National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

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National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by Louman » Tue Nov 22, 2011 4:51 pm

Here are new renderings for the National Blues Museum planned for downtown St. Louis. Already lots of money have been raised for the museum, which is being billed as 'world class'. It will be one of the largest museums in the world dedicated to Blues music and education. Numerous fundraising events, grants and donations have raised money with proceeds going towards construction as well as museum educational programs. Memphis is planning a $3-million, 10,000 square foot Blues Hall of Fame and Museum. The two museums won't compete against each other.

Robert Santelli, who has been involved with numerous music museums including the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, Seattle Music Experience Project and Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is a volunteer consultant on the The National Blues Museum project. (Source)

National Blues Museum by the numbers
-25,000 square feet
-Cost, nearly $13-million dollars
-Many technology and artifact-driven exhibits
-100-seat auditorium
-A film theater
-Event space
-Located in downtown St. Louis
-Planned opening 2013

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In addition, the National Blues Museum will offer a variety of public programs including acoustic performances, lectures, screenings of documentaries/films, and Q&A sessions with national artists and music industry professionals. The facility’s educational programming will include onsite and in-classroom opportunities to explore the history of Blues music and its influence on rock and roll, hip hop, jazz, gospel, and R&B. (Source)

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Memphis Commercial Appeal: Museum for blues on move in St. Louis

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by nilsson1941 » Tue Nov 22, 2011 7:52 pm

I never really associated St. Louis with "The Blues". Certainly not more than other Midwestern cities that were distinations during the Great Migration. I would think more Chicago or Memphis. I guess they already have enough tourism.

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by FangKC » Wed Nov 23, 2011 5:56 am

I would add New Orleans to that list.

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by mean » Wed Nov 23, 2011 11:58 am

New Orleans is way more of a jazz town, in particular the raucous dixieland style named after the city. I've never associated New Orleans with blues. Blues roots are further north, more rural, in the hill country sharecropper fields of northern Mississippi (as captured by Lomax; this sound eventually migrated to Memphis, laid down tracks at Sun Studios, and met the electric guitar in Chicago). St. Louis was never a major blues town, as far as I know, outside of the fact that W.C. Handy (who was from Memphis) wrote a song called St. Louis Blues--at least until Chuck Berry came on the scene, and I wouldn't really call what he was doing blues. There was definitely a blues scene there, particularly prior to WW2, but it never seemed to be comparable to Memphis or Chicago.

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by town cow » Wed Nov 23, 2011 1:59 pm

There's a fair-sized blues museum in clarksdale, ms, and the BB King blues museum in indianola, ms is fairly new...folks in Chicago, Memphis and Houston have been planning and raising $ for blues museums for a number of years.

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by WSPanic » Wed Nov 23, 2011 2:17 pm

Wait. This isn't a hockey museum?

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by Louman » Wed Nov 23, 2011 5:23 pm

mean wrote:St. Louis was never a major blues town, as far as I know, outside of the fact that W.C. Handy (who was from Memphis) wrote a song called St. Louis Blues--at least until Chuck Berry came on the scene, and I wouldn't really call what he was doing blues. There was definitely a blues scene there, particularly prior to WW2, but it never seemed to be comparable to Memphis or Chicago.
That's funny. That's like saying Kansas City was never a major jazz town because it wasn't comparable to New Orleans, New York or Washington D.C. The logic doesn't make any sense. Plus, you need to read up on Chuck Berry.

St. Louis was and still is well-regarded as a major Blues music center and a contributing city to Blues music history. In fact, St. Louis Blues history/roots are deeper than Chicago's. Ragtime and Blues juke joints were all over St. Louis before those scenes exploded in Chicago. In fact, a lot of Blues musicians played in St. Louis before they played in Chicago. Muddy Waters, who is often times synonymous with Chicago Blues, lived and played in St. Louis before moving to Chicago as did Blues legend Albert King (more on Albert King). King developed his unique and unusual guitar-style while living in St. Louis. Little Milton (another "Chicago" Blues biggie) lived in St. Louis as well and recorded with St. Louis-based Bobbin Records. Waters, Milton and King all lived and played the Blues in St. Louis before moving on to Chicago as did St. Louis' own Chuck Berry.

One of the reasons Memphis and Chicago were magnet cities for Blues musicians is because of major records labels such as Chess (Chicago) and Stax (Memphis). Those cities get a lot of credit because those record labels took off whereas Bobbin Records in St. Louis had marginal success. Memphis is/was helped too because of its proximity to the Mississippi Delta. Unfortunately, the St. Louis label did not take off like Chess and Stax. In fact, many of the Bobbin Records artists went on to record at Chess and Stax.

Anyway...St. Louis' Blues history is old and young. Also, Blues music history hasn't always been chronicled to the same extent as Jazz, which may help to explain some of the void. But that's about to change. There's no doubt that St. Louis' contribution to the Blues is enormous.

Spawning Barbara Carr (Chess), Bluesman Chuck Berry (Chess), Johnnie Johnson, Mel & Tim, Luther Ingram, Shirley Brown, Willie Mae Ford Smith, Ike & Tina Turner, Josephine Baker etc. etc., St. Louis, needless to say, has an illustrious Blues history. And the city is often recognized for being the "Birthplace of R&B" (Just an FYI). St. Louis just doesn't toot its own music history horn like some cities.

