5 Country Stars Who Hail from Illinois

When you think of the stars of country music, it’s inevitable that locales like Nashville or Austin come to mind. Music City and Texas are known for harboring and honoring its many twangy standouts. 

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But in truth, stars from the country music genre come from all over the world, from Memphis to Melbourne to Montana. Even Chicago boasts some of the best.

As such, here we are going to dive into five stars of country music who were from The Windy City area, from John Prine to Alison Krauss to more.

1. John Prine

Born on October 10, 1946, in Maywood, Illinois, which is just about 20 minutes outside of The Windy City, John Prine grew up to become one of the most influential artists in country music. Prine, who passed away in 2020 from complications due to COVID-19, learned to play the guitar at around 14 years old, and later he attended classes at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. Since then, he’s written indelible songs like “Sam Stone” and “Angel From Montgomery.”

Even the Bard, Bob Dylan, is a fan, with the Nobel Prize-winner saying to The Huffington Post in 2009, “Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mind trips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs. . . . All that stuff about ‘Sam Stone’, the soldier junkie daddy, and ‘Donald and Lydia’, where people make love from ten miles away. Nobody but Prine could write like that.”

2. Alison Krauss

Born on July 23, 1971, in Decatur, Illinois, which is just a few hours outside Chicago, Krauss is known as both a bluegrass and country artist. As of late, the “Whiskey Lullaby” singer enjoyed something of a renaissance in her middle years, pairing with former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant to produce two blissful albums, Raising Sand in 2007, and Raise the Roof in 2021. With a golden voice and a knack for the subtle, Krauss is one of the icons of the genre today.

Krauss, who has released 14 albums to date, has also appeared on soundtracks for O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Cold Mountain. She’s earned dozens of Grammy Awards and approximately 50 nominations, which ranks her just behind Beyonce, Quincy Jones, and classical conductor Georg Solti for the most.

3. Shel Silverstein

As American Songwriter shared here, Shel Silverstein has had a major impact on the world of country music, from working with artists like Waylon Jennings, Judy Collins, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Born on September 25, 1930, in Chicago proper, Silverstein had a major impact on music. He’s also a legendary children’s book author, penning influential works like The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and A Light in the Attic

Silverstein, who studied at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, has a musical output that includes many tunes for other artists. Songs that have had major success include “Hey Loretta” for Lynn and “A Boy Named Sue” for Cash.

4. Pokey LaFarge

Born June 26, 1983, in Bloomington, Illinois, which is just a couple hours outside The Windy City, LaFarge released his debut album, Marmalade, in 2006. He dropped his second solo LP, Beat, Move & Shake, in 2008. Later, linking with other musicians to comprise The South City Three, LaFarge and company released Chittlin’ Cookin’ Time in Cheatham Couty, which was produced by Jack White for Third Man Records.

In 2013, LaFarge signed with Third Man and released his first solo album on the label, which he named after himself. In 2021, he released his seventh studio album, In the Blossom of Their Shade.

5. Brett Eldredge

Born March 23, 1986, in Paris, Illinois, which is a few hours outside Chicago, Brett Eldredge has gone on to make a name for himself in the country scene, including signing recently with Warner Music Group Nashville. To date, he boasts five No. 1 singles on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, three of which—”Don’t Ya,” “Beat of the Music” and “Mean to Me”— came from his debut solo LP, Bring You Back. Today, Eldredge has released seven studio LPs, including his latest, Songs About You, in 2022.

Photo by Danny Clinch/ ShoreFire Media

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