May 6, 2023 -NEW YORK (AP) — Chris Strachwitz, a producer, musicologist and one-man preservation society whose Arhoolie Records released thousands of songs by regional performers and comprised an extraordinary American archive that became known and loved worldwide, has died. He was 91.
Strachwitz, recipient in 2016 of a Grammy Trustee Award, passed away Friday from complications with congestive heart failure at an assisted living facility in the San Francisco Bay Area’s Marin County, the Arhoolie Foundation said Saturday.
Admired by Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt and many others, Strachwitz was an unlikely champion of the American vernacular — a native German born into privilege who fell deeply for his adopted country’s music and was among the most intrepid field recorders to emerge after Alan Lomax.
He founded Arhoolie in 1960 and over the following decades traveled to Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana among other states on a mission that rarely relented: taping little-known artists in their home environments, be it a dance hall, a front porch, a beer joint, a backyard.
“My stuff isn’t produced. I just catch it as it is,” he explained in the 2014 documentary “This Ain’t No Mouse Music.”
The name Arhoolie, suggested by fellow musicologist Mack McCormick, is allegedly a regional expression for field holler.