Arhoolie Record’s Chris Strachwitz on Film and in Person Plus Filmmakers and EMP Guitar Tour for Seattle Folklore Society 50th Anniversary Celebration
Sunday, November 15, 2015, Special Tour of EMP Guitar Exhibit, 12:45 PM, Film “This Ain’t No Mouse Music” and Q&A, 2:00 PM. At the Experience Music Project Museum JBL Theater, 325 5th Ave N at Seattle Center. Admission to show and Guitar Exhibit Tour, $40.00 (limited tickets available). Admission to show: General, $20.00; SFS, Members & Seniors $18.00; Children $10.00. Buy at Brown Paper Tickets: http://www.sfs-strachwitz.brownpapertickets.com
The Seattle Folklore Society begins the celebration of its 50th anniversary by presenting Chris Strachwitz, the founder of Arhoolie Records, and the recent documentary film about him, “This Ain’t No Mouse Music”. Following the film there will be a Q&A with Chris Strachwitz, and the film makers, Maureen Gosling and Chris Simon, both former collaborators with Les Blank.
Before the film, at 12:45 PM, Jasen Emmons, EMP senior curator, will give a tour of the EMP Guitar Exhibit. The tour will trace the development of American guitars from the 19th Century to the present. And you can get a look at the newly acquired Martin used by Woody Guthrie. Mr. Strachwitz will be along as well. Tickets for the special tour are limited and cost extra.
Chris Strachwitz, now 84, started Arhoolie Records in 1960 to record living roots artists, mainly in the genres of blues, Cajun, zydeco, and Tex-Mex music, with excursions into jazz, old timey, and country. His passion for searching out and documenting wonderful but obscure musicians saved scores of artists from being lost forever. Some popular Arhoolie artists include Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mark and Ann Savoy, The Maddox Brothers and Rose, Elizabeth Cotten, Booker “Bukka” White, Flaco Jimenez, Lydia Mendoza, and Lowell Fulson, to name a few. The Arhoolie catalog currently has over 400 titles.
He has been honored by the Folk Alliance and the National Endowment for the arts. Arhoolie artists have received a slew of Grammys and Grammy nominations and their music has been covered by popular artists including The Rolling Stones and The Grateful Dead. Recently Strachwitz has been rescuing the masters from defunct Mexican music labels and archiving them.
Significant social and political impact stems from Strachwitz’s work. By making the music of living roots artists widely available, he helped create an audience for them, facilitated groups like SFS to present them in concert, and made it easier for both amateur and professional musicians to learn from them. All of the new appreciation of these musics, and by extension, the cultures they come from, has promoted tolerance and decreased bigotry and prejudice.
In 1966, Chris Strachwitz arranged for two of his first recording artists, Texas songster, Mance Lipscomb, and bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell, to appear at the first Seattle Folklore Society concert on November 15 of that year. Strachwitz’ Arhoolie records went on to become one of the largest, most respected independent labels for traditional roots music. The Seattle Folklore Society concert was a huge success, launching us on our way becoming an established member of the Puget Sound arts scene, now presenting about 130 concerts, dances, and folk camps a year.
On November 15, 1966 the average age of the Seattle Folklore Society board was about 25 years old. Despite our relative inexperience, Chris Strachwitz took the risk of sending Fred McDowell and Mance Lipscomb all the way to Seattle to do our first concert. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude. The kindness and generosity Chris Strachwitz treated SFS with in 1966 was typical of how he treated anyone who had his passion for the music he loved. On November 15, 2015, we will be able to express our appreciation to Chris for his early faith in us and the hundreds of musical treasures he brought to the public during his brilliant career.
“This Ain’t No Mouse Music” is a glimpse into the man who was the force behind hundreds of Arhoolie recordings. It includes music from a number of Arhoolie artists. And there are interviews by some great musicians who point out the importance of Strachwitz’ work, including Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, and Richard Thompson. The title of the film comes from Strachwitz’ predilection for music with strength, character, and authenticity, and his disdain for insipid, mundane, squeaking he considers Mickey Mouse music, hence “mouse music.” So “This ain’t no mouse music!” has become Chris Strachwitz’ statement of highest praise. Strachwitz’s success in the field of American roots music is all the more remarkable given that he immigrated to the US from Germany in 1947 at the age of 16.
Over the years, the Seattle Folklore Society has worked with at least 32 Arhoolie artists including Lightnin’ Hopkins (our 1967 concert was raided by the police twice in one evening), Mance Lipscomb, Fred McDowell, Rose Maddox, Clifton Chenier, Lydia Mendoza, Elizabeth Cotten, Marc Savoy, Ann Savoy, Flaco Jimenez, The Balfa Brothers, Big Joe Williams, Booker White, Howard Armstrong, Jesse Fuller, John Jackson, Mike Seeger, Furry Lewis, Dennis McGhee, Robert Pete Williams, Ralph Stanley, The New Lost City Ramblers, Mike Russo, Alice Gerrard, Hazel Dickens, Paul Anastasio, Skip James, Reverend Gary Davis, Sonny Terry, Suzy Thompson, Alice Stuart, and Queen Ida.
Chris Strachwitz Biography: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Strachwitz
Arhoolie Records Site: http://www.arhoolie.com/
Trailer and Press Kit for “This Ain’t No Mouse Music”: http://nomousemusic.com/
Bio for Maureen Gosling: http://www.maureengosling.com/maureen/pages/bio_full.html
Bio for Chris Simon: http://www.sagelandmedia.com/about-us/
Quotes about “This Ain’t No Mouse Music”:
“While the film covers Mr. Strachwitz’s life and times, it is mostly about the idioms he lives for: blues, zydeco, bluegrass, New Orleans jazz, Norteño and other roots music. ‘It’s just got some guts to it,” he says. It ain’t wimpy, that’s for sure. It ain’t no mouse music!’” – Andy Webster, New York Times, September. 25, 2014
“This film is a living cultural history with a soundtrack that bites and kicks and screams. Even 50 years later, Arhoolie’s records remain alive, unruly and still so sharp that some songs can cut you right down to the soul. – Jeffrey St. Clair, Author Born Under a Bad Sky
The Seattle Folklore Society is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1966. The mission of the Seattle Folklore Society is to preserve and foster awareness and appreciation of folk and traditional arts in the Seattle area. SFS produces folk music concerts, dances, song circles, camps.
Go to http://www.seafolklore.org/ to become a member. Membership includes a subscription to the monthly SFS Flyer and discounts on SFS sponsored events.
For the early history of SFS concerts, including the story of the Lightnin’ Hopkins concert that was raided by the police, see: http://tradarts.com/SFS/SFS%2040th%20Slide%20Show/SFS%2040th%20for%20Web_files/frame.htm