We recently talked to co-authors Jonathan Wright and Dawson Barrett about their new book, Punks in Peoria: Making a Scene in the American Heartland.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

DAWSON: Though the book is not really autobiographical, Jonathan and I were both deeply involved in punk rock in Peoria as young people, so it was subject matter near to our hearts. We knew that there were stories to tell. I think what kept us going, though, was continuing to discover so much about people we didn’t know, who were doing some similar things long before, and after, we were. Punk rock scenes typically experience quick turn-over — perhaps a few years of peak participation for most people. That gives a pretty limited perspective. The longer view of the book has really shifted my understanding of Peoria and of what I was doing in my teen years.

JONATHAN: When I was promoting shows in my youth, I never would have imagined a book would come out of it! But I did believe that what we were doing was important – at least in some way, at least to some of us. The research and discovery that guided this project was the product of that same passion and commitment. This book is a celebration of “Anytown U.S.A.” – an acknowledgement that great art can come from the unlikeliest of places, and that the stories of small towns are just as alive and meaningful and significant as the ones that everybody knows.

Q: Who were your biggest influences?

DAWSON: One of the things that drove me was reflecting on the punk community that I encountered as a young person: the people who organized shows and put out records – or who fed me or let me sleep on their floor when I was in touring bands. Like so many other important things (education, for example), punk rock relies on vast amounts of often thankless, unpaid or underpaid labor. It’s a group effort that is a sort of collective gift to one another. Throughout this project, I have had on my mind the many people who provided that time and labor to my benefit. A few of them – including Jonathan – are even in the book!

JONATHAN: We are indebted and grateful for the kindness and generosity of our friends in the Peoria punk diaspora. We interviewed more than 70 people at length, solicited a public survey, and cajoled many others for photos, flyers and stories – then bugged them again with questions, permission forms, and more questions. As storytellers, our biggest influence was not so much a “who” as a “what”—the collective work of many, as opposed to any one individual. We wanted to create something that readers could enjoy even if they have never been to Peoria, weren’t in “the scene,” or are not familiar with any of the bands or musicians.

Jonathan Wright is a writer, editor, musician, and longtime veteran of the Peoria music scene. He is editor in chief at Peoria Magazines.

Q: What is the most interesting discovery you made while researching and writing your book?

DAWSON: One of the “punk” venues we discuss (and where I myself played and witnessed some very wild shows in the late 1990s) was a quaint, aging cabin outside of Morton, Illinois. My favorite research discovery was that Jim Thorpe – Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon and pentathlon; professional football, basketball, and baseball player – had been the guest speaker at a youth sports banquet in that same small room a half-century earlier.

JONATHAN: There were so many discoveries – especially in the early stages when we were still trying to determine the scope of the book. Prior to our research, I knew virtually nothing about punk rock in Peoria in the 1980s – despite having been immersed in the scene just a few years later. Learning that the MC5 once played in Peoria was nothing short of a revelation. I also treasure the moment I came across a headline in Jet magazine about a 1962 Booker T & the MGs gig in Peoria, where a major brawl ensued when the band failed to show up. This Peoria non-show literally made national news! Many similar incidents would play out in the punk scene some 30 years later.

Q: What myths do you hope your book will dispel or what do you hope your book will help readers unlearn?

DAWSON: I think one of the big myths at the heart of US society is the existence of a legitimate meritocracy – that the many hierarchies of wealth, fame, and power all around us are important, natural, and unquestionable. Our bosses and political leaders are in charge because they deserve to be in charge, for example. Or famous writers, musicians, and other artists are popular because they are objectively “the best.” To the contrary, I think this story shows that even in a middle-of-the-road city like Peoria, there were dozens of wonderful and interesting bands throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Things like sales rankings and industry awards present a hollow, market-obsessed view of the world that completely misses how great and fun and creative these bands were. DIY punk rock often had a sort of anti-authoritarian message, but its very existence made a more basic argument, that anyone can – and should – create art for its own sake. I think that’s incredibly important.

JONATHAN: I concur and would add that, in spite of punk’s anti-authoritarian message, most of us who came up in the Peoria scene are more attuned to the values and institutions that build community. We took those DIY principles –working together and making things happen for the common good – and now apply them in our lives as adults.

