This year has flown by! My lack of updates indicate how busy a year this truly has been.
The most gratifying story I’ve worked on to date for ABC News is the capture, and eventual release, of two Alabama men who were captured in Ukraine by Russian-backed forces in June and held for 105 days. They spent the summer and early fall as captives, undergoing severe torture among hundreds of others under similar circumstances. I met the families of both men immediately upon their capture and worked with them in the months ahead to get both men in more than 70 news stories. In October, they were released and welcomed home as heroes.
I met Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh a few weeks after they were home. That resulted in this exclusive interview — a powerful report for the network. On top of the many stories I wrote for ABC, I later wrote this story that included interviews with other foreign fighters similarly imprisoned by Russians, or who are currently on the ground fighting for Ukraine.
With the midterm elections over, it’s time to look ahead to 2023. I have good news to share: My book, COUNTRY AND MIDWESTERN: CHICAGO IN THE HISTORY OF COUNTRY MUSIC AND THE FOLK REVIVAL, is out April 2023 on the University of Chicago Press. I’ll share more details as we get nearer to the publication date. But feedback on the book is already looking good:
“In this remarkable and thrilling book, Mark Guarino writes that “Chicago’s role in country music and the folk revival has never earned a closer look.” Well, it gets that now in a book exhaustively researched, stylishly written and exciting on every single page. In it I find people I knew well (even my father), many more that I heard play and sing in clubs, and some that are new to me. They are all here, vividly, the rogues, rascals and geniuses who made and keep making our city sing.”
– Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune columnist and 2022 Fuller Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame
“Long before Nashville’s emergence as the country-music capital, Chicago held sway with the nationally broadcast “Barn Dance” and a honky-tonk row of music venues on Madison Street. Mark Guarino masterfully connects the dots between that star-making era to a contemporary scene devoted to insurgent country. This is a definitive and long-overdue look at a vital if underappreciated thread in how so-called “hillbilly music” evolved and flourished in a seemingly incongruous setting: the hard streets of Chicago.”
– Greg Kot, “Sound Opinions” co-host
“Mark Guarino’s magnificent history, Country & Midwestern, proves that the Second City was first among equals in the development of American roots music. A ruthless researcher and scintillating storyteller, Guarino provides critical context and moving portraits of the pickers, grinners and pioneers who shaped Chicago’s contributions to country and folk. A long overdue but welcome volume that will sit alongside other essential works on the subject, from Bill C. Malone’s Country Music USA to David Hadju’s Positively Fourth Street.”
– Bob Mehr, author of the New York Times bestseller Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements.
“Those of us who came of age in the vicinity of Chicago understand its importance to country and folk music. The Windy City is home to some of the most prolific artists in the genre: John Prine, Wilco, Mavis Staples, Jon Langford and Robbie Fulks. Chicago gave us the WLS Barn Dance, the Old Town School of Folk Music, the Hyde Park Folk Festival, Flying Fish and Bloodshot Records. Some of us were lucky enough to make our own personal discoveries of the music that sustains us at clubs Gate of Horn, Earl of Old Town, the Hideout, and Whiskey River. Now, finally, author Mark Guarino chronicles the history of country and folk music in Chicago in his necessary and irresistible book Country and Midwestern.”
—Tamara Saviano, author of Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark