Label Spotlight: Arhoolie Records
While teaching at a high school in Los Gatos, California, Chris Strachwitz spent his summers traveling through the South with a portable tape recorder intent on capturing the live barroom sound of Lightnin’ Hopkins and other musicians he had been collecting on old 78s. It was during one of these trips to Texas that he found Mance Lipscomb, a sharecropper who supplemented his income cutting grass with a road crew north of Houston. Chris Strachwitz suspended a single microphone above a table in Mance Lipscomb’s kitchen, that recording would become Arhoolie’s first LP, released in 1960, the birth of Arhoolie Records and the start of an incredible journey for Chris Strachwitz.
Through his travels Chris Strachwitz discovered and recorded many artists that may have remained relatively unknown to a larger audience if it hadn’t been for the dedication of Chris Strachwitz and his infatuation with the unique regional music of America. Artists such as Clifton Chenier, Black Ace, Flaco Jimenez, Lil’ Son Jackson, and BeauSoleil all were first recorded by Strachwitz.
It was through his collecting and selling old 78s that Chris Strachwitz first heard the raw sounds of the blues, early jazz, and hillbilly artists. During his travels he tried to track down many of the artists he admired from these old 78 records. He launched renewed recording careers for many of these musicians, such as ‘Mississippi’ Fred McDowell and Del McCoury.
Here on the Bus we hold the owners of independent record companies and ethnomusicologists in high regard. Chris Strachwitz is a member of an elite group that includes Moses Asch (founder of Folkways Records), and ethnomusicoligists Harry Everett Smith (Anthology of American Folk Music, 1952), and John and Alan Lomax (The Folk Songs of North America and responsible for over ten thousand field recordings for the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress) who through their research and documentation have preserved and promoted the down-home regional American music that we love.
In 2000 a Grammy Award winning special 5 disc retrospective was issued, The Arhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Box Set – 1960-2000 “The Journey of Chris Strachwitz”. This amazing collection holds 106 songs by 96 artists and includes a large format 68 page color book, filled with over 120 photos from the Arhoolie Archives. If this wonderful archive of American music is not already an important part of your collection, now is the chance to rectify that oversight.
Arhoolie Records is holding a sale on over 80 classic CDs. The sale is not available on their website, but only by downloading the special sale flyer. Included in the sale are releases some great CDs from the Arhoolie catalog including The Pine Leaf Boys, No Speed Limit, Stevie Barr, Clifton Chenier, Flaco Jimenez, Lightnin' Hopkins, Rose Maddox, J.E. Mainer’s Mountaineers, Big Joe Williams, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and many, many more. The sale flyer includes something from every genre; Blues, Gospel, Bluegrass, Jazz, Cajun, Zydeco, Tejano, and Traditional Music from around the world. This is a rare and wonderful opportunity to fill the gaps in your collection or just explore and expand your musical horizons.
Most amazing to me is the opportunity to pick up the 5 CD The Arhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Box Set – 1960-2000 “The Journey of Chris Strachwitz” for only US$20! The set is normally $50 and is listed at Amazon for $54.98. I paid full price for this collection when it was first released and believe I got a deal! Five CDs filled with a wide assortment of rare and wonderful recordings and a large, glossy 68 page book for fifty bucks, that’s a deal, but the same set for a mere twenty greenbacks, that’s a steal!
Click here to download the Arhoolie Sale Catalog (.pdf file)
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