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Blues History Mailbag Q: Do you know where the accident that killed Peetie Wheatstraw took place in 1941? I know it was in East Saint Louis and that the car ran into a rairoad car.
Thomas W.

A: Hi Thomas,

William Bunch, known on his recordings as Peetie Wheatstraw, “The Devil’s Son-in-Law” and “The High Sheriff of Hell”, was killed when a car he was riding in hit a parked boxcar in East St Louis a few days before Christmas in 1941.

Big Joe Williams said that Will Raimey, Romey Self and Peetie had just dropped him off so he could catch a streetcar back across the river to his home in St Louis. He had been riding in the back seat with Peetie.
Peetie had been playing guitar in the car. The accident happened within a block of his house and Peetie’s wife Lizzie may have witnessed it from her front window.

Peetie lived on Third Street in the area known as “the Valley” in East St Louis, Illinois. Looking at a map today does not help to pinpoint the exact location because many changes have been made to that area. Peetie recorded a song in 1937 telling of the destruction of Third Street saying in the lyrics that the city hired Mr Keeler to put a highway through that part of town. Today the highways 55/ 64/ 70/ 40 and 3 all cut through East St Louis above the old Third Street location where the accident happened.


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