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Thursday, December 18, 2014

National Blues Museum Meets Fundraising Goal, Begins Construction on World-Class Blues Experience

Posted By on Thu, Dec 18, 2014 at 6:03 AM

The home of the National Blues Museum on Washington Avenue. - GOOGLE MAPS
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  • The home of the National Blues Museum on Washington Avenue.

When the National Blues Museum announced on December 11 that it had completed financing and was ready for construction in downtown St. Louis, business executives and music fans around the metro region became excited. After all, a world-class tribute to the blues located on Washington Avenue could drive all kinds of economic and cultural development.

But Rob Endicott, chairman of the board of the National Blues Museum, isn't merely excited about the museum; he's also confident that this is the piece that will forever connect the Gateway City with a style of music that has contributed so much to America's rock & roll legacy.

He should know. He's a blues musician himself.

"It's been a great project for me and a labor of love. I just really get enthused about it," says Endicott, who plays trumpet in the Voodoo Blues Band, among other groups. "We've got a great history of the blues in St. Louis that people, I think, underappreciate."

Certainly, there was some surprise throughout the nation when St. Louis first broached the notion of claiming the country's foremost blues museum. Over the years, Chicago, Memphis and other cities have pushed for the honor because of their own long-time associations with the blues, but those efforts largely have slowed or stalled. St. Louis simply offered up its own legacy as a key blues city along the Mississippi River, worked out a proposal and funding, and got the job done.

"We don't ever claim that we're a more appropriate place [for a blues museum]," Endicott cautions. "We love those other cities; we don't feel like we're trying to compete with them. We're celebrating the blues because we have a place in its history, and we love it."

That St. Louis legacy Endicott speaks of naturally includes many musicians who employed blues techniques and eventually became big names in rock & roll, such as Chuck Berry, Fontella Bass, and Ike and Tina Turner. But those who were more known for blues proper and who were influential to the genre in the Gateway City -- like Henry "Mule" Townsend, Johnnie Johnson and Walter Davis -- also earned rightful reputations as being master musicians.

"From a musical standpoint, the blues are the backbone of American popular music. It's this great intersection of African American roots and the blending of that with European traditions in a way that is uniquely American," Endicott shares. "It's literally almost in the DNA of music, and that's one of the things I really hope people take away [from the museum]."

Many blues musicians and celebrities are backing St. Louis as an appropriate choice for the National Blues Museum, including legends Buddy Guy and Denise LaSalle, actors John Goodman and Morgan Freeman, and musicians Jack White, Robert Cray and Derek Trucks.

Moreover, Devon Allman, the son of Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers, is a National Blues Museum board member. Growing up in St. Louis and later touring with a variety of acts (including his bands Honeytribe and the Royal Southern Brotherhood), Allman has championed the museum's importance to music history.

"Finally the blues -- its rich, storied history, its unique cast of characters and its mojo -- has a home we can all be very proud of," Allman said in a recent statement. "This genre of music which has influenced so many artists throughout the last century is so very deserving of this museum."

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