Chris Strachwitz on Film Presented by the Seattle Folklore Society
Show Will Go On, But Chris Strachwitz Has Canceled for Health Reasons.
We have just learned that Chris Strachwitz will not attend our event this Sunday, November 15th, due to health issues. Maureen Gosling co-producer of the film also cannot attend due to a family emergency.
The event will still include a showing of the documentary film about Strachwitz, "This Ain't No Mouse Music", the Q&A session with Chris Simon, one of the filmmaker, and the EMP Guitar Exhibit Tour before the show.
The Seattle Folklore Society begins the celebration of its 50th anniversary by presenting "This Ain't No Mouse Music", the new documentary film about Chris Strachwitz, the founder of Arhoolie Records. Following the film there will be a Q&A with 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. Jasen will talk about the interaction between roots and rock. The tour will trace the development of American guitars from the 19th Century to the present. And we will get a look at the newly acquired Martin used by Woody Guthrie. 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. The Arhoolie catalog currently has over 400 titles. The high esteem by which Chris Strachwitz is held by members of the music industry is exemplified in the makeup of the board of his Arhoolie Foundation, which includes Bonnie Raitt, Tom Waits, Queen Ida, and Bob Dylan. Some popular Arhoolie artists include Lightnin' Hopkins, Mark and Ann Savoy, Clifton Chenier, The Maddox Brothers and Rose, Elizabeth Cotten, Booker "Bukka" White, Flaco Jimenez, Lydia Mendoza, and Lowell Fulson, to name a few.
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.
Strachwitz 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 (Fred McDowell) and The Grateful Dead (Elizabeth Cotten). 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.
"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
Arhoolie Records Site
Trailer and Press Kit for "This Ain't No Mouse Music."
Bio for Maureen Gosling
Bio for Chris Simon
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 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:
SFS First Ten Years Slide Show
Seattle Center: EMP - JBL Theater (View)
325 5th Ave N at Seattle Center
Seattle, WA 98109
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