Beeline to the Park West this Monday where I’ll be in conversation with Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis of Sound Opinions. We’ll discuss country music’s long history in Chicago and Robbie Fulks, who wrote the foreword, will be looped into the conversation.

Once that finishes, Robbie will play a full set with his new bandThe Chicago Humanities Festival is producing the entire affair, which also means I am now about one degree of separation from Susanna Hoffs, who is also a headliner this year. You need to go to this! Buy a ticket now or show up at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave.

Listen/Stream to Hear Me on WGN Sunday Evening …

On Sunday I’ll join Chicago Tribune columnist Rick Kogan on WGN, 720-AM, or streaming live. Tune in between 5 and 630 p.m. for an extensive conversation plus songs Rick will spin that are related to the book!

Rick says 90 minutes for one guest is “unprecedented,” but I’m confident the time will fly by. (He also knew many of the people in the book, including his father.) We’ll have a lot to talk about, so tune in.

… And then Monday Morning on WBEZ

Speaking of Robbie Fulks at the Humanities Festival Monday, between 11:20 a.m. to noon that morning he and singer Jane Baxter Miller of the Texas Rubies will be on Reset with Sasha-Ann Simons, the daily show on WBEZ. (I’ll be in the studio too.)

Adding to the conversation will be music spanning the history in the book, from the Barn Dance days to Bloodshot. If you’re in the Chicago area, tune into 91.5-FM or, if not, stream it live!

Look Out Cleveland … Next Friday

If you live in Cleveland or knows someone who does, dial your twang alert to Friday. I’ll be at Visible Voices Books talking Country and Midwestern, with records spun before and after by Dollar Country. (Listen to his podcast here.)

Things get rolling at 7 p.m. Ohioans, represent!

Country and Midwestern Coverage This Week

Thank you, Monica Eng for featuring me in Axios Chicago Friday! I talk about what inspired Country and Midwestern and then list my Best Day Ever in Chicago, which includes (spoiler alert) taking my beloved dog Henry to the beach, lunch in Lincoln Square, and blues at Rosa’s Lounge.

The Chicago Sun-Times ran a generously lengthy excerpt of Country and Midwestern in last Sunday’s print edition and online. The excerpt details the reign of the Sundowners, a trio that performed for three decades in Chicago’s Loop.

Known for their mile-long songbook and dazzling musicianship, the Sundowners entertained tourists, regulars, the city’s highest and lowest celebrities, and eventually a new generation of musicians who they schooled in the songs, the playing, and the lifestyle.

Also this week: I talked about the history of WLS radio on WLS radio. John Howell had me on his afternoon show for a few minutes to talk the Sundowners and, of course, the WLS Barn Dance. Listen here.

News From Frank Hamilton

The other day I received an unsolicited email from Frank Hamilton, one of the three people who co-founded the Old Town School of Folk Music in 1957. Today Frank lives in Decatur, Georgia where he heads the Frank Hamilton School, which follows the same principles he established more than a century ago in Chicago.

Frank grew up in the Los Angeles area, studied with Woody Guthrie and Bess Lomax Hawes, the sister to folklorist Alan Lomax. He was also the house guitarist at the Gate of Horn in Chicago, the nation’s first nightclub for folk music, where he met his future collaborators Win Stracke and Dawn Greening. He eventually left the school, and Chicago, to replace Pete Seeger in the Weavers. (Seeger, Roger McGuinn, Don McLean, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and others testify to Frank’s significance in this recent documentary on Frank’s life.)

Anyway, I had no idea Frank had already received a copy of Country and Midwestern, no less read it already. Here’s an excerpt from his email (which he is allowing me to publish). Frank was there, so his feedback is meaningful to me.

Hi Mark,

I read your book through, and it was not only a page turner but from my experience, even though it comprised about my six years in Chicago, your account was right on the nail accurate.  I thank you for your mention of my years at OTS. I carry that experience with me in our new endeavor, the Frank Hamilton School here in Decatur, GA which continues the tradition of the Old Town School in offering those who want it, regardless of how talented they think they are, the opportunity to fulfill their love of music by learning to play and sing.

There were many things I didn’t know, and you explained a lot of the background for what I experienced in Chicago.

Yours is the definitive book on the Chicago music scene as far as I’m concerned. It could be the model for other books by people in other cities.  You did a copious amount of research, which is admirable … Your book brought back so many memories of Chicago … Thanks for bringing back golden memories.