Q: What is the most important idea you hope readers will take away from your book?

DAWSON: To me, the big idea of Punks in Peoria is that you can make something out of (almost) nothing. Peoria did not have a proper music venue. The young people in this book had to re-purpose local banquet halls, after-hours restaurants, and church basements to build a music scene. They were constantly scrounging, scheming, and compromising. It was an uphill struggle, and it was messy, but together they more or less made the case that we can build the world we want to live in, even when it seems like we’re starting from scratch.

JONATHAN: And it can happen anywhere.

Dawson Barrett is an associate professor of history at Del Mar College.

Q: What do you like to read/watch/or listen to for fun?

DAWSON: My media consumption has been all over the place during the pandemic, but I’ve been listening to Idles’ Joy as an Act of Resistance album and Hum’s Inlet almost daily. I have struggled to stay focused on most books, but I recently enjoyed Ballad of An American, a short graphic novel about Paul Robeson, and Kent State, also a graphic novel, about the 1970 shootings.

JONATHAN: I own some 9,000 vinyl records spanning the gamut of musical genres – in addition to my prodigious digital listening habits — so it’s hard to single anything out. I’ll say that my favorite record of 2020 was Zeal & Ardor’s “Wake of a Nation” EP, and I have leaned heavily on the familiar comforts of Bruce Springsteen over the last year. I recently read David Byrne’s How Music Works and Bill Brewster’s Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, and I am a big fan of Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever by Will Hermes. Catch me on a different day and my answer would be entirely different.

We recently talked to co-authors Kevin Mungons and Douglas Yeo about their new book, Homer Rodeheaver and the Rise of the Gospel Music Industry.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book—and how did you meet?

Both of us play trombone, so we naturally took interest in Homer Rodeheaver, who was Billy Sunday’s trombone-playing song leader. Doug had a long career as bass trombonist with the Boston Symphony; now he spends his days researching, writing, and teaching trombone at Wheaton College. Kevin is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has served many years as a church musician. We were introduced by a kindly archivist who said, “You guys are researching the same subject and asking the same questions—you should talk to each other.”

Q: Who were your biggest influences?

Each other! We’ve learned enormously from working together, approaching the same subject from different disciplines. And of course our best research models were published by University of Illinois Press, who already had several well-regarded books about gospel music. When it came time to pitch our project, we started with UIP at the top of our wish list, and we never had to go to Plan B.

Douglas Yeo was bass trombonist of the Boston Symphony and has taught trombone at Wheaton College and Arizona State University.

Q: Why is Homer Rodeheaver largely forgotten in gospel music history?

If we had lived in the early 1900s, we wouldn’t be asking this question! Homer Rodeheaver was everywhere—the front page of newspapers, hobnobbing with celebrities, appearing on recordings, radio and film. His Chicago-based hymnal company became the largest in the country. Then in 1920 he started Rainbow Records as the first Christian record label. His secret sauce was his valuable copyright catalog, including “The Old Rugged Cross,” “In the Garden,” and hundreds of other classic gospel songs. Maybe he’s forgotten because he didn’t fit into any of the emerging genres, newly defined by their racial and regional distinctions. In 1923 he walked into the studio with an African American ensemble to sing the spirituals—together. No one knew what to call it.

Q: What is the most interesting discovery you made while researching and writing your book?

Everything is connected somehow. Gospel music is studied by scholars from several different disciplines, but they don’t often talk to each other! Lots of people are interested in Homer Rodeheaver’s life—musicologists, social historians, sound archivists, theologians, casual fans—and we hope that our interdisciplinary approach will help bridge a few gaps in the ongoing discourse.

Kevin Mungons is a writer for print and digital platforms and an editor at Moody Publishers.

Q: What myths do you hope your book will dispel? What do you hope readers will unlearn?

Here’s where it gets tricky. Gospel music is about the gospel, a transformational religious experience. Researchers are more comfortable addressing gospel music as a musical idiom, as a technological artifact, or as a social force that influences American culture. But Rodeheaver’s theological beliefs and devotional practices are a key part of his story. To be honest, if we were young academics finishing a dissertation or seeking tenure, we would avoid such a touchy subject. It would have been easier to show how all of these disciplines are different, but we took the road less traveled: How do these divergent ideas connect?

