Home of the Live Music Calendar Follow STLBlues on Twitter Follow STLBlues on Facebook Home of the Live Music Calendar Live Music Is Better, Book It Here!! Live music is better, book yours now!

Blues History MailbagQ: What right does St Louis have to claim itself a Blues city or even a jazz city?

Jazz is a broad category of music that began in the United States somewhere in the late 1800’s. In the 1920’s, recording companies named certain music from certain performers jazz and blues (as well as other categories such as hillbilly and popular), regardless of the styles of the music on the recordings. These definitions are not clear boundries, only merchandising descriptions.

Jazz evolved into subcategories like, big band and swing. Jazz purists divided themselves between traditional and avant-garde. Some accepted the early blues, folk and ragtime, and others denied that it was part of jazz lineage. Jazz survived, but it never returned to the top of the charts and is now often reunited with it’s original sibling in a hybrid category, jazz and blues.

All of this leads to to an explaination of why the city of St Louis missed opportunities to claim her rightful place in music history. When scholarly research of American music was beginning in the 1940s and 50s, jazz and other music was being recorded in Chicago. The researchers determined that the first recordings of jazz were made in New Orleans and they drew a line from New Orleans to Chicago as if it were a chronological flowchart.

But creative expression and inspiration do not move like killer bees or an outbreak of plague, and this erroneous model left St Louis known as the incidental stop over for music moving north. Labels on music and wrongheaded presumption of facts have diminished St Louis’ amazing creativity in the commonly accepted history of American music.

It’s time for St Louis to do some justifiable and long-overdue bragging. Ragtime is an early forerunner of jazz, and ragtime was centered in St Louis. Descendents of the ragtime tradition became what is known as the St Louis piano tradition along with guitarists, vocal artists, and duos. Scores of blues (and jazz) artists recorded from the city and less than a handful can be considered to be influenced by the sounds from the Delta or New Orleans.

In the 1950s, when rock & roll and rhythm & blues grew out of blues and folk music and replaced jazz in popularity, St Louis had a host of post war talent like Chuck Berry and Fontella Bass and so on. And St Louis continues her musical tradition to this day with Nelly and Chingy, to name a few.


Have a Blues History question?

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

-- back to top --

 Live Music Calendar | Send Blues News | © STLBlues 2000 | Privacy Policy