Radio broadcast legend Studs Terkel once dubbed Keith Clark "the unofficial poet laureate of Illinois", and that was a well earned title for a significant, if lesser-known, face of the Folk Revival movement.
Clark's passion for folk music was ignited during his time at the Middlebury Bread Loaf School in Vermont, where he pursued a doctoral degree in English. There, Clark was instructed by (and played softball with) famed-poet Robert Frost, who encouraged him to take up the guitar and pen stories about history, and his beloved hometown. Like Carl Sandburg before him, Clark began conducting exhaustive interviews and collecting meticulous historical research, to use as the foundation of his music.
Clark's hard work paid off. In 1957, he cut his first album at New York's venerable Folkways Records (now an imprint of The Smithsonian). The result was "Ballads of La Salle County, Illinois", a record packed with historical information, dramatic stories and Clark's signature piping vocals.
This collection of 10 diligently researched historical ballads tells the stories of some of Starved Rock Country's greatest triumphs ('The Lincoln Douglas Debate') and defeats ('Cherry Mine Disaster'), as well as some fascinating historical tangents ('The Magnetic Doctress').
You can hear samples of the album over on the Folkways website, or purchase your own digital/physical copy.