Remembering Manuel Peña (1942 – 2019)

Manuel Peña & Chris Strachwitz - May 30, 2007 at Arhoolie Recods
Manuel Peña & Chris Strachwitz
May 30, 2007 at Arhoolie Records

The Arhoolie Foundation’s good friend and colleague Dr. Manuel Heriberto Peña passed away on March 9th, 2019. Here’s a remembrance from Arhoolie Foundation’s president Chris Strachwitz.

“My condolences go out to the family of Manuel Peña and I am sorry I only heard about his passing from Prof. John McDowell about a week ago. Manuel had been a longtime friend whose help and advice I have enjoyed since the mid 1980s when Dr. Peña worked on his first book: The Texas-Mexican Conjunto. He soon approached me about editing an audio companion to his book. Having already released a number of Arhoolie/Folklyric LPs and Cassettes featuring historic recordings of this delightful accordion and bajo sexto driven regional dance music, I was happy to publish it. Since I personally had only an outsider’s understanding of the role this music played in the regional culture of the people of the border country, Dr. Peña’s input was invaluable since he was born and raised in south Texas.

With his next book The Texas-Mexican Orquesta his research and the oral histories he conducted were amazing and unique. Our friendship continued and Manuel eventually turned his materials over to the Arhoolie Foundation which prides itself for holding probably the largest collection of historical commercial recordings and other items related to this music. All fans of this music owe him a lot of gratitude for helping to bring it respectability!”  — Chris Strachwitz – 4/14/2019

To listen to Dr. Peña interviews with legendary performers of Texas-Mexican Conjunto and Orquesta music, click here…


Comment (1)

Q.D.E.P. ,,carnal Manuel Peña,,,,I met Dr. Peña in Austin, Texas , UT 1983 at Encuentro con La Musica Tejana : A Dialogue With Tejano Music a conference honoring Tejano Musician Pioneers, I was performing with Conjunto Aztlan and, later 1988 we crossed paths again at the home of Oscar ‘Carin’ Hernandez accordion player for Conjunto Bernal in the 60s, I was performing Guitar for Mr. Hernandez. I will miss my carnal Dr. Peña, Manuel very much! Dr. Peña, Manuel played an awesome guitar, too! Thanks ARHOOLE for all that you do! Sincerely, yours, Chacon, Hector S.

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.