DAY TRIPPIN’ — A musical journey through The Blues in STL

While other blues museums focus on a single artist or region, this museum takes visitors on a musical journey that begins when the slaves arrive from Africa and bring the rhythms that spread from the Mississippi Delta up river, back overseas and throughout the world.

While impressive exhibits fill the new National Blues Museum, one of the simplest is guaranteed to bring a smile.

Next to the display paying homage to Chuck Berry is an image of the artist on a sequence of small photos that flip rapidly when a button is pushed. The animated Berry does his famous duck walk across a stage. Press the button to the left, and he duck walks on back.

Jacqueline Dace, interpretative manager of the museum, pointed out a couple of other interesting tidbits about the display that features a red-sequined outfit and red guitar in front of a large photo of Berry in action.

“You’ll notice that the sequins are worn off of the shirt by his guitar strap,” she said. “And the guitar is the same one he’s holding on the cover of his autobiography.”

The National Blues Museum opened April 2, 2016 in a renovated department store building in St. Louis’ downtown business district. The museum retains some of the marble tile floors, ornate light fixtures and huge columns from its previous life.

The $14-million museum features 14,000 square feet of displays, plus a performance stage in a nightclub setting that will host local and national acts. There is a full-service bar, and the popular Sugarfire Smoke House has an outlet next door.

While other blues museums focus on a single artist or region, this museum takes visitors on a musical journey that begins when the slaves arrive from Africa and bring the rhythms that spread from the Mississippi Delta up river, back overseas and throughout the world.

In the three-minute introductory video, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin explains how the music sparked the British Invasion that brought the Beatles, Rolling Stones and other English acts to America.

“In the U. K., we were transfixed by the Mississippi Delta and the poetry that came out of it,” Plant says.

St. Louis is the perfect place for the national museum, Dace said, because the migration of black musicians from the South headed up Highway 61 to St. Louis. Some stayed, and some ventured on to Kansas City and Chicago.

“The blues were coming out and creating a whole new genre that was not there before,” she said. “These were not people who were supposed to have emotions, to have souls. It came out in spirituals and gospel music and grew into the blues. They found their voice.

“Many people came to St. Louis and went further north, and kind of redefined the music as they went along. But in order to get to a wider audience, you had to come through St. Louis.”

The museum earned a rave review from one of those enshrined. Bonnie Raitt was performing in St. Louis and got a sneak preview. She told her sold-out audience: “I visited your new National Blues Museum this afternoon. It’s killer.”

The Great Migration

A tour of the museum, which is housed on a single floor of the cavernous building, starts with an interactive feature that is destined to be a favorite. Visitors sign in, write their own lyrics on a screen and then add musical riffs at different stations as they explore the exhibits.

“You add guitar, harmonica, piano, then mix it all up,” Dace said. “They compose their own song, and it is emailed to them.”

The Jug Band Room is sure to be another hit, especially with the kids. Inside a small studio, visitors play the spoons, shakers, washboard or bones. They touch a computer, and their face is added to the real jug band performing on the large screen in front of them.

 
Read the article here
Category: Press