We celebrate the life and loves of Chris Strachwitz. Ninety one years young, Chris has devoted his life to capturing great music and sharing it with us all. Join us as we turn back the clock and hear the young record man, see his pictures, learn why he is called “El Fanático” and read what it took to launch our favorite record company.

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Chris Strachwitz has been many things – songcatcher, music publisher, author, filmmaker, but he is first and foremost a Record Man. Take a listen to a newly unearthed interview with Chris in 1964 as he describes capturing the indelible songs on those early Arhoolie records, upcoming releases, and what it takes to start a record company.

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Published in 1971, the short-lived Arhoolie Occasional was a music lover’s dream. Brimming with original articles by Chris and reprints from Rolling Stone, Broadside, Time, and a host of local papers, the 19-page publication is both an insider’s guide to the record business and a journey through the lives and music of Arhoolie’s signature artists. From Chris’s explainer “What’s Involved in Making Arhoolie LP’s” to colorful profiles of Mance Lipscomb and John Jackson, to a guide entitled “How to Hire Blues Artists,” the Occasional packed enough information in its pages to satisfy even the most diehard Arhoolie fan. Best of all might be Chris’s description of the “down-home” music he loved: “It’s the music you hear at beer joints, taverns, dance halls, picnics, weddings, fiestas, in homes, in churches, and wherever people gather naturally to worship life with all its joys and pains.”

In honor of Chris’s 91st birthday, we invite you to explore the newly digitized Arhoolie Occasional Number 1 and all the wonderful stories inside it.

Over the last 91 years, Chris has loved and pursued many genres of music. But one of his great “manias” is his appreciation of music from the Mexican border region, particularly rancheras and of course corridos. Smithsonian Folkways just released a short film, “El Fanático de la Música Norteña,” about Chris and his experiences recording and filming so many great Mexican American artists over the years.  

Chris Strachwitz has been documenting vernacular music through photography since the 1950s. Since his first trip to New Orleans in 1956, through countless trips to Texas and Louisiana and around his home base in Berkeley, Chris has captured down-home music wherever he has found it. Recently, he has been working hard on a forthcoming book of photographs for Chronicle Books. With over 25,000 photos to choose from, it’s not an easy task! In anticipation of the book and as we continue to celebrate Chris’s 91st birthday, check out the Chris Strachwitz Photos gallery page on our website for some wonderful photos from Chris’s lifetime of travel and record making.

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.