THE KLEZMORIM > Bio > Support > Chris Strachwitz 

Chris Strachwitz [Photo © John Fago]

LANKY TEXAN CHRIS STRACHWITZ, honcho of Arhoolie and Folklyric Records, is actually a German-speaking Silesian Count (Graf Strachwitz) whose family fled Poland ahead of the advancing Red Army in the closing days of WW II, eventually settling in the Lone Star State. Chris grew up digging Tex/Mex dance music and the blues — hard-time, good-time indigenous musics too raw for most white Americans in the 1950s.

Later, he gave up a teaching career to pursue his dream of finding and recording old-time bluesmen. Strachwitz's backwoods excursions helped spearhead the blues revival of the 1960s, inspiring a generation of psychedelic rockers including Cream, the Rolling Stones, Led Zep, Janis Joplin, and Hendrix. He has continued to champion unknown artists while rediscovering indigenous musics of the Americas and the world — zydeco, cajun, huayno, norteñ¯¬ even klezmer.

If Chris Strachwitz hadn't showed up in 1976 with a record contract, the klezmer revival might never have happened. What drew him to The Klezmorim? Here's how he tells it in the Arhoolie Box:

"Jeff Alexson... came popping into Arhoolie one day, yelling, 'Chris, you've got to hear these guys! It's unbelievable! There's this bunch of young guys playing this old, old, European music.' So I went down to the Freight & Salvage Coffee House, and sure enough, I was knocked out by them. They had this very soulful clarinetist and a fine woman fiddler. And it was a sound I had never expected to hear... it sounded like really old world music, haunting stuff, and they were really good at it... I thought it was neat to finally find some kids who were into their own tradition."