“I went back to Ohio
But my city was gone
There was no train station
There was no downtown”
—“My City Was Gone”, Chrissie Hynde, The Pretenders
Last month, I set out to make a playlist and corresponding T-shirt to honor the iconic musicians that got their start in the rural hills and urban streets of Ohio. Of course, the big names would be there: Devo, The Black Keys, Nine Inch Nails and, my hometown heroes, Guided by Voices. I was pretty sure I could I dig up 40 or 50 worthy artists.
After my initial research uncovered more legends (The Isley Brothers! Bozz Skaggs!), I thought I had a pretty solid list. Then, just to make sure every stone was turned, I reached out via social media to my people — a network of musicians and aficionados like me — who listen to everything and lived in live music venues, back when that was a thing.
Man, was that a mistake.
Ninety-six songs later, I’ve got a five-and-a-half-hour playlist and a "State of Rock" T-shirt that would have to be sold with a magnifying glass if one more name was added. (The Unisex tee and Womens' Fit tee can be found here.)
That's a lot of corn-fed music!
The playlist took almost as long to design. After the deluge of comments pointed me down a rabbit hole of regional indie rockers and garrulous garage bands, my list transformed from a hallowed hall of iconic stars to a “you’ve gotta hear this” sonic sampler. It should be noted, my definition of “rock” was a bit more narrow than the Hall up in Cleveland. Using the electric guitar as my north star, I mostly steered clear of classic country, rap and jazz. Admittedly, the list also probably leans a little heavy on Columbus music, where I've seen so many shows, from Stache's to Nationwide Arena and everything in between. That said, every major city is definitely represented.
To make the list, individual musicians, like Bobby Womack and Tracy Chapman, must have been born and raised in the state before making it big elsewhere. Every band on the list cut their teeth playing local dives or touring regionally. Conversely, although Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr met in Cleveland and played music together in Columbus, The Cars didn’t make the cut since they officially formed in Boston.*
I could go on about some of my favorite personal discoveries (The Godz, Soledad Brothers) and friends who I feel always deserve more exposure (Tim Easton, The Woosely Band, Burn Barrel). Unfortunately, there are others who I couldn’t quite squeeze on to the tee — sorry, guys! But I think it’s time to let the playlist do the talking. If you like the songs, or the shirt, or think I left anyone out, please look up Lost Radicals on Facebook or Instagram and join the conversation.
From Ohio with love,
* I only broke this rule once when I included The Pretenders on the playlist and Chrissie Hynde on the shirt. I don't have a great reason for doing this. It just felt like the right thing to do.