Arhoolie Records Celebrates 60 Years
This December, Smithsonian Folkways and the Arhoolie Foundation will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the iconic Arhoolie Records and the 25th anniversary of the Arhoolie Foundation with new digital offerings, a new dedicated Bandcamp page for the label, and a free virtual concert on Thursday, December 10, at 5:00pm PST/8:00pm EST featuring Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Ry Cooder, and more. Founded in 1960 by Chris Strachwitz, and acquired by Smithsonian Folkways in 2016, Arhoolie has become synonymous with 20th-century blues, zydeco, Tejano, and many other popular folk styles of the 20th century, influencing multiple generations of musicians across numerous genres. The label released historic albums by Big Mama Thornton, Clifton Chenier, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, and Mississippi Fred McDowell, among countless other revered singers and musicians.
On December 10th the Arhoolie Foundation, with the support of Smithsonian Folkways, will present a free virtual concert via YouTube celebrating the legacy of Arhoolie Records and the 25th anniversary of the Arhoolie Foundation. The event will be hosted by Nick Spitzer of public radio’s American Routes, and will feature exclusive performances from Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, Billy Gibbons, Ry Cooder, Charlie Musselwhite, Del McCoury, Los Texmaniacs, Savoy Family Band, La Marisoul, Cedric Watson, The Campbell Brothers, and more. The 3rd annual Arhoolie Awards, honoring musicians, organizations, and individuals who carry on and uplift roots and regional musical styles, will be presented to Sugar Pie DeSanto, Courtney Granger, and The Roots of Music, with the legendary Flaco Jiménez receiving the Chris Strachwitz Legacy Award. The musicians will be performing songs from throughout the Arhoolie catalog and speaking about the label’s impact on their music. Donations will be accepted and will benefit the Arhoolie Foundation’s ongoing work.
Smithsonian Folkways will be celebrating this momentous 60th anniversary milestone by launching a new digital exhibition on Arhoolie. The new website features rarely seen images of Lipscomb, Black Ace, Bukka White, Lydia Mendoza, Flaco Jiménez, and many more, as well as essays by Smithsonian Folkways’ Jeff Place, Nicole Mullen of the SFO Museum, and Strachwitz himself; playlists of classic music from the catalog; and a definitive discography. The new website offers fans an immersive journey through the history of the label, digging deep into Strachwitz’s relationship to the artists, the story behind the label’s name and logo, and the label’s enduring legacy. Folkways has also created a dedicated Bandcamp page for Arhoolie, featuring over 100 titles available on Bandcamp for the first time.
Arhoolie Records was acquired by Smithsonian Folkways in 2016. Smithsonian Folkways’ mission to collect and preserve traditional music from around the world has led to the acquisition of many iconic labels since the original Folkways Records catalog was acquired by the Smithsonian in 1987. Arhoolie is joined by Paredon, the pioneering protest music label co-founded by Barbara Dane, acquired in 1991; Folk-Legacy Records, featuring a plethora of material from the ʼ60s folk revival, in 2019; the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music, in 2014; and more as a part of the Smithsonian Folkways label group. The material on Right on Rhythm will remain in print in perpetuity, like all music in the Smithsonian Folkways catalog. In 2019 Rolling Stone reported on the label’s efforts to preserve traditional music from around the world, offering a glimpse into the way this music is archived.
The Arhoolie Foundation is a non-profit organization rooted in the life's work of its founder Chris Strachwitz and his acclaimed label Arhoolie Records. The foundation’s mission is to document and celebrate blues, Cajun, zydeco, gospel, jazz, Tejano/Norteño, old-time, and other tradition-based styles of music through archival preservation, exhibits, community and educational outreach, live performance, and direct support to artists.