MARIN COUNTY, CA (CelebriyAccess) — Chris Strachwitz, musicologist and the founder of Arhoolie Records, a renowned folk label, has passed away at the age of 91.
The Arhoolie Foundation announced his death on Saturday, revealing that Strachwitz died peacefully at his home in California on Friday.
Born in the German province of Lower Silesia, which is now a part of Poland, he migrated with his family to Canada during World War II and eventually settled in California.
Strachwitz developed a passion for American folk music as a teenager and started collecting 78 RPM records. This passion became his lifelong pursuit and later translated into a successful career.
After serving in the army for two years, Strachwitz teamed up with Mack McCormick, an amateur folklorist and musicologist, and started recording regional blues and folk artists.
Their first recording was of Mance Lipscomb, a Texas sharecropper and part-time musician. These recordings were the genesis of Arhoolie Records, which was founded in the 1960s. The label introduced numerous regional musicians to millions of Americans who might not have otherwise been exposed to their music.
Arhoolie’s early releases included music from Clifton Chenier, known as the “King of Zydeco,” and Flaco Jiménez, whose album Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio y Más! won the Grammy for Best Mexican-American/Tejano Music Performance at the 29th Annual Grammy Awards in 1979.
In addition to his work with Arhoolie Records, Strachwitz produced the first Berkeley Blues Festival in 1965, featuring Arhoolie artists such as Mississippi Fred McDowell, Mance Lipscomb, and Big Mama Thornton. He was also influential in the live music world.
In 2016, the Arhoolie label was purchased by Ed Littlefield’s Sage Foundation and donated to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings to preserve the archive as part of the American music tradition in perpetuity.
The Arhoolie Foundation stated that plans for a memorial service, including a public celebration of Strachwitz’s life, will be announced in the coming weeks. They added that Strachwitz “captured the music that represents the best ‘down home music’ the world has to offer,” and was “at the forefront of nearly all the roots revivals over the last 60 years including blues, zydeco, Cajun, Norteño and Tejano music.”
In 2022, Strachwitz sat down with Larry LeBlanc of CelebrityAccess for a wide-ranging interview that is worth a read.