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A Short History of Arhoolie

Homemade music since 1960

Smithsonian Folkways has made more than 300 prominent titles from the famous Arhoolie Records catalog available digitally to all digital service providers and on CD and vinyl via the Smithsonian Folkways website. The remaining titles from around 650 collection albums will be released on an ongoing basis. Smithsonian Folkways acquired the Arhoolie catalog in May 2016, from its founder Chris Strachwitz and business partner Tom Diamant.

Chris Strachwitz moved to the United States from Germany in 1947 and fell in love with American roots music. His first love was New Orleans jazz, but radio broadcasts from Los Angeles and Baja California introduced him to hillbilly, rhythm & blues, gospel, Mexican norteno music and so on. As a large collector in his 78s, Strachwitz traveled to Texas in 1959 to meet his idol, Lightning Hopkins, and was fortunate enough to hear him perform live in a small beer place. Caught by the exchange between Lightning and his listeners, and by the poem from his improvised lyrics, Chris decided right then and there that someone had to capture this man’s music directly in one of the joints and put it in the recording.

The following year, Chris returned to Houston only to find Hopkins leaving for California, so he and Mack McCormick, guides for all things Texas, traveled north out of town to Navasota, where they met and recorded the remarkable local singer Mance Lipscomb. A few months later, in November 1960, Arhoolie LP 1001 introduced the new label Chris and the small town Texas singer to the world. (An arhoolie is a grumpy pitch; the name was suggested by McCormick.) Over the next 55 years, Chris and Arhoolie Records released more than 350 albums. As the right music seeker, many of Chris’s recordings include Cajun, zydeco, norteño, bluegrass, gospel and blues. Regional forms such as zydeco may never have national exposure without Arhoolie. The Smithsonian obtained the Arhoolie label from Chris and partner Tom Diamant in 2016 to ensure that the recordings would survive and remain available for future generations. where they met and recorded the remarkable local singer Mance Lipscomb. A few months later, in November 1960, Arhoolie LP 1001 introduced the new label Chris and the small town Texas singer to the world. (An arhoolie is a field grump; the name was suggested by McCormick.)

Over the next 55 years, Chris and Arhoolie Records released more than 350 albums. As the right music seeker, many of Chris’s recordings include Cajun, zydeco, norteño, bluegrass, gospel and blues. Regional forms such as zydeco may never have national exposure without Arhoolie. The Smithsonian obtained the Arhoolie label from Chris and partner Tom Diamant in 2016 to ensure that the recordings would survive and remain available for future generations. where they met and recorded the remarkable local singer Mance Lipscomb. A few months later, in November 1960, Arhoolie LP 1001 introduced the new label Chris and the small town Texas singer to the world. (An arhoolie is a grumpy pitch; the name was suggested by McCormick.) Over the next 55 years, Chris and Arhoolie Records released more than 350 albums. As the right music seeker, many of Chris’s recordings include Cajun, zydeco, norteño, bluegrass, gospel and blues. Regional forms such as zydeco may never have national exposure without Arhoolie. The Smithsonian obtained the Arhoolie label from Chris and partner Tom Diamant in 2016 to ensure that the recordings would survive and remain available for future generations. Arhoolie LP 1001 introduced the new label Chris and the small town Texas small singer to the world. (An arhoolie is a grumpy pitch; the name was suggested by McCormick.) Over the next 55 years, Chris and Arhoolie Records released more than 350 albums. As the right music seeker, many of Chris’s recordings include Cajun, zydeco, norteño, bluegrass, gospel and blues. Regional forms such as zydeco may never have national exposure without Arhoolie. The Smithsonian obtained the Arhoolie label from Chris and partner Tom Diamant in 2016 to ensure that the recordings would survive and remain available for future generations.

Arhoolie LP 1001 introduced the new label Chris and the small town Texas small singer to the world. (An arhoolie is a grumpy pitch; the name was suggested by McCormick.) Over the next 55 years, Chris and Arhoolie Records released more than 350 albums. As the right music seeker, many of Chris’s recordings include Cajun, zydeco, norteño, bluegrass, gospel and blues.

Regional forms such as zydeco may never have national exposure without Arhoolie. The Smithsonian obtained the Arhoolie label from Chris and partner Tom Diamant in 2016 to ensure that the recordings would survive and remain available for future generations.

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