Down Home Music: The Stories and Photographs of Chris Strachwitz

A visual storytelling celebration of American roots music in its rich variety through unseen and newly scanned photographs by the founder of the legendary Arhoolie Records.

From the very beginning, Strachwitz brought his camera along with recording equipment as he met and recorded now-legendary artists such as Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Clifton Chenier, and Big Joe Williams. This book collects more than 150 of his best, most intimate, and exciting images—many never-before-seen—each with rich captions by Strachwitz and award-winning music journalist Joel Selvin, along with a substantial 20,000-word essay by Selvin about Arhoolie, Strachwitz, and the music.

INTIMATE AND AMAZING PHOTOGRAPHS: Although Strachwitz would always self-deprecatingly claim that the photographs he took while meeting and recording musicians were strictly documentary, and *maybe* of some use for a record sleeve later, they are much more than that. Lyrical, candid, real: His rapport with the musicians and their families is glowing and evident in these photographs.

RIVETING MUSIC HISTORY PHOTO BOOK: These are never-before-seen photos, and photos like you’ve never seen before. Every image is from freshly remastered scans, and the authors dove deep into the Arhoolie archives to uncover images almost no one has had the chance to see.
CRUCIAL AMERICAN MUSIC AND CULTURAL HISTORY: Strachwitz’s wide-ranging interest and unbridled enthusiasm for all sorts of roots music led to his crisscrossing the country from artist to artist based on recommendations, rumor, tips, radio broadcasts—the result being a portrait (in sound for the label, and image in this book) of vital American music in a wide range of genres. He has rich stories for each photograph and artist.
AN INVALUABLE DOCUMENT: Arhoolie fundamentally shaped our understanding of American music. Renowned music writer Joel Selvin has not only worked with Strachwitz to draw out the stories behind the photographs, but he has contributed an invaluable long-form essay about Arhoolie, Strachwitz, and the label’s cultural legacy to anchor this incredible book.

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.