The University of Illinois Press announces partnership with Country Music Hall of Fame

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the University of Illinois Press are partnering to co-publish and distribute books on country music and related music styles. Under a newly signed agreement, the museum and the university press will collaborate to co-publish new works, as well as distribute titles released under the museum’s longstanding publishing arm, CMF Press, including reissuing significant out-of-print historical works.

The first release in the partnership is Western Edge: The Roots and Reverberations of Los Angeles Country-Rock, the museum’s new companion book to its major multi-year exhibition of the same name. Now available for the first time in bookstores nationwide and from online outlets, the illustrated book traces the impact of the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, the Eagles, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and many more, along with the next wave of LA roots music ushered in by the Blasters, Lone Justice, Los Lobos, Dwight Yoakam and others. The book, which includes more than 160 artifact and archival photos, features a foreword by Ronstadt and main essay by long-time LA music journalist Randy Lewis, among other essays from recording artists, musicians and historians. 

University of Illinois Press and the museum’s CMF Press have each released some of the most important and authoritative works exploring traditional country and roots music topics. Collectively, these books have been honored with prestigious awards in the field, including the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award, the ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award, the Belmont Book Award, the Irving Lowens Book Award and others.

Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, commented ..

“The University of Illinois Press has an impressive track record of releasing important books examining the broad spectrum of music and documenting American culture. The collaboration is a perfect fit to continue our museum’s longstanding commitment of reaching beyond our gallery walls via book publishing and other media platforms to explore the rich heritage of country music and its important contributions to history.”

Laurie Matheson, director of the University of Illinois Press, was equally enthused by the arrangement …. 

“The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a national treasure that shares our vital mission to document and celebrate roots music culture and its makers. We are excited to build on the synergies of this partnership in extending the reach and impact of country music publications.”

She went on to say …. 

“We are excited about ways this partnership will connect us with new audiences through the marketing reach and platform of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. We think new readers will be drawn through the partnership not only to co-published and distributed titles but also to country and roots music titles in our Music in American Life series.

CMHF has connections to authors and projects outside of our usual pathways for recruiting and developing books. The partnership will enlarge the scope of our publications to include books with significant commercial potential and broad general audiences.

The exhibits and other public outreach activities of the CMHF continually renew attention and draw people to the history of country music and related genres. This continual refresh will enhance attention to new and backlist titles.

Illinois is the leading publisher of scholarship on American music, and CMHF is the leading center for country music history. This partnership enhances both of our strengths and further anchors our leadership in publishing a wide range of work on key American music genres.

The next publication from the partnership will come in the Spring 2023 with the reissue of the long out-of-print title DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music by David C. Morton with Charles K. Wolfe. 

Known as the “Harmonica Wizard” for his virtuosity on the instrument, DeFord Bailey (1899-1982) was a founding member of the Grand Ole Opry and among its most popular early performers, touring with such well-known Opry acts as Roy Acuff, the Delmore Brothers, and Bill Monroe. This biography tells the story of a pioneering black star in early country music in rich and fascinating detail. The book’s original publication in 1991 helped pave the way for Bailey’s election to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. The reissued book will include a new chapter on Bailey’s thoughts about race relations, more than 40 photographs and a complete session discography. 

To learn more about Bailey, visit the museum’s award-winning Discover DeFord Bailey web page and project, which includes videos, recordings, photos and more from his life and career, as well as beginning harmonica tutorials and other activities for families.

Since the 1980s, the Hall of Fame and their CMF Press have published some of the most significant titles about the art, business, and culture of country music. Topics have ranged from biographies and memoirs of famous singers and songwriters to in-depth examinations of the history of women in country music, the development of independent record labels in Nashville from 1945 to 1955, and the pioneering work of early record producers (A&R men) in roots music. Among the best-selling works previously issued by CMF Press are Douglas B. Green’s Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy, Charles K. Wolfe’s A Good-Natured Riot: The Birth of the Grand Ole Opry, and David Cantwell and Bill Friskics-Warren’s Heartaches by the Number: Country Music’s 500 Greatest Singles. More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and its educational mission is available online.

Established in 1918, the University of Illinois Press publishes 80 new books annually, and 45 journal titles in the humanities and social sciences, with particular strengths in music, black history, women’s studies, labor history, film, sport, and media history. Its keystone Music in American Life series, celebrating 50 years in 2022, and its American Music journal, celebrating 40 years in 2023, richly document the intersections of American music and culture across the broadest range of musical forms and genres. The Press’s many country music, bluegrass, and roots music titles include Unlikely Angel: The Songs of Dolly Parton by Lydia R. Hamessley; Bill Monroe: The Life and Music of the Blue Grass Man by Tom Ewing; Dixie Dewdrop: The Uncle Dave Macon Story by Michael D. Doubler; Queer Country by Shana Goldin-Perschbacher; Stringbean: The Life and Murder of A Country Music Legend by Taylor Hagood (to be published in May 2023); and Buddy Emmons: Steel Guitar Icon by Steve Fishell.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.