Dry dusty roads, dark end streets, and rowdy juke joints are where you hear the blues. It was his love of down home blues that inspired Chris Strachwitz to start Arhoolie Records. The earliest releases on the label are blues classics today. Through them, Chris was able to help introduce regional blues artists to fans throughout the country and around the world. This month our Deep Dive takes us to some of the places Chris and Arhoolie traveled with the blues,  and includes stories, photos, posters, and performances from the Blues greats that are housed in our collections.

Check out our Spotify Blues on Tour playlist to enjoy during the trip:

Ever wonder what it was like on the American Folk Blues Festival Tour in Europe in 1964 with Sonny Boy Williamson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Willie Dixon and other greats? Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz was there and shares stories of the tour and others involving Sonny Boy Williamson.

Mance Lipscomb at the Greek Theatre

Mance Lipscomb hadn’t wanted to come all the way, but the $300 check with his name on it, made even a place as far away as California shift just a little bit closer to Texas. UC Berkeley promised another $200 if he made the trip and he would need that money, as he told Chris Strachwitz in a letter to “buy clothes to wair up there and leave my people food.”

Enjoy this picture of Mance at the Berkeley Folk Festival and other blues players and musicians of all kinds on our website:

Poster Collection – During his years collecting and recording music Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz acquired many blues, zydeco and gospel posters. So many great artists came through the area and Chris also gathered them on his trips to Texas and Louisiana. The walls at the Arhoolie Foundation are covered with these rare posters. 

Down Home Music – In 1963 filmmaker Dietrich Wawzyn set out to shoot a series of films for German television that took him on a tour of the southern US. He contacted Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz, who jumped at the chance to join him and share his enthusiasm for regional musical traditions. Arhoolie Foundation took Wawzyn’s footage and made Down Home Music, now available to watch on our YouTube channel. Here is Lowell Fulson singing the blues in San Francisco from the film. (footage starts around 7:51)

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.