Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography‘s Map of Missouri
Missouri’s nickname, the “Show Me State,” first appears in print in the words of congressman, William Vandiver, who declared in 1889, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats. Frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.” Maybe it should be called the “Play-Me State” because it’s produced so much great music. OK — that doesn’t make a lot of sense but I needed some sort of intro and transition.
The state song is “Missouri Waltz.” It was first published in 1914.
Hush-a-bye, ma baby, slumbertime is comin’ soon;
Rest yo’ head upon my breast while Mommy hums a tune;
The sandman is callin’ where shadows are fallin’,
While the soft breezes sigh as in days long gone by.
Way down in Missouri where I heard this melody,
When I was a little child upon my Mommy’s knee;
The old folks were hummin’; their banjos were strummin’;
So sweet and low.
Strum, strum, strum, strum, strum,
Seems I hear those banjos playin’ once again,
Hum, hum, hum, hum, hum,
That same old plaintive strain.
Hear that mournful melody,
It just haunts you the whole day long,
And you wander in dreams back to Dixie, it seems,
When you hear that old time song.
Hush-a-bye ma baby, go to sleep on Mommy’s knee,
Journey back to Dixieland in dreams again with me;
It seems like your Mommy is there once again,
And the old folks were strummin’ that same old refrain.
Way down in Missouri where I learned this lullaby,
When the stars were blinkin’ and the moon was climbin’ high,
Seems I hear voices low, as in days long ago,
The state (or maybe just the river in some cases) of Missouri has been celebrated, or at least the subject of, songs by many non-Missourians, for example After The Tragedy‘s “Missouri Loves Company,” Avi Bortnick‘s “Missouri Dreaming,” Back Porch Mary‘s “Missouri Girl,” Colt Ford‘s “Missouri,” David Ford‘s “Missouri,” DJ Quik‘s “Jus Lyke Compton,” Fourth of July‘s “Across the Wide Missouri,” Ice Cube‘s “Summer Vacation,” James Cotton‘s “Born in Missouri,” James Keelaghan‘s “Cold Missouri Waters,” Jimmy Rodgers‘s “Shovlin’ Coal in Missouri,” MartyParty‘s “Crossing Missouri,” The Magnetic Fields‘ “Long Vermont Road,” Merle Travis‘s “Missouri,” Ry Cooder‘s “Leaving Missouri,” and Simon Bonney‘s “Ozark Waltz.” Its great cities and Ozark Mountains have also been the subject of songs like W. C. Handy‘s “St. Louis Blue,” Leiber and Stoller‘s “Kansas City,” and many more.
While no sane person would seriously suggest that Missouri (or any other state for that matter) rivals neighboring Kentucky for its claim to Bluegrass, Missouri did produce a handful of talented Bluegarss artists including The Dillards, John Har(t)ford, Onie Wheeler and Rhonda Vincent
Missouri (mostly St. Louis) is one of the most unsung and under-appreciated contributors to the Blues. Since most folks think of Missouri as a Midwestern state, the Blues probably doesn’t immediately come to mind. Ma Rainey herself, however (the so-called “Mother of the Blues”), though she hailed from Georgia, recounted that she first heard the Blues sung by a young girl in a small town in Missouri in 1902. Many of the best-known artists associated with the St. Louis Blues scene were immigrants from other parts of the country.
One Missourian looms large not just over Missouri boogie but all boogie: Pete Johnson
I never listened to much Children’s music besides that of Mr. Rogers (he was from Pennsylvania, and one of Missouri’s nicknames was “The Pennsylvania of the West“) but I gather that Missouri native Ella Jenkins is kind of a big deal.
Whilst today not a Country hotbed on par with neighboring Tennessee, Missouri has produced some (as usual – mostly under-appreciated) Country and Hillbilly acts and for years attempted to dethrone Tennessee as the “Crossroads of Country.”
Situated in the Ozarks is Branson, which I like to think of as the town where Cashville retires to when past its sell-by date, although it was a legitimate rival to Nashville for many years. From the late 1940s through the 1950s, Springfield broadcasters Ralph Foster and Si Siman produced nationally-syndicated radio shows (through Foster’s RadiOzark Enterprises) which aired locally on KWTO-AM. Ozark Jubilee, taped in Springfield, was one of the first national network TV shows to feature country music performers, airing on ABC from 1954 – 1961.
Notable country stars born in Missouri includeArkie the Arkansas Woodchopper, Bob Ferguson, Danny Schmidt, David Nail, Diane Pfeifer, Dick Feller, Ferlin Husky, Helen Cornelius, Jan Howard, Jerry Wallace, Jimmy Gately, Kelly McGuire, Leland Martin, Leon Rausch, Leroy Van Dyke, The Mark Chapman Band, Ozark Cowboys, Porter Wagoner, Red Murrell, Sara Evans, Shirley Collie, Speedy West, Sue Thompson,The Jordanaires, The Kendalls, T-Bone Burnett, Thumbs Carlisle, Tim Nichols, and Wynn Stewart.
