(Piece by Dean C. Minderman)
Blues enthusiasts know that the music is best experienced live, but when you can't get to one of St. Louis' blues clubs in person, you can still take in some of the sights and sounds online by visiting Lady Di's Blues Corner. The site features dozens of pages of photos and performance videos of St. Louis blues musicians past and present, representing more than a decade of effort by Dianna "Lady Di" Trombino Mestman.
Mestman, a St. Louis native and retired legal secretary, first became a blues fan as a teenager after seeing B.B. King and Bobby "Blue" Bland in concert. Her interest in the music was rekindled years later when she began going to BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups to hear local bands. "I actually found it by accident," she said. "I'd been by there many times, but never knew what it was. Then one day, we were watching the Food Network, and BB's was featured on a travel show."
Mestman started taking snapshots of the musicians as mementos of shows she'd attended, and over time, what began as a pastime turned into a serious avocation. After upgrading her camera gear several times, and seeking out advice from professional photographers, Mestman wanted to share her images with others.
"People kept asking me why I was taking these photos," she said. "Are they going somewhere?" After contributing some shots to Dave Beardsley's STLBlues.net, Mestman decided to start her own site, and Lady Di's Blues Corner was born. She's since become a familiar face at BB's, Hammerstone's, Beale on Broadway, Broadway Oyster Bar and other local blues spots. In 2007, she began shooting video as well as still photos.
Along the way, Mestman also has befriended many of the musicians she photographs. "They trust me because I'm not out to exploit them," she notes. She's also become an advocate for the local blues scene, helping secure mayoral proclamations honoring musicians such as the late Bennie Smith and Henry Townsend, and hopes to continue to raise awareness of St. Louis blues. "A lot of the musicians here don't get the recognition, especially the blues players. Chicago does, New Orleans does, but not St. Louis," she said. "My website is here to promote them."