Sometimes it takes an immigrant to spot something magical we take for granted here in America. That was the story for a lot of American roots music that won over a dedicated champion when a young German teenager arrived in the US after World War II and turned on the radio.
"I just fell in love," says Chris Strachwitz, who now hails from El Cerrito. At the age of 87, he can look back on a long career discovering, documenting and promoting a host of musical traditions, including bluegrass, blues, Cajun, creole, gospel, Tejano, and zydeco, to name just a few.
Music fans in the know know Strachwitz is the San Francisco Bay Area's local legendary ethnomusicologist, akin to Alan Lomax and Moses Asch. But for those who don't, Down-Home Music: The Story of Arhoolie Records, in SFO's Terminal 2, offers a fun-sized introduction to the history with a collection of album covers and concert posters, as well as a short documentary produced by SFO Museum, which put on this exhibition.
"I was simply a song catcher, and I didn’t try to produce anything really. I just caught what I heard that I really liked," Strachwitz says.That said, he traveled far and wide to find what he liked.
His very first recording for the Arhoolie label was of Texas sharecropper Mance Lipscomb of Navasota, Texas.