Get to Know Arhoolie Records' Eclectic Catalog After Smithsonian Folkways Acquisition: Exclusive Playlist

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Lightnin' Hopkins photographed on July 6, 1960 in Los Angeles.

In the 1960s, label executive and record producer Chris Strachwitz founded the independent label Arhoolie Records, which has since become an iconic home for folk, blues, Cajun and other world roots music genres. Back in May, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings announced it had acquired the label, and earlier this week the transition was complete. As a result, more than 300 Arhoolie albums were added to Smithsonian Folkways' already expansive catalog; the remaining titles will be released on an ongoing basis.

Smithsonian Folkways -- a nonprofit label associated with the Smithsonian Institution -- was able to acquire Arhoolie by way of a donation from Laura and Ed Littlefield of the Sage Foundation who first purchased the label for an undisclosed amount.

"The Arhoolie Records collection is a national treasure of recorded music," Daniel Sheehy, curator and director emeritus of Smithsonian Folkways, said in a statement when the acquisition first took place. "We are honored to further the accessibility of these recordings, and continue the commitment Chris Strachwitz has had to finding, recording, and promoting 'down home' music since he founded Arhoolie in 1960."

In the same statement, Strachwitz expressed his reasoning behind the decision to turn over his "baby." He said, "Since I'm not King Tut, I can't take my Arhoolie baby with me." Though, he added, he plans to continue producing records and assisting Smithsonian Folkways wherever necessary.

The 300 Arhoolie albums currently made available can now be found here. In light of the news, Smithsonian Folkways has shared a "welcome" playlist exclusively with Billboard that includes 15 songs from the Arhoolie catalog.

Give it a listen below.


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