The Blacks, a Chicago-based insurgent country band, were formed in 1994 by singer/guitarist Danny McDonough, a former member of psychedelic hard rockers Cornmother, who quit the latter group after discovering the music of Hank Williams, Tom Waits, and Louis Armstrong. Teaching himself basic drumming and trumpeting skills, he began writing songs on a four-track recorder; after several months, he met DePaul University symphonic music student and bassist Gina Black at a local concert, and days later they played together for the first time.
Within weeks Black dropped out of DePaul, and after McDonough adopted the surname Black as well, the couple began performing as the Black Family, making their live debut in late 1995. After going through a series of drummers, the group (now shortened to simply the Blacks) recruited James Emmenegger, becoming a four-piece with the addition of guitarist Nora O'Connor; upon playing hundreds of live dates across the Midwest, the group signed with the Bloodshot label, issuing its Eric "Roscoe" Ambel-produced debut, Dolly Horrorshow, in 1998. Just Like Home followed two years later.