Let's get back to the misery, shall we? To continue with my theme following Forbes 20 most miserable cities in the US, we are up to #14.
Finding a postcard of Rockford ain't easy. I used to pass through Rockford when driving from St. Louis, MO, to Madison, WI. I didn't even stop there to pee. Population of around 150,000, with a metro area of roughly 300,000. 16.9% Unemployment. Lots of closed and outdated factories. From 2002-2007 the Rockford area had the highest crime rate in the state of Illinois (mostly theft and burglary, not violent crime). Home appreciation of -5% (ouch). 8.25% sales tax, with 6.25% being a state tax. Rockford is in the middle of one of the most flat, boring parts of Illinois, which allows the wind to whip through on cold winter days. Lots of fun minor league sports teams, but in terms of major sports they must look east to Chicago. Go Cubs?
One of my favorite power pop/rock bands hails from Rockford.
Cheap Trick - Surrender.mp3
Buy: Heaven Tonight (1978)
I was in Kansas City last year and I got drunk as hell. Good times! Often nicknamed the BBQ Capital of the World, and I have to admit, I had some damn good BBQ in between beers. Population of around 500,000 with a metro area (including Kansas City, Kansas) of about 2 million. Unemployment of 9.1% (lower than national average). The violent crime rate is roughly twice the national average. Although I can't find any info on it (granted, I'm not looking that hard), Forbes claims that Kansas City has high tax rates. Forbes rated KC high on the misery index due to its two awful pro sports teams. The baseball Royals and football Chiefs combined finished outside of last place only once in the past three years. You can see their respective stadiums in the above lovely postcard.
In terms of music, Kansas City is most famous for the development of the Bebob style of jazz in the 1930s and 1940s. KC native Charlie Parker is widely considered one of the most influential jazz musicians. In addition, Count Basie made his mark on the jazz scene in KC leading a big band swing orchestra. Dozens of other jazz artists made their mark on the Kansas City scene, which is still thriving today.
I don't have a very large jazz collection, but here is a standard from Coleman Hawkins of nearby St. Joseph, Missouri, who was one of the first to use a tenor saxophone to play jazz, and KC native Ben Webster, another important jazz tenor saxophonist.
Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster - Don't Get Around Much Anymore.mp3
From: Compact Jazz: Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster (1987, out of print)
Rubber Capital of the World, due to the city's famous Trojan factory. KIDDING! Akron is the corporate headquarters of the Goodrich Tire and Rubber Company, which may explain the inclusion in the misery list given the downturn in the US auto industry. Population of about 200,000, with a metro area of nearly 700,000. 12.2% unemployment, and Akron's 2.25% local income tax rate is one of the highest in the state of Ohio. Akron is also apparently the methamphetamine capitol of Ohio, ranking third in the nation in the amount of registered meth sites. Aside from drugs, the crime rate in Akron appears to be about average with the rest of Ohio. Akron is the hometown of basketball phenom LeBron James, who plays for the nearby Cleveland Cavaliers. If rumors are to believed, Akron will be in a world of misery if James bolts for another team at the end of the season.
Who knew that so many cool musicians came from Akron? Members of Devo are from Akron and nearby Cuyahoga Falls. Soul artist James Ingram, Liam "My United States of Whatever" Lynch, and the blue-rock duo The Black Keys are all from Akron. Plus, our favorite redneck David Allan Coe and rocker Chrissie Hyne of the Pretenders were both born in Akron. Now that's a diverse group of musicians!
David Allan Coe - You Never Even Called Me By My Name.mp3
Buy: 17 Greatest Hits (1978)
Pretenders - Back on the Chain Gang.mp3
Buy: Learning To Crawl (1984, expanded reissue 2007)
Bonus! By popular request. Or, at least one person's request. In this fine track Mr. Coe tells his life story where, among other things, he tells off Bruce Springsteen, gets off of death row, and releases the very first rap album.
David Allan Coe - I'm an Ohio Boy.mp3
Buy: Live from the Iron Horse: Biketoberfest '01 (2002)