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Author of book about rock ‘n’ roll roots to speak

Posted on 02.20.2013

Journalist Preston Lauterbach will come to the University of Indianapolis on Feb. 21 to speak about his book “The Chitlin’ Circuit and the Road to Rock ‘N’ Roll.” His talk, which is a part of the Sutphin Lectures series, will start at 4 p.m. in UIndy Hall A in the Schwitzer Student Center.

Interim Director of the Institute for Civic Leadership and the Mayoral Archives and Associate Professor of History and Political Science Edward Frantz helped bring Lauterbach to UIndy after reading his book more than a year ago.

“To be honest, from the time that I read that book about a year ago, I was trying to figure out, then saying to my colleagues, ‘We have to figure out a way to bring this guy to campus,’” Frantz said.

“The Chitlin’ Circuit and the Road to Rock ‘N’ Roll” traces the music’s history, uncovering a connection to Indianapolis.

Photo Copyright Justin Burks, 2009

“The book itself is a great read, and a surprising portion takes place here in Indianapolis,”  Frantz said. “We thought it would be a great way to bring in somebody who’d written about a part of the city that a lot of people don’t even know about.”

Assistant Professor of History and Political Science Chad Martin wanted to expose the campus to Lauterbach and his book, to show students how important clubs on Indiana Avenue were to early rock ‘n’ roll.

“As soon as we read the book, we started talking about bringing him to campus. The Indianapolis connection is so interesting. It brings the avenue to life,” Martin said. “Now it’s all parking lots and the Madame Walker Theatre … there’s nothing there to remind you what that life was like. This book just really makes it pop.”

Lauterbach’s novel paints a picture of the Indianapolis black community in the 1940s. The chitlin’ circuit was a music scene that dipped down into the South, with small stops for early performers.

“There were these little juke joints and out-of-the-way places throughout the South … It was the place where James Brown learned his showmanship, where Little Richard perfected his act,” Frantz said. “That’s the birth of rock ‘n’ roll.”

The story of rock ‘n’ roll involves money laundering and con men, chitlin’ circuit clubs and a world that many people have never heard about. Lauterbach takes the reader through the roots of rock ‘n’ roll with this investigative story.

Frantz is excited for students, faculty and music lovers to hear Lauterbach speak about his book. He emphasized that students from many different majors could enjoy Lauterbach’s exploration of the circuit.

“Above all, I think it’s just great to see authors and people who have found a story. He tells a great story, but he had to find that story,” Frantz said.

Frantz added that reading books outside of course-required materials is valuable to college students who are too often distracted by modern life.

“It might be quaint. It might be old-fashioned. It might be a lot of other adjectives that you might ascribe to it, but I think it’s also illuminating … for people to take time out of their busy schedule from the demands of our plugged-in lifestyles to appreciate a good book,” Frantz said. “I think there still is a place for stories and books. And I would like to think that we’re also telling people that a life without books is an incomplete one.”


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