St. Louis, Missouri, USA
02.09.2002 - 02.09.2002
I got the St. Louis blues, just as blue as I can be.
That man’s got a heart like a rock cast in the sea,
Or else he wouldn’t have gone so far from me.
- St. Louis Blues, W.C. Handy
W. C. Handy’s song, first published in 1914, has become one of the most performed songs in music history and inspired the name of St. Louis’ National Hockey League team. In the early part of the 1900s, riverboats from New Orleans brought jazz and blues into St. Louis, where it mixed with the local ragtime made famous by Scott Joplin to create the unique St. Louis Blues sound. Later, in the 40s and 50s, the St. Louis sound again morphed, mixing with rhythm and blues to create a “driving dance beat with a bluesy delivery,” exemplified by St. Louis natives Ike and Tine Turner.
St. Louis, Missouri is the Gateway to the West. In 1935, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park was established to celebrate the Westward expansion of the U.S.A. from 1803 to 1890. The park is best known for, and dwarfed by the Gateway Arch. Eero Saarinen designed the Arch in 1947, and construction on the 630 foot high structure was completed in 1965.
Just south of downtown along Broadway Street is BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups. Housed at 700 South Broadway Street in a building dating back to the 1800s that originally was Phil’s Hotel, BB’s provides good food, a well stocked bar and live music from some of the best local blues and jazz artists.
Just down the street from BB’s is the Broadway Oyster Bar at 736 South Broadway. Just as the blues of St. Louis took musical influences from New Orleans, Broadway Oyster Bar takes it’s food and atmosphere influences from the Big Easy. The Cajun and Creole food and cozy interior is good, but it is the exterior that is the best part. Voted the Best Outside Dining by the AOL City Guide (2004), the patio at Broadway’s is a great place to eat and drink under the stars and listen to blues and Cajun music. Oysters, fried alligator and a washboard solo by the zydeco trio playing on the patio, it’s the French Quarter in St. Louis.
Continuing south along Broadway you will find Soulard, a neighborhood with a French flavor, lots of churches and the Soulard Market. The Anheuser-Busch Brewery, home of the world famous Clydesdales horses and their guardians, friendly Dalmatians, borders the neighborhood to the south.
Among the many great pubs, restaurants and bars to see live music is 1860s Hard Shell Café & Bar at 1860 South Ninth Street. Live blues, rock and more, seven nights a week. The bar is small and smoky, but the food is good, the music hot and what better place to see blues than in a smoky, crowded bar!
Heading back North through downtown, right on the banks of the Mississippi is Laclede’s Landing. A nine-block area that originally housed industries and warehouses, the Landing has been transformed into a tourist area with historic touches like cobblestone streets and horse drawn carriages. During the day the streets are filled with tourists looking for lunch at the overpriced chain restaurants or the entrance to the riverboat casino, and at night it is filled with college students looking for a cheap beer buzz. However, once a year during Labor Day weekend, the Landing plays host to the Big Muddy Blues Festival. Blues artists, both local talent and national and international names come and play on numerous outdoor stages that fill the streets, courtyards and parks of the Landing. Great talent playing all day and into the night as well as good food and drink booths make this a must do event for all music lovers.
W.C. Handy wrote in The St. Louis Blues that he hated “to see the evening sun go down,” but given the great music scene that gets going after dark in St. Louis, a music lover finding themselves on the shores of the muddy Mississippi should be counting the hours until they can find themselves a cold beer, a hot meal and some cool blues.