and “Tee Mamou” (subtitled: Courrir de Mardi Gras), which are both available on one DVD along with several other short films.

2005 – Film: “The Devil’s Swing”

devils_swing_2The Arhoolie Foundation funded the cost of filming and paying musicians performing corridos (ballads) about important events and personalities in the history of “La Junta De Los Rios,” which is the focus of the film “The Devil’s Swing.” Produced by Alan Govenar and Documentary Arts of Dallas, TX, the film concerns the history and culture of the border region around Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico and Presido, TX. The film includes a sequence about the killing of a young student, Esequiel Hernandez, by US Marines, (the subject of a popular and lasting corrido), and a fascinating sequence about Pablo Acosta which includes many songs about this local Robin Hood-esque drug lord.

A fascinating CD containing all the relevant music (including songs not in the film) is available from Arhoolie Records (CD #480).  Find “The Devil’s Swing” at Documentary Arts.

2005 – Digitizing the Harry Oster Field Recordings
osterThanks to a grant from the Fund for Labor Culture, in 2005 the Arhoolie Foundation was able to digitize and catalog the original field recordings made by the late Prof. Harry Oster in southwest Louisiana in the 1950s and early 60s. The original reel-to-reel tapes of various regional vernacular musical traditions were either purchased by Arhoolie Records or were donated to the Arhoolie Foundation by Mr. Oster’s widow. In 2014, Mrs. Oster donated hundreds more tapes that were previously believed to be lost, and digitizing soon began on these “long lost” parts of the Oster Archive.

2008 – Film: “El Mundo del Corrido de Guillermo Hernandez”

Julian&Guillermo 2Guillermo Hernandez was a great friend of the Arhoolie Foundation, and a primary moving force behind the Frontera Collection Digitization Project and our partnership with UCLA. His introduction of Los Tigres del Norte to the project led to their generous support, without which this work would not have been possible.

This loving film, edited by Maureen Gosling, features many live musical performances from the 1996 and 2000 Congresos del Corrido, footage of the UCLA press conference recognizing the contribution of Los Tigres del Norte, and interviews with Chris Strachwitz, Jaime Nicolopulos, and Guillermo himself. Watch the film here.

2008 – Corrido Conference in Santa Barbara

StreetPinguinos smallThe Sixth International Corrido Conference, honoring the late Guillermo Hernandez, professor of Spanish and Portuguese at UCLA and a leading scholar of Mexican narrative ballads, took place at UC Santa Barbara. The conference also celebrated the work and memory of composer-vocalist Lalo Guerrero, whose archives are housed at UCSB.



2009 – Squeezebox Stories

squeezebox-juliecaineSqueezebox Stories, hosted by Marco Werman of Public Radio International’s The World, is a sound-rich, narrative-driven public radio documentary exploring the social history, multicultural adaptation and musical variations of the accordion. Find out more here.



2009 – Film: “Always Been a Rambler”
DVD204This hour-long documentary celebrates fifty years of the New Lost City Ramblers (Mike Seeger, John Cohen, Tracy Schwarz and Tom Paley). Among the first urban musicians to seriously pursue the old-time music traditions of the American South, the New Lost City Ramblers became stars of the 1960s folk revival, appearing at Newport Folk Festival and touring widely in the US and Europe. They inspired generations of younger musicians to explore America’s traditional music, from elder statesman Bob Dylan to banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck to the contemporary African-American string band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, all of whom participated in the film. Find the film here.


2010 – Film: “Down Home Music: A Journey Through the Heartland, 1963”
AFDVD205_web_versionIn 1963 German filmmaker Dietrich Wawzyn set out to shoot a series of films for German television that took him through the southern US in search of American jazz and roots music. He contacted Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz, who jumped at the chance to join him and share his enthusiasm for regional musical traditions. Wawzyn made three films, dealing with blues, gospel, and hillbilly music. The negatives to those films were lost. This film re-creates the journey from the best elements still available and includes much previously unreleased footage. Find the film here.


2012 – An Introduction and Guide to the Strachwitz Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings
Frontera book coverThe Strachwitz Frontera Collection of Mexican American and Mexican Recordings contains over 140,000 recordings on 78s, 45s, LPs, and cassettes; over 2,000 photographs, posters, catalogs, and other images; a database of record company histories, musicians’ biographies, and more. It is the largest collection of it kind. Agustin Gurza, along with Jonathan Clark and Chris Strachwitz, explores the Frontera Collection from different viewpoints, discussing genre, themes, and some of the thousands of composers and performers whose work is contained in the archive. Throughout, he discusses the cultural significance of the recordings and relates the stories of those who have had a vital role in their production and preservation. Published by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press. Find the book here.

2013 – The Blues Come to Texas: Loping Like a Mule
LightningHopkins-promoThe Arhoolie Foundation granted funds toward the completion of a book by acclaimed blues historians Paul Oliver and Alan Govenar. This 600-800 page book, slated for publication by the Texas A&M University Press, is the result of work and research begun by Paul Oliver over 50 years ago with the cooperation of Mack McCormick, legendary Texas vernacular historian. The project is being supervised and edited by Alan Govenar, who foresees publication in 2015.



2013 – Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People, Volumes 2 and 3
The Arhoolie Foundation granted funds to Ann Savoy to continue her research into the history of Cajun music and publish volumes 2 and 3 of her acclaimed book Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People. Volume One of the book can be purchased here.




2014 – Los Cenzontles Cultural Arts Academy
loscenzontlesThe Arhoolie Foundation granted funds to help with Los Cenzontles Cultural Arts Academy‘s “Supporting Roots” campaign to raise funds to expand and renovate its art center and enhance its cultural arts programming. Los Cenzontles is a band, a nonprofit organization, a music academy, a community space for youth and families, and a hub for Latino artists – all working in tandem to amplify our Mexican roots here in the Bay Area and beyond.


2015 – Preservation of the Strachwitz Interview Collection
Big-Joe ChrisIn 2015, the Arhoolie Foundation was awarded a grant from the GRAMMY Foundation® Grant Program to digitally preserve, transcribe, and make accessible online, in streaming audio and text transcriptions, approximately 80 hours of musician interviews conducted by Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz between 1960 and 1984. This one-of-a-kind collection, existing only on original tapes in the Arhoolie Foundation vault, includes conversations with such giants of American music as Flaco Jimenez, Bongo Joe, Luis Acosta, Luderin Darbone, Howling Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Lydia Mendoza, the Staple Singers, Joe Falcon, James Campbell,  Clifton Chenier, and more.