John William Boone was born to his housekeeper mother and his father, a bugler in the Union Army, in Miami, Missouri, in 1864. A doctor removed his eyes to relieve pressure brought about by brain fever when he was just a few days old. The young man soon exhibited a talent for music -- a talent that his neighbors found so inspiring they pitched in to help him get to St. Louis and a school for the blind so that he could further hone his talent. While there, Boone was seduced by the city's notorious Tenderloin District, where the music of the time was a proto-ragtime sound. Boone mastered this genre but preferred to play classical music. It was his facility with the classics that led to him forming a partnership with John Lange, and with Lange's able assistance Boone was able to tour the country playing the music he loved. Sadly, he's mostly forgotten today -- except in Warrensburg, where there's a Blind Boone Park commemorating his musical legacy. And now editors Mary Collins Barile and Christine Montgomery have republished Melissa Fuell-Cuther's contemporary biography, Merit, Not Sympathy, Wins: The Life and Times of Blind Boone. Montgomery and Collins Barile discuss the book and the overlooked musician at 1 p.m. Sunday and 11 a.m. Monday (February 17 and 18) at the Missouri History Museum (Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue; 314-746-4599 or www.mohistory.org). Admission is free.
Mon., Feb. 18, 2013