Mark Guarino - Country and Midwestern

Tuesday, May 2, 2023 - 7:00pm
Tuesday, May 2, 7pm CT
In person at Left Bank Books
399 N. Euclid Ave
St. Louis, MO 63108
Please RSVP for the presentation here
Virtually at Left Bank Books' YouTube Page
Left Bank Books presents veteran journalist
Mark Guarino,
who will discuss the untold story of Chicago's pivotal role as a country and folk music capital and the ties to St. Louis in
Country and Midwestern: Chicago in the History of Country Music and the Folk Revival,
in our store on May 2nd at 7pm!
Join us in the store or on our YouTube Live Page.
Guarino will be in conversation with TBA.
Order copies of
from Left Bank Books to support authors and independent bookstores!
Guarino will personalize and sign copies for sale from Left Bank Books.
If you are unable to make it in person, leave a personalization note in your order.
Mark Guarino covers national news and culture from Chicago for the Washington PostABC News, the New York Times, and other outlets. He was the Midwest bureau chief for the Christian Science Monitor for seven years. Visit for more information.

The untold story of Chicago's pivotal role as a country and folk music capital.

Chicago is revered as a musical breeding ground, having launched major figures like blues legend Muddy Waters, gospel soul icon Mavis Staples, hip-hop firebrand Kanye West, and the jazz-rock band that shares its name with the city. Far less known, however, is the vital role Chicago played in the rise of prewar country music, the folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s, and the contemporary offspring of those scenes.

In Country and Midwestern, veteran journalist Mark Guarino tells the epic century-long story of Chicago's influence on sounds typically associated with regions further south. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and deep archival research, Guarino tells a forgotten story of music, migration, and the ways that rural culture infiltrated urban communities through the radio, the automobile, and the railroad. The Midwest's biggest city was the place where rural transplants could reinvent themselves and shape their music for the new commercial possibilities the city offered. Years before Nashville emerged as the commercial and spiritual center of country music, major record labels made Chicago their home and recorded legendary figures like Bill Monroe, The Carter Family, and Gene Autry. The National Barn Dance--broadcast from the city's South Loop starting in 1924--flourished for two decades as the premier country radio show before the Grand Ole Opry. Guarino chronicles the makeshift niche scenes like "Hillbilly Heaven" in Uptown, where thousands of relocated Southerners created their own hardscrabble honky-tonk subculture, as well as the 1960s rise of the Old Town School of Folk Music, which eventually brought national attention to local luminaries like John Prine and Steve Goodman. The story continues through the end of the twentieth century and into the present day, where artists like Jon Langford, The Handsome Family, and Wilco meld contemporary experimentation with country traditions.

Featuring a foreword from Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Robbie Fulks and casting a cross-genre net that stretches from Bob Dylan to punk rock, Country and Midwestern rediscovers a history as sprawling as the Windy City--celebrating the creative spirit that modernized American folk idioms, the colorful characters who took them into new terrain, and the music itself, which is still kicking down doors even today.


"Long before Nashville's emergence as the country music capital, Chicago held sway with the nationally-broadcast Barn Dance and a row of honky-tonk venues on Madison Street. 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, cohost of Sound Opinions and author of I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the Music That Shaped the Civil Rights Era

"With an epic scope, gorgeous photographs, and useful discographies, this is a vital contribution to the history of American music and required reading for country and folk music fans."-- Booklist starred review

Event address: 
399 N. Euclid Ave.
Saint Louis, MO 63108
Country and Midwestern: Chicago in the History of Country Music and the Folk Revival By Mark Guarino, Robbie Fulks (Foreword by) Cover Image
By Mark Guarino, Robbie Fulks (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9780226110943
Availability: Ships quickly (1-7 days)
Published: University of Chicago Press - April 24th, 2023


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