A Grammy Award for Arhoolie


On Sunday night at the Grammy Awards, the Bay Area’s Arhoolie Records won the award for Best Liner Notes, written by local writer Adam Machado. As it happens, Rex has a long and happy relationship with Arhoolie, so we called upon Rex Advisory Board member John Leopold to tell about it.

Rex Advisory Board member John Leopold says: The Rex Foundation has picked a lot of winners over the years, organizations and artists who are making a difference in the world and helping build community. In 2003 Rex awarded the Ralph J. Gleason Award to Chris Strachwitz and the Arhoolie Foundation for documenting, preserving, presenting and disseminating authentic traditional and regional vernacular music that popularized Cajun, zydeco and all manner of folk-blues.

This past year Arhoolie Records, the label started by Chris, celebrated 50 years of making great music. In honor of the anniversary they released “Hear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads & Beyond: The Arhoolie 50th Anniversary Box Set” featuring recordings that Chris made in Berkeley in the early ’60s, capturing the rich folk scene that existed in the Bay Area.  The box set included a 136-page book featuring photos, history, and biographical information on Arhoolie Records and the dozens of artists featured in the compilation. This past Sunday the Grammys awarded talented East Bay writer Adam Machado the Grammy for Best Album Notes for the book and all the great stories it contained.

After awarding the Gleason award to Strachwitz in 2003, Rex was approached for funding for a film project documenting the amazing career of the seminal folk group the New Lost City Ramblers. Executive Director Sandy Sochot realized that Rex would not be able to provide enough funding, but connected the filmmakers with the Arhoolie Foundation.  The Arhoolie Foundation saw the value of the project, secured funding for the film and reunited the band at the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival for the climax of the film. The resulting film, “Always Been A Rambler,” is an hour-long documentary that celebrates 50 years of the New Lost City Ramblers (Mike Seeger, John Cohen, Tracy Schwarz and Tom Paley), a group that inspired generations of younger musicians to explore America’s traditional music, from elder statesman Bob Dylan to banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck to the contemporary African-American string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, all of whom participated in the film.

Local TV station CBS5 had a great segment on Arhoolie on awards night–check it out!