Q: What is the most important idea you hope readers will take away from your book?

Everyone remembers gospel music for its remarkable performances—and its huge regional and racial divide. Researchers are naturally drawn to those electrifying vocals from black gospel divas and southern gospel quartets. But long before these performances, the same songs were sung by congregations of 10,000 voices in wooden revival tabernacles. We care barely conceive of the impact because no one sings in groups like this anymore. Everything changed after World War I. The new technology of recordings, radio, and film would forever alter the way we perceive communal music experiences.

Q: What do you like to read/watch/or listen to for fun?

Both of us are oddly drawn to the same PBS documentaries. At night we’ll text each other and ask “Are you watching this?” and the answer is always yes. During the COVID season, we’ve both been living in our basements—spaces that are overtaken by shelves of books, music, and vintage recordings. Now we’re at work on a project for Archeophone Records, a 2-CD reissue of early Homer Rodeheaver recordings. You can’t fully understand gospel music by reading about it—you have to hear it, and sing it. Together!

Stock your summer TBR list using promo code 50ALL to get 50% off all books! Sale ends June 25, 2021.

This November, we’re excited to be releasing the first two books in our Introductions to Mormon Thought series edited by Matthew Bowman and Joseph Spencer. In the post below, they give you a sneak peak at the first books and preview what’s to come.

Over the past thirty years, Mormon studies has experienced a renaissance. The field has moved beyond traditional institutional history and begun to develop new ways of telling the story of the Mormon tradition. The explosion of new scholarship has made possible what this series, Introductions to Mormon Thought, has to offer: focused investigation – presented in an accessible, digestible way – of how important figures of all sorts have shaped how Mormons understand themselves. The books are brief, and intended for both a scholarly and a lay audience.    

The series draws from throughout Mormon history – moving right up into the present – and highlights a wider variety of intellectual contributions than scholarship often envisions: activists and artists as well as ecclesiastical leaders, figures from the nineteenth century as well as the twentieth, faithful and ex-Mormons, white Mormons and Mormons of color. We as editors are interested, ultimately, in how Mormons have made themselves, how they have imagined what it means to be part of the Mormon tradition, and how they have used a wide variety of tools—from formal theology through arts and letters to ecclesiastical reform—to advance their visions.    

We currently have nearly a dozen volumes under contract, and we are pleased to announce the imminent publication of the first two: Eugene England: A Mormon Liberal, by Kristine Haglund, and Vardis Fisher: A Mormon Novelist, by Michael Austin. These two volumes model the range the series will eventually encompass. England is among the first rank of Mormon intellectuals in the twentieth century; a scholar of literature, an essayist, and among the chief advocates of a theologically liberal Mormonism interested in pluralism, aesthetics, and a powerfully optimistic vision of human nature. He lived most of his life near the Utah center of Mormon power. Fisher, on the other hand, was on the Mormon periphery, both personally and geographically; he lived in rural Idaho and after his youthful involvement in the Church did not consider himself an active member. Yet he wrote unceasingly about Mormonism and grappled his entire life with its legacy of community and Western colonialism.     

The ground stretching between these two figures is populated with individuals that future volumes will examine. Those for whom we have volumes under contract include: Minerva Teichert, among the most prominent Mormon visual artists whose paintings of religious subjects have become standard in Church buildings and publications; Sonia Johnson, the feminist activist and iconoclast whose opposition to the Church’s position on the Equal Rights Amendment led to her excommunication; Lowell Bennion, the humanitarian and teacher whose work in social reform made him among the most beloved Mormons of the twentieth century; and W.W. Phelps, the nineteenth-century polymath and journalist who served as Joseph Smith’s ghostwriter. The series takes an expansive view both terms “Mormon” and “thought”; we are excited to see how it may serve both as a summation of current scholarship and a doorway to future assessments of the history of Mormonism. 

Matthew Bowman and Joseph Spencer

Stay tuned for more books in the series and make sure to check out our other Mormon studies books and journals!

Welcome to the University of Illinois Press’s virtual exhibit for the 2021 Mormon History Association! Step inside our virtual booth and browse new books, journal articles, author and staff interviews, and more. Use promo code MHA21 on our website for 50% off all of our Mormon studies books June 10-13, 2021. Buy three books and receive a free copy of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (Fall 2021)!