Surely there were more than two doo-wop groups from Missouri but The Carpets and The Sinceres are all that I know of.
I’m also sure there are more electronic bands from Missouri but the only one that comes to mind is The Ray Makers.
Missouri has produced a few respected film scorers including Basil Poledouris, John McDaniel, Lennie Niehaus, Paul Francis Webster, Robert Russell Bennett, Ronald Stein, and Virgil Thompson.
Although Jazz is most associated with New Orleans, it is also probably Missouri’s largest, most famous music export as celebrated in (Missourian) director Robert Altman‘s film, Kansas City and touched upon in Ken Burns’s Jazz.
Pritnear everyone’s heard of at least some of these performers: Ahmad Alaadeen, Arvell Shaw, Ben Webster, Bennie Moten, Billy Mitchell, Black Artists’ Group, The Blue Devils, Bob Brookmeyer, Bob Gordon, Bob James, Cal Tjader, Charles Kynard, Charles McPherson, Charlie Creath, Chris Cheek, Chris Connor, Clark Terry, Coleman Hawkins, Curtis Counce, Curtis J. Mosby, Elmer “Pha” Terrell, Elmer Wright, Ernie Wilkins, Frank Teschemacher, Gene Sedric, George E. Lee, Grant Green, Gus Haenschen, Harlan Leonard, Harold Ashby, Human Arts Ensemble, Jack Bland, James Carter Pankow, Jess Stacy, Jimmy Forrest, Jimmy Woods, Joe Harris, John Mixon, Julius Hemphill, Karl George, Kevin Mahogany, King Kolax, Lammar Wright Jr., Leo Watson, Marty Ehrlich, Milt Buckner, The Missourians, Oliver Nelson, Pat Metheny, Pee Wee Russell, Red McKenzie, Sam T. Brown, Sammy Gardner, Shorty Baker, Singleton Palmer, Sylvester Lewis, Theodore Carpenter,Velma Middleton, Wendell Marshall, and William “Bill Blue” Thornton Blue.
Whole lotta jumping gone on. Missourian jump blues was represented by Julia Lee, Big Joe Turner, Jimmy Beasley and Gene Phillips.
Only one name looms large in the Missouri lounge scene (that I’m presently aware of), Felix Slatkin.
MARCHING BAND MUSIC
Sadly, marching and concert bands don’t get a lot of love anymore — even in high school and junior high. Back in the day, however, Arthur Pryor was one of the giants of the scene as a writer of marches and performer with the hugely popular Sousa Band. He brought the swing to Sousa’s Band (which Sousa supposedly disliked but recognized was popular with audiences. Less well-known but arguably no less significant was bandmaster and music teacher, Edward M. Hiner.
MISSOURI FIDDLING (MISSOURI FOLK)
Missouri has a rich history of fiddle-heavy “Old Time” music. The first Europeans to settle in Missouri were the French, who arrived in 1735. Their traditions mingled with the later-to-arrive Scots-Irish. I don’t know much about fiddlin’ but it’s the heavy reliance on the so-called “saw stroke” and a drive that gives Missouri style fiddlin’ its unique sound. Amongst aficionados, Missouri Fiddlin’ is further be broken down into the Hornpipe, Little Dixie, and Ozark styles. Some noted fiddlers include Bill Driver, Bill Katon, Bob Holt, Charlie Pasha, Cleo Persinger, Cyril Stinnett, Ethel Goff, Gene Wells, Geoff Seitz, Jake Hockemeyer, Joe Politte, Pete McMahan, Roy Boyer, and Taylor McBaine.
Stop hating on the New Age. If you slag New Age but like Post-Rock then you’re already as new age as a rain stick filled with magic healing crystals — and you’re a hatin’ poseur. Anyway, Missouri’s best-known New Age artist is probably Dan Landrum.
Although the fact that they’re from Missouri is often overlooked, pop musicians Billy Davis Jr., Bob Kuban & the In Men, Burt Bacharach, Cliff Edwards, Connee Boswell, David Cook, Greg Guidry, The Guise (And Their Mod Sound), Herman Grimes, Jerry Jay and the Sheratons, Josephine Baker, Mrs. Elva Miller, Nikko Smith, Sheryl Crow, The Del-Tones as a matter of fact, are.
The one music form where Missouri actually does get its due is href=”http://www.amoeba.com/blog/tags/ragtime/page1.html”>Ragtime. Ragtime was all the rage back in the before the Jazz Age. It took the European-derived marches and spruced it up with some syncopation derived from Cakewalk. Scott Joplin, who moved to Missouri (the hotbed of Ragtime), described the effect as “weird and intoxicating.”
