Snowstorms, cold snaps, the most contagious wave of COVID-19 yet—it’s clearly time for the Secret History of Chicago Music to begin its yearly Winter Blues series. That’s where I cover the city’s great unheralded blues artists, many of whom gigged constantly but barely had the means to get by, let alone record their music. Many […]
Lots of happy accidents happen when I interview subjects for the Secret History of Chicago Music, and my favorite is when someone mentions an earlier “secret” band of theirs, often a precursor to the one I’m asking about. And by “secret,” I mean that perhaps just a handful of people might know that band ever […]
The past 20 months have been such a whirlwind of sickness, grief, political madness, and worldwide protests for causes either righteous and necessary or selfish and deranged—it hasn’t been easy for music fans to do justice to the lives and memories of all the amazing artists who’ve passed away during this chaotic period. Famous folk […]
I’ve been doing the Secret History of Chicago Music for 17 years, and by now I hear from plenty of folks hoping I might cover their old bands. This can make it easier for me to find and research a subject, but the people who pitch me often misjudge what I cover. Unofficially, I restrict […]
Chicagoland band the Jamestown Massacre provide the Secret History of Chicago Music an opportunity to discuss the “regional hit.” This phenomenon has survived the rise of streaming, which makes it seem like anyone can (at least in theory) find an audience anywhere. But the days when local radio play would drive equally local sales of […]
As I’ve complained here before, women often get left out of music history—a problem that seems especially bad in soul music. I’ll never understand why Loleatta Holloway, Holle Thee Maxwell, and the Fascinations aren’t as widely known as the Dells, Major Lance, and Curtis Mayfield. All-woman Chicago group the Opals had ties to all those […]
As I’ve aged, my musical obsessions have shifted a bit. I still enjoy noisier, headier sounds—psychedelia, prog, garage trash, punk, experimental music—but I often want a “peaceful easy feeling” instead, which calls for some heartfelt country rock. I’ve always responded to the groups that put down the genre’s roots, especially the Flying Burrito Brothers, Gene […]
If some sort of god or higher power exists, it clearly has a dark sense of humor—otherwise why send us plagues, floods, and fires, till even nonbelievers start to worry about the end times? And only a divine being with a cruel streak would’ve taken the Reverend Marvin Yancy from this earthly plane so young, […]
Since 2004 Plastic Crimewave (aka Steve Krakow) has used the Secret History of Chicago Music to shine a light on worthy artists with Chicago ties who’ve been forgotten, underrated, or never noticed in the first place. It’s hard to believe that in more than 15 years of the Secret History of Chicago Music—at least 350 […]
People often ask me how I keep finding subjects for the Secret History of Chicago Music after more than 15 years. I don’t have one answer to that question—sometimes I stumble on a record I didn’t know about, sometimes I go down a research wormhole in books or online. But one of my favorite ways […]
Founded by Lorna Donley and David Thomas of DA!, the Veil broke up in 1989 without a formal release—but this month they finally get one.
Irish dream-pop genius Joe Cassidy lived in Chicago for more than a decade and became a beloved part of our music scene.
Ari Brown hasn’t often sought the spotlight, but his blend of bebop rigor and avant-garde daring puts him on par with the likes of Fred Anderson and Von Freeman.
James Holvay is best known for writing the Buckinghams’ “Kind of a Drag” and cofounding the Mob, but he’s still making music more than 50 years later.
Skanking Lizard’s new vinyl retrospective, Original Chicago Reggae: 1978-1996, quadruples the number of formally released tracks in their discography.