Featured Journals

All of our journals accept submissions on an ongoing basis. For more information about submission guidelines, deadlines, and protocols for each title, please visit the following links:

Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought
Mormon Studies Review
Journal of the Book of Mormon Studies
Journal of Mormon History

Featured Books

Introducing Introductions to Mormon Thought

This November, we’re excited to be releasing the first two books in our Introductions to Mormon Thought series edited by Matthew Bowman and Joseph Spencer. In this post, they give you a sneak peak at the first books and preview what’s to come.

Let’s Talk

Alison Syring is the acquiring editor of the Introductions to Mormon Thought series. She also handles labor studies, disability studies, radical studies, digital humanities, and more.

Click here to read an interview with Alison on the blog.

Contact her by email here.

Featured session at MHA

Panel title:

Alison Syring
University of Illinois Press
Matthew Bowman
Claremont Graduate University
Joseph Spencer
Brigham Young University
Kristine Haglund
St. Louis, MO
Michael Austin
University of Evansville
George Handley
Brigham Young University

Backlist Classics

Browse more Mormon Studies Titles

More From Our Authors

Read an Op-ed by Jake Johnson in the Salt Lake Tribune about Mormons and Pageantry

Listen to an interview with Jake Johnson on the Cultural Hall Podcast

Read a Q&A with Jake Johnson

Listen to an interview with Jake Johnson on the SLT Mormon Land Podcast

Listen to an interview with Michael Hubbard MacKay on the Cultural Hall Podcast

Listen to an interview with Matthew L. Harris on the Mormon Stories Podcast

The Mormon Church and Blacks: A Documentary History Edited by Matthew L. Harris and Newell G. Bringhurst

The Mormon History Association’s Tanner Lectures: The First Twenty Years Edited by Dean L. May and Reid L. Neilson with Richard Lyman Bushman, Jan Shipps, and Thomas G. Alexander

Welcome to the University of Illinois Press Society for American Music 2021 virtual exhibit! Step inside and take a look at some of our featured titles as well as interviews with UIP authors and specially curated playlists inspired by our books. Use promo code SAM21 to get 50% off all music books on our website! Plus, buy 3 books and get a free copy of Jazz and Culture issue 4.2. The sale runs June 9-12, 2021, so don’t miss out!

Featured Books

Featured Journals

Jazz and Culture is an annual publication devoted to publishing cutting-edge research on jazz from multiple perspectives. Founded on the principle that both scholars and musicians offer invaluable contributions, the journal juxtaposes groundbreaking work by researchers alongside oral histories and articles written by master artists in the field.

American Music is an independent, peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the University of Illinois Press. Its articles, reviews, and special issues are devoted to American music in the broadest sense.

Let’s Talk

Laurie Matheson is the director of the University of Illinois Press. Her areas of acquisition include the subjects of Music, Dance, and Folklore. If you’re working on a book project, please feel free to reach out to her during the conference here.

Click here to read an interview with Laurie Matheson.

Todd Decker is the editor of American Music. Read more about him here.

Contact him via e-mail here.

UPside Podcast featuring American Music editor Todd Decker and University of Illinois Press director Laurie Matheson

Punk & Hip Hop

Composers & Conductors

Jazz & Bluegrass

American Folklore Society Virtual Exhibit


More Music Journals

Ethnomusicology is the premier publication in the field. Its scholarly articles represent current theoretical perspectives and research in ethnomusicology and related fields, while playing a central role in expanding the discipline in the United States and abroad. This inclusive journal also features book, recording, film, video, and multimedia reviews.

The Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education provides a forum where contemporary research is made accessible to all with interest in music education. Dr. Janet R. Barrett is editor and works with an advisory committee of music education’s most prestigious researchers. 

The purpose of Music and the Moving Image is to explore the relationship between music and the entire universe of moving images (film, television, music videos, computer games, performance art, and web-based media) through articles, reviews and interviews.

All of our journals accept submissions on an ongoing basis. For more information about submission guidelines, deadlines and protocols for each, individual title, please visit the following links:
Jazz & Culture
American Music
Bulletin for Research in Music Education
Music and the Moving Image

Browse Subject Catalog

More From Our Authors

We are pleased to announce Chicago Católico: Making Catholic Parishes Mexican by Deborah E. Kanter is the winner of 2020 Hamlin Garland Prize from the Midwestern History Association.