Big Missouri ragtimers include Arthur Marshall, Blind Boone, Edythe Baker, George Thomas Ireland, Harry Snodgrass (pictured here in the Missouri State Penitentiary Orchestra), James Scott, Percy Wenrich, Scott Hayden, and Tom Turpin.
There weren’t a whole lot of successful R&B performers to bust out of Missouri but let’s not ignore Joe Buckner, Toya, Truth Hurts, Angela Winbush, Bloodstone, Michael McDonald,Barbara Carr, Gene McDaniels, and Herb Reed.
St. Louis rapper Domino was Missouri’s first contribution to the hip-hop world to make it big. With his’n sing-songy delivery and countrified subject matter (“Sweet Potato Pie”), he was massive at home and nationally. However, it wasn’t really until Texas-born/Missouri-raised Nelly that a Missouri rapper embraced their Missouri-character and opened the floodgates, albeit briefly, fer Chingy, Murphy Lee, J-Kwon and Nelly’s group, St. Lunatics. In fact, St. Louis was really the last time the crumbling major label music industry pinned all of its hopes on a regional scene and if you listen to most popular hip-hop today it sounds like come watered down, ringtone friendly mix of Dirty South’s most commercial output from Atlanta, New Orleans, Virginia Beach, and St. Louis. Kansas City has a special place in the hip-hop world, a place characterized by both fast-paced “choppers” in the Midwest rap tradition like Tech N9ne, and San Francisco Bay-indebted rappers like Fat Tone. In fact, it was in Kansas City that Vallejo, Calfornia‘s Mac Dre was murdered. No one was ever arrested for Mac Dre’s murder but Fat Tone’s subsequent murder at the hands of San Franciso rapper Mac Minister was seen by most as revenge.
Other hip-hop artists from Missouri include Adverb, Ali, Arsenal, Basement Beats, Bombay, CCG, Clyph, Da Banggaz 314, Da Hol 9, Ebony Eyez, Huey, Jibbs, Kanjia, Krizz Kaliko, Lenny Knox & Freeky Jason, Lil Whit, Mac Lethal, Mass 187, Missouri Marley, Potzee, Reach, Rich the Factor, Ruka Puff, Skatterman & Snug Brim, Spaide R.I.P.P.E.R.,Stik Figa, Strugglin’ to Live, T. Scales,Trackboyz, and Youvee.
Some of the following acts from Missouri I classified for the sake of this entry as rock, even though a lot of them hop genres and mix influences like Country, Blues, Funk, Jazz, and Soul.
Notable Rock (in the broad sense) acts and performers from Missouri include Adair, The Aerovons, The Bottle Rockets, Boy’s Life, Bunnygrunt, The Casket Lottery, The Chesmann, Coalesce, D.H. Peligro, Disturbing the Peace, East Ash, The Foundry Field Recordings, A Full Moon Consort, Gayle McCormick, Gene Clark, The Get Up Kids, Gravity Kills, The Hooten Hallers, King’s X, Louise Post, Ludo, Mama’s Pride, Missouri, The Modds, The Morells, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, The Passion, Pavlov’s Dog, The Rainmakers, Shooting Star, The Skeletons, Steve “The Colonel” Cropper, Story of the Year, The Urge, Ultraman, and The Welders, are all from Missouri.
East Ash’s Push” (1989)
A Full Moon Consort’s “The Great Wall” (1977)
Gayle McCormick’s “Its a Cryin Shame” (1971)
Mama’s Pride’s “Blue Mist” (1975)
Pavlov’s Dog’s “Valkerie” (1975)
The Skeletons’ “Sour Snow” (1979)
ROCKABILLY AND EARLY ROCK ‘N’ ROLL
Now not everyone hears “rock ‘n’ roll” and thinks “Missouri” but let’s face it, St. Louis’s Chuck Berry pretty much invented the genre (along with non-Missourians like Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Goree Carter, Jackie Brenston, Jimmy Preston, and Little Richard, among others). Other early rock ‘n’ rollers or rockabilly talents from Missouri include Glenn Glen, Karen Wheeler, Jules Blattner, and Jim Lowe.
Glenn Glen’s “One Cup of Coffee (And a Cigarette)” (1958)
Karen Wheeler & the Gents’ “Wait Till I’m Sixteen” (1961)
Jules Blattner’s cover of Chuck Berry’s “No Money Down” (1964)
WESTERN (COWBOY) AND WESTERN SWING
Western is the cowboy counterpart to thematically distant Country in the “Country & Western” equation and Western Swing is its jazz-influenced offspring. Missouri produced a few relatively obscure Western and Western Swing acts including Tim Spencer, Quilla Hugh “Porky” Freeman, the Ozark Jubilee Boys, and The Jazzabillies.
Porky Freeman’s “Boogie Woogie Boy” (1945)
The Jazzabillies’ “Turn Me Loose and Let Me Swing”
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Click here to offer financial support and thank you!