At the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum: Fiona Prine, Jody Whelan, RJ Smith, Mark Guarino, Bonnie Koloc, Greg Cahill.
Posting updates on this site clearly took a back seat for the second half of 2023 because this turned into a year of continuous Country and Midwestern celebrations!
The book took me to bookstores in many cities where I talked with readers about the main themes in the book and learned from some of them their personal histories with the music. Long before the book even arrived I knew I wanted the events to focus on musicians, so each one featured a conversation followed by a set of music by people who are either in the book or whose music complements the story.
For that reason, the events (all detailed via countryandmidwestern.com) over the summer and fall included music by Special Consensus, Don Stiernberg, the Texas Rubies, Robbie Fulks, Jon Langford, Mark Dvorak, Dennis Leise, Danny Black and his band, the Lawrence Peters Outfit, among others. Another unanticipated development was a partnership with the Hideout and Paul Durica of the Chicago History Museum for a series of events focused on the book, altogether leading up the 100th anniversary of the WLS Barn Dance in April 2024. To date we had an event that talked about the Appalachian migration to Chicago (which featured a reunion of the Texas Rubies), a tribute to Old Town School of Folk Music Founder Win Stracke, and a celebration of the songs of the late Chicago songwriting great Michael P. Smith. You can watch the entirety of that last event here.
Country and Midwestern got feted throughout the year at places like the Harold Washington Library, the Chicago Humanities Festival, and the Printers Row Lit Festival, and I appeared on WGN television and radio, WBEZ, WWOZ in New Orleans, “Those Were the Days” on WDCB, and many other shows and great history blogs.
I’m proudest of being invited to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville this fall. I appeared on a panel to talk about John Prine’s life in Chicago. John’s family included the event as part of “You Got Gold,” their annual weekend tribute to the late songwriter. Fiona Prine, John’s widow, joined the discussion as did Bonnie Koloc and Greg Cahill who also performed. A long line of people awaited me to get a book signed. What joy to be a part of that.
Some events remain for 2024 but check the book’s website for that. I’m grateful to everyone who produced the events, invited me to their record or bookstore, radio show, library, or music club, and for all the writers who dedicated space to write about the story behind the story.
Here’s to a prosperous and peaceful 2024 for all.