What a Difference a Date Makes

By John Leopold, Managing Director

The Arhoolie Foundation collections contain a multitude of items that were acquired by a collector. Chris Strachwitz collected records, tapes, posters, pictures and more. He also was fastidious with his papers, saving all manners of records, articles, and scraps that hold clues to his adventures and recordings. One of my favorite parts to browse is his collection of datebooks that he maintained starting in 1963. These aren’t diaries and they don’t contain what he did every day, but they are a useful record of places he went and who he saw (and how much he spent) when he was traveling. 

Recently I went to San Antonio, Lafayette, and New Orleans in support of future Arhoolie Foundation projects, but I made a lot of stops that Chris would have: checking in on Santiago Jimenez Jr., getting together with Lydia Mendoza’s grandchildren, going to the Del Bravo Record Store, enjoying the Festival Acadiens, and filming some music in Louisiana.

Siblings Javier and Irma Gutierrez at Del Bravo Records in October 2022. Photo by the author.

After my return, I was looking at the calendars we have and found a similar trip that Chris took 40 years ago in December 1982. The adventure starts in San Antonio where Chris met with Salome Gutierrez, owner of Del Bravo Records and founder of DLB records. Salome was in Chulas Fronteras and was extremely helpful in connecting Chris to stashes of 78s in the area and to musicians in the region. The record store is the oldest in Texas and still survives today, run by Salome’s friendly and capable children. Chris recorded that in his datebook “Jose Morante stopped by and wants to lease me material” for future albums with Flaco Jimenez and a future release about corrdios. Jose was a great entrepreneur of Mexican music and a wonderful musician in his own right. The night ended with a performance of Santiago Jimenez Jr. who released “El Corrido de Henry Cisneros” as an Arhoolie 45 earlier in the year. Chris liked Santiago but was not as sold on the rest of the band.

Visiting with the great Santiago Jimenez Jr. at his home in San Antonio, October 2022. Photo by Juan Antonio Cuellar.

Chris then made the six-hour drive to Lafayette. There he met with Eddie Shuler, founder of Goldband Records and a successful musician. He picked up records that he could sell at his store, Down Home Music. Chris also went on the radio with Michael Doucet, lunched with Philip Gould who took many great photos for Arhoolie releases, and stopped to see Barry Ancelet, Cajun folklorist and ethnomusicologist. While in Louisiana he would also record Chuck Guillory, Rufus Thibodeaux (with Michael Doucet on guitar), and Luderin Darbone of the Hackberry Ramblers. He also went to Basil and heard a great Cajun band, but he didn’t write down who that was.

Chris’s datebook entries for his December 1982 trip to San Antonio and Louisiana

Then it was back to Texas. While in San Antonio, he stopped by Joey Records and picked up more records he could sell at Down Home. Later in the day of December 21st, he recorded Santiago Jimenez Jr. and wrote that he got seven good tunes.

Looking at these calendar entries, I realize that you have to stay pretty busy to keep up with the level of activity that Chris maintained on his expeditions to Texas and Louisiana. We have many records that prove this, and they remind us to always appreciate the hard work he put into recording and collecting so much amazing music.

Here at the archive, we’ve begun a project to catalog Chris’s thousands of photographs. His datebook is a boon to our efforts, supplying crucial information on the dates and locations of photographs. Chris himself remains an extraordinary resource as we set about the long but rewarding task of describing, arranging, and sharing his collection. Stay tuned to the blog for updates on our progress and more stories from the archive.