Bay Area Music Producer Celebrates Milestone

BERKELEY (KCBS)A man who has spent a half-century around the Bay Area music scene celebrates an anniversary this weekend, and most music lovers have never heard of him.

Producer Chris Strachwitz is marking the 50th anniversary of his music store and record company that’s proved instrumental in not only launching careers, but also in preserving authentic traditional and regional vernacular music.

KCBS’ Mike Sugerman Reports:

Strachwitz recalls a day in 1964 when a guy named Joe showed up with some buddies at his Berkeley home to record a song.

And he sang “1, 2, 3 what are we fightin’ for, next stop is Vietnam,” Stachwitz recalled.

“And as he walked out the door, Joe McDonald asked me what do we owe you for the tape? And I said you don’t owe me nothing for the tape but did you have a publisher for this song? Can I be the publisher?”

That led to an eventual check for $35,000 and rights to one of Country Joe McDonald’s most well-known songs, enabling Strachwitz to purchase an El Cerrito building where he moved his four-year-old Down Home Music Store and Arhoolie Record Company.

Over the years, Strachwitz has recorded plenty of local music, not always big names, but always crowding his store.

How many songs?

“Oh my god, you mean with LPs and 78s and 45s, oh god, probably way over 100,000 you know, way over it.”

He is now 79 years old but doesn’t plan to quit anytime soon. He describes work as his hobby.

“It’s a weird habit but it beats drinking or drugs,” said Strachwitz.  “At least you can always listen to the stuff, you know?”

Arhoolie Records will celebrate its 50th anniversary this weekend with three nights of shows at Berkeley’s Freight and Salvage. The proceeds from the shows will go to a project digitizing old Mexican and Tex-Mex records that otherwise would likely disappear.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

More from Mike Sugerman’s About the Bay

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