The Story of Arhoolie Records, on Display at SFO Museum

If you’re traveling through the San Francisco International Airport anytime soon, make sure to check out SFO Museum’s new exhibit Down-Home Music: The Story of Arhoolie Records.

This exhibit tells the story of Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie Records, and features musical instruments, album covers, photographs, posters, the original Magnecord reel-to-reel tape recorder Strachwitz used for most of his recordings between 1962-1971, and other artifacts.

Chris Strachwitz and Wayne Pope pasting the covers of the first Arhoolie Records' release "Texas Songster," 1960. Photo by Alice Pope.
Chris Strachwitz and Wayne Pope pasting the covers of the first Arhoolie Records’ release “Texas Songster,” 1960. Photo by Alice Pope.

Nicole Mullen, Curator of Exhibits for SFO Museum, speaks to the significance of the exhibit: “
I can sincerely say that this is one of the best and most memorable exhibitions that I have put together for the Museum. It just kept getting better and better as the show came together, searching through all of Chris’ albums and ephemera, discovering the music of each of the artists in the show as I wrote the exhibition copy, and most importantly, getting to know Chris, and hearing his stories and experiences firsthand.

Story of Arhoolie Exhibit“For over fifty years, Strachwitz has introduced eager listeners to music that moved him. Strachwitz’s records continue to introduce generations of fans to a variety of vernacular musicians who might otherwise have remained unknown. Chris wasn’t in it for the profit; he only recorded music that moved him. Not only did he record many local artists, such as Big Mama Thornton and K.C. Douglas, he also introduced many important musicians to the folk festival scene, locally, nationally, and even internationally, igniting or reviving their careers. I’d say his passion for conjunto/norteño music is unparalleled, and the genre receives a lot of coverage in the show. I’m also excited to introduce our airport audiences to Cajun/ Creole and Zydeco music, important American music styles that Chris also helped popularize. I could go on gushing about Chris—cultural preservationist, local legend, a European immigrant who journeyed into the heart of American vernacular music and dedicated his life to it.


“There is so much wonderful material to view—from Chris’ first record release by Mance Lipscomb to the Rev. Louis Overstreet, ‘King of Zydeco’ Clifton Chenier, ‘Lark of the Border’ Lydia Mendoza—it’s all worth seeing and absorbing. And I think the intimate exhibition space allows viewers to easily see the show in its entirety.”

Down-Home Music: The Story of Arhoolie Records is located post-security in Terminal 2, Departures Level, San Francisco International Airport.  This exhibition is accessible to ticketed passengers from September 15, 2018­­–June 9, 2019. Learn more here.


Visit SFO Museum’s website.

Comments (2)

Such a knock out of an exhibit. And wonderful that San Francisco International Airport would pay such beautiful tribute to a man and his company who cherish, chronicle and celebrate the remarkable music of immigrants from around the world , especially from Mexico, to this nation. I am moved by Chris Strachwitz and the teams at Arhoolie Records and Down Home Music and their love of country and of music.

Thank you for such sharing this journey.