The Hamlin Garland Prize in Popular History honors a work of popular history about the Midwest that contributes to broader public reflection and appreciation of the region’s past.

From the website:

Chicago Católico is a notable and readable contribution to stories of religious history in the Midwest. Focusing on the region’s largest metropolis, this twentieth century story is an important monograph but also suitable for general readers. As Rust Belt populations have declined, it is Mexican people who have sustained many Catholic parishes through the twentieth century into the present. It is the second largest urban Mexican Catholic population in the U.S., thus making a case for the value of this study.”

The Hamlin Garland Prize was announced on Thursday, May 26, 2021 at the 2021 MHS virtual conference.

Congratulations Deborah!

Welcome to the University of Illinois Press’s virtual exhibit for the 37th Annual International Country Music Conference! We hope you’ll step inside our virtual booth and browse new books, featured music playlists, author and staff interviews, and more. Use promo code ICMC21 for 50% off all of our country music books when ordering from our website June 3-5, 2021!

Featured Books

American Folklore Society Virtual Exhibit American Folklore Society Virtual Exhibit

Country Classics

Don't Get above Your Raisin'

Featured Journal: American Music

Let’s Talk

Laurie Matheson is the director of the University of Illinois Press. Her areas of acquisition include the subjects of Music, Dance, and Folklore. If you’re working on a book project, please feel free to reach out to her during the conference here.

Click here to read an interview with Laurie Matheson.

University of Illinois Press on Spotify

Playlist for Unlikely Angel: The Songs of Dolly Parton

Playlist for Hillbilly Maidens, Okies, and Cowgirls: Women’s Country Music, 1930 -1960

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Welcome to the University of Illinois Press virtual exhibit for the 2021 North American Society for Sports History (NASSH) annual conference! Explore books, journals, author interviews, and more in this virtual exhibit. Use promo code NASSH21 for 50% off sports books when ordering from our website, May 28-31. Buy 3 books and receive a free copy of the Journal of Olympic Studies, Spring/Summer 2021 Issue.

New Books in the Sport and Society Series Edited by Aram Goudsouzian and Jaime Schultz

New in Studies in Sports Media Edited by Victoria E. Johnson and Travis Vogan

Let’s Talk

Daniel Nasset is the new editor-in-chief at the University of Illinois Press. Danny came to Illinois as an assistant acquisitions editor in 2009, becoming an acquisitions editor in 2011 and a senior acquisitions editor in 2016. Danny has distinguished himself with his acquisitions in history, sports, American studies, communication and media studies!

Click here to read an interview with him.

Click here to contact him by email.

Featured Journals

The Journal of Olympic Studies is the official publication of the Center for Sociocultural Sport and Olympic Research (CSSOR), and aspires to be the preeminent international multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed scholarly journal in the field of Olympic research. The Journal publishes high quality academic work on the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, in all of its forms.

Journal of Sport History is published on behalf of The North American Society for Sport History. It seeks to promote the study of all aspects of the history of sport. We invite the submission of scholarly articles, research notes, documents, and commentary; interview articles and book reviews are assigned by the Editor.

The Journal of Olympic Studies on The UPside: UIP Podcast Series

Interview with Professor Andy Miah

Interview with Jim Parry

Interview with Dr. Andrew Zimbalist

Interview with John MacAloon

Browse More Sports History Titles in Our Subject Catalog

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Welcome to the University of Illinois Press virtual exhibit for the 2021 International Communication Association annual conference! Explore our extensive collection of communication books, blog posts, and more. Use the promo code ICA21 for 50% off of all of our communication book titles when ordering from our website, May 27-31.

Featured Books in Geopolitics of Information series

Featured Books in History of Communication series

Featured Book Titles

ASALH Virtual Exhibit

Fighting Visibility Virtual Book Launch

Photographic Presidents Virtual Book Launch

Let’s Talk

Daniel Nasset is the editor-in-chief at the University of Illinois Press. Danny has distinguished himself with his acquisitions in history, sports, American studies, communication, and media studies.

To read an interview with Danny, click here.

To contact Danny by email, click here.

Browse Subject Catalog

More From Our Authors