Announcing the Robert Stone Sacred Steel Gospel Collection

Sacred Steel Gospel performer Elton Noble, from the Arhoolie Foundation collection

The Arhoolie Foundation is proud to announce that our archive will now be home to the Robert Stone Sacred Steel Gospel Collection. 

Since 1992, folklorist and musician Robert Stone has been documenting the sacred steel gospel tradition from the House of God and Church of the Living God communities. During this time, he has amassed a one-of-a-kind collection of approximately 6,400 35mm film negatives, 124 audio interviews, and several hundred color slides. He has generously chosen to donate his collection to the Arhoolie Foundation archives.

Stone notes our efforts at preservation and public access as core parts of his decision. He states, “Donating my sacred steel archival materials to the Arhoolie Foundation was an easy choice. I began working with Chris Strachwitz in 1996, shortly after I mailed him a copy of the cassette/booklet album Sacred Steel: Traditional African-American Steel Guitar Music in Florida, which I had produced for the Florida Folklife Program. Arhoolie Records licensed the album and released it as Arhoolie CD 450. I went on to produce seven CD albums of sacred steel guitar music and direct the Arhoolie Foundation’s Sacred Steel documentary video. Working with Chris and the Arhoolie staff has been and continues to be a pleasure.

The Arhoolie Foundation preserves and presents media and materials related to regional, ethnic and roots music. Of paramount importance, it makes these resources easily accessible to the public, scholars and educators. I am proud to contribute archival materials to the Arhoolie Foundation’s collections and can think of no better home for my work. Placing my work with the Arhoolie Foundation ensures that it will be professionally preserved and presented and easily accessed today and for generations to come.”

Robert Stone Sacred Steel Gospel book coverArhoolie Foundation executive director Adam Machado looks forward to integrating this material into the archive: “Bob Stone’s compelling collection documents a vibrant musical and spiritual community. We’re big fans of Bob’s work, and are extremely fortunate that he chose our archives as the collection’s home. This unique material perfectly complements the Harry Oster and Chris Strachwitz collections, and will help us preserve our diverse musical heritage for generations to come. Bob is doing the painstaking work of identifying people in the photographs going back nearly 30 years. Going forward we will work together to curate this incredible material on our website and elsewhere.”

In addition to directing the documentary video and producing the CDs, Robert Stone is the author of Sacred Steel: Inside an African American Steel Guitar Tradition. He also has a new book from the University Press of Mississippi, which the Arhoolie Foundation was honored to sponsor for publication through a grant. The book, Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus! Photographs from the Sacred Steel Community, is now available for pre-order! You can order it here.



Comment (1)

Dear Chris,
I was a long-time resident of Richmond (Dimm Street) and haunted your store on San Pablo at least twice a week on my way home from work at CAL. I have been living in Germany for the past 30 years, but in retirement I have finally found time to finish my book on the meaning of blues lyrics entitled “The Secret Language of the Blues”. I would like to send you a complimentary copy and wanted to confirm the address on San Pablo Avenue as the correct one before sending the book. It is now in production and will be published before Christmas in a book series entitled “Icons of American Culture” by Pulp Hero Press/Barnes & Noble. So pleased to hear about the latest addition to the Arhoolie Foundation Archives! All the best and stay safe and healthy!
Bob Cremer
Bamberg, Germany