RAG RADIO / Thorne Dreyer : Legendary Music Producer Chris Strachwitz and Filmmakers Maureen Gosling & Chris Simon

From left: Chris Simon, Chris Strachwitz, and Maureen Gosling at the studios of KOOP-FM in Austin, Texas, Friday, March 15, 2013. Photo by Bob Simmons / The Rag Blog.

Rag Radio podcast:
Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz,
filmmakers Maureen Gosling & Chris Simon

This Ain’t no Mouse Music! paints a “vivid portrait of an obsessive sonic sleuth” as the film takes “a hip-shaking stroll from New Orleans to Appalachia and right into the very DNA of rock’n’roll.”

By Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | March 21, 2013

See Bob Simmons’ YouTube videos from the show, Below.

Legendary blues and roots music producer Chris Strachwitz, founder of Arhoolie Records, and filmmakers Maureen Gosling and Chris Simon, whose This Ain’t no Mouse Music! about Arhoolie premiered at SXSW in Austin, were our guests on Rag Radio, Friday, March 15, 2013. Rag Radio is a syndicated radio program produced at the studios of KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin, Texas.

Listen to or download our interview with Chris Strachwitz, Maureen Gosling, and Chris Simon here:

Born to an aristocratic family in a section of Germany that is now part of Poland, Chris Strachwitz came to the United States after World War II. He developed a love for roots and blues music and in 1960 established the extremely influentual indie record label, Arhoolie.

As the producers of This Ain’t no Mouse Music! put it, Strachwitz “traveled to plantations and prisons, roadhouses and whorehouses, churches and bayou juke joints, and returned with recordings that would revolutionize the sound of popular music.”

Chris Strachwitz brought performers like Texas bluesmen Mance Lipscomb and Lightnin’ Hopkins, Tejano musicians Flaco Jiménez and Lydia Mendoza, Cajun greats Michael Doucet and the Savoy Family, and Zydeco king Clifton Chenier — and many more — into world prominence. And, in collaboration with filmmaker Les Blank, he made the classic film Chulas Fronteras about Norteño music.

Bonnie Raitt said, “It’s impossible to look at the history of blues, Cajun and Zydeco music without looking at Chris Strachwitz’ role. He’s a monumental figure.”

Maureen Gosling and Chris Simon produced and directed This Ain’t No Mouse Music! which tells the amazing story of Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie Records. The film premiered with several screenings at this year’s SXSW Film Festival in Austin.

Jeffrey St. Clair called Mouse Music a “vivid portrait of an obsessive sonic sleuth” in which the filmmakers “take a hip-shaking stroll from New Orleans to Appalachia and right into the very DNA of rock’n’roll. In this beautifully shot film, we come face to face with the creators of indigenous music…”

“I guess I’m just a rootin’ groundhog,” Strachwitz told the Rag Radio audience. “If I can’t find musicians, I just hunt records wherever I go. I should have probably opened a detective agency.”

“I fell in love with all these different regional musics,” he said, “not just with blues. New Orleans jazz was one of my first loves… and hillbilly music. There was this amazing array of extraordinarily powerful and emotional music.”

Noted Musicologist Mack McCormick — who “knew Texas, the vernacular Texas, better than any other human being” — suggested the name “Arhoolie” for the new record company. Strachwitz’ response? “Ar-what?” “Arhoolie” was a variation on a term meaning a “field holler,” sung by workers in the cotton fields. “I figured… it’s a catchy name. What the heck.”

In This Ain’t no Mouse Music!, Chris explains his approach to the business like this:

Most record companies, they record everything that they think is commercial. I didn’t want to record stuff I don’t like… My stuff isn’t produced. I just catch it as it is… I knew the music I liked was all over the place. Especially in Texas and Louisiana and Mississippi and god knows where… I don’t know why I like it so much. It’s just got some guts to it. It ain’t wimpy, that’s for sure. It ain’t no mouse music…

About making the film with Strachwitz, Maureen Gosling said on Rag Radio, “We had the amazing experience of hanging around with him and going on the road with him and being able to be with all these people.”

Chris Simon added, “We saw a whole other side of Chris, and the passion that he brings to his work is extraordinary. Going around, knocking on strangers’ doors, saying, do you know where this person lives? It’s inspiring. And I hope that that’s one of the things that young people get out of the film. If you have a vision, just do it.”

The film, which includes narration from Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, Richard Thompson, and folklorist Archie Green, features a wide range of musical performance including valuable archival footage of Lightin’ Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, Big Mama Thornton, and others.

Maureen says, “We filmed a lot of things live, like the Treme Brass Band in New Orleans, Michael and David Doucet performing together, No Speed Limit, a bluegrass band in Virginia… and Santiago Jiménez, Jr. here in Texas, as well as Flaco Jiménez, and many, many others…”

And, she added, “We filmed at the Savoy family annual boucherie — and that’s just a perfect setting for the movie because it’s just people jamming and eating and having a good time and it’s a beautiful way to see music in the context of the culture. And not just set up on a stage…”

Maureen Gosling, who graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in social anthropology and who lived in Austin in the ’70s, has been a documentary filmmaker for more than 30 years. Her work has often focused on themes of people and their cultural values, music as cultural expression, and the changing gender roles of men and women.

Chris Simon, who is also a folklorist, has been an award-winning filmmaker for more than 25 years, producing independent documentaries through her Sageland Media. Gosling and Simon met while working with acclaimed documentary filmmaker Les Blank, with whom they collaborated on classic films such as Gap-Toothed Women and Burden of Dreams.

This Ain’t No Mouse Music! on Rag Radio

Video by Bob Simmons / The Rag Blog.

Rag Radio has aired since September 2009 on KOOP 91.7-FM, an all-volunteer cooperatively-run community radio station in Austin, Texas. Hosted and produced by Rag Blog editor and long-time alternative journalist Thorne Dreyer, a pioneer of the Sixties underground press movement, Rag Radio is broadcast every Friday from 2-3 p.m. (CDT) on KOOP, and is rebroadcast on Sundays at 10 a.m. (EDT) on WFTE, 90.3-FM in Mt. Cobb, PA, and 105.7-FM in Scranton, PA.

The show is streamed live on the web by both stations and, after broadcast, all Rag Radio shows are posted as podcasts at the Internet Archive.

Rag Radio is produced in association with The Rag Blog, a progressive Internet newsmagazine, and the New Journalism Project, a Texas 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. Tracey Schulz is the show’s engineer and co-producer.

Rag Radio can be contacted at ragradio@koop.org.

Coming up on Rag Radio:
THIS FRIDAY, March 22: Progressive sportswriter Dave Zirin, Sports Editor at The Nation and author of Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down.
Friday, March 29:
“Bronx Butch” poet, performance artist, and memoirist Annie Rachele Lanzillotto.
Friday, April 5: Anti-violence activists John Woods and Claire Wilson James about the issue of guns in schools and on college campuses.
Friday, April 12: Sixties activists and Yippie founders Judy Gumbo Albert and Nancy Kurshan.

The Rag Blog

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