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Blues History MailbagQ: Do you have information on blues in St Louis during the 19-teens through 1950s?

It sounds like you were in north St Louis and yes, it gets rough up there. A number of people want to go into East St Louis when they visit to see Peetie Wheatstraw's old stomping grounds and it's really rough over there too.
In St Louis around the turn of the century, the Mississippi levee at the foot of the Eads bridge was the hub of the city. Ragtime grew up in the red-light houses and winerooms of the Chestnut Valley area, up Market Street from the river. This was also where the Jazz of St Louis sprouted.

The Blues of the city grew up along Morgan Avenue. Morgan ran from the levee out into the northern half of the city. Deep Morgan was the downtown section of Morgan Street. The barbershops, poolhalls, saloons and house parties in Deep Morgan was where the piano, guitar, and harmonica players performed.At this time, there is no one primary source for information about Deep Morgan. Newspapers of the time and various chapters in books have yielded descriptions of the area. It was very poor and slum-like. In Census descriptions there were many 'boarding houses' and saloons.It can be said that the riverfront boats had Jazz players who had been to New Orleans and points south, but it would be incorrect to describe the music in the city as "music that migrated with rural southerners".

St Louis developed it's own sound, especially with guitar and piano duets.
The guitar is not of the delta sound and the piano is not like the southern styles. St Louis music grew here out of ragtime and many other styles. Many of the musicians who played here and recorded from here were born here. Of the ones that arrived here, perhaps less than a handful were from the delta.

Have a Blues History question?

Send it on over to Kevin, and we'll add it to the Mailbag.

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