Below are scenes from this year's BluesWeek Festival on Washington Avenue.

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photos, from flickr.com

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by nilsson1941 » Wed Nov 23, 2011 11:58 pm

Any scholar would agree that KC was integral in the evolution of Jazz. The same can't be said for Blues and St. Louis. There isn't even a comparison here. That said, I want the city to have this museum. Just because I think the city is not the top choice for a Blues Museum doesn't mean I don't want it in the city (whose to say Seattle is the best city for the "experience music"....it's not ). BTW, KC was no slouch in the blues department (ever heard of "jump blues", Big Joe Turner etc....)

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by earthling » Thu Nov 24, 2011 9:58 am

Used to write jazz/blues history for a small NYC rag. Is commonly accepted in the jazz/blues community that KC's swing style was
considered to be more rooted in blues than jazz.

The reason KC had a major scene was partly due to The Prohibition. Since KC essentially ignored it, the bars were freely open and musicians had a place to work. KC attracted many musicians from abroad partly due to many places to work and it snowballed into a bunch of jazz clubs and burlesque halls. Jazz just happened to be the sound of the day. Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Lester Young were called jazz musicians but had more association with blues, which later developed into improv and bebop jazz. Most of the orchestras too leaned more blues swing or stomp music. It grew into a more relaxed interpretation of NOLA jazz.

STL had contributors, not really a 'scene' to the degree KC did. There were plenty of contributors in STL, enough to have a local museum but a 'national' museum... well, why not give it a try.
Last edited by earthling on Fri Nov 25, 2011 7:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by aknowledgeableperson » Thu Nov 24, 2011 10:44 am

earthling wrote:STL had contributors, not really a 'scene' to the degree KC did. There were plenty of contributors in STL, enough to have a local museum but a 'national' museum... well, why not give it a try.
If Cleveland can have a rock and roll hall of fame then St. Louie can have it blues museum.

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by FangKC » Thu Nov 24, 2011 10:51 am

When I watch Boardwalk Empire on HBO, I think how much it is like Kansas City during Prohibition.

I often think that era in KC would make a good historical series on a cable network.

You could pick either the 20s, or the earlier era from say 1860-1880, which were both interesting times to build a drama around.

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by earthling » Thu Nov 24, 2011 11:10 am

In order to be a 'national' museum, well more than half of the items/displays should not focus on the local talent, otherwise it's a 'local' museum. KC's jazz/blues museum has many items/displays that are not local but for the most part is still a 'local' museum. National museums tend to develop, not instantly come into existence. I suppose STL's could target to be national but will be surprising if it starts out that way. For the most part, that title has to be earned, not self-declared.

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by mean » Fri Nov 25, 2011 1:42 pm

nilsson1941 wrote:Any scholar would agree that KC was integral in the evolution of Jazz. The same can't be said for Blues and St. Louis. There isn't even a comparison here.
Thank you, that was exactly my point. Being home to a failed record label and the logical temporary stopping point of a few important people as they moved north from Memphis to Chicago is a nice historic footnote, but I'm not ready to crown St. Louis as some blues capital.

No doubt Bobbin Records did some cool stuff, and King and Campbell did spend significant time there (I'd contest whether Muddy Waters "lived" in St. Louis for any significant period of time--pretty sure he basically stopped there on his way to Chicago in 1940, but whatever). Chess and Stax (and Sun) were obviously far more successful than Bobbin. To be completely blunt about it, white people began buying their records. Had Bobbin been so fortunate, perhaps we'd be talking about St. Louis in a different way today--as a major focus city, instead of a stop halfway between Memphis and Chicago.

I would be much more inclined to grant the Lou as a pioneering rock and R&B city thanks to the invaluable contributions of Chuck Berry and Ike Turner. I've always thought St. Louis was far more influential in those regards than to blues specifically. An R&B or rock and roll museum would seem more appropriate to me, but hey, I'll take the blues museum. I'm sure it'll be cool and I will check it out. Just seems an odd fit.

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by aknowledgeableperson » Sat Nov 26, 2011 9:55 am

"The rhythmic brilliance, virtuosity and innovation of St. Louis musicians in the 1920's and early '30's is astonishing, even considering the high water mark of country blues of that period. Among the musicians of that city country blues developed some of its most sophisticated technicians, cheek-by-jowl with some of toughest (even out of tune) practitioners. Within the broad range of approaches, there are often linking traits that to the discerning ear instantly identify a St. Louis musician. Despite the usually "laid back" style, the musical accompaniment can be considered much more ingenuous than immediately appears. Timing and phrasing are particularly interesting, with no committment to stay within 12 bars. The predominantly Mississippi rhythmic orientation is augmented by a greater musical base in terms of exposure to different techniques and genres (including jazz), generally producing more interesting left-hand approaches. In addition, a significant number of St. Louis artists were proficient on both piano and guitar. The end result is some of the most exciting and renowned guitarists and pianists in country blues." Don Kent (1)

"For some reason St. Louis has never had its due as a centre for the blues. The city fostered piano ragtime in the early part of the century and was also a significant jazz centre where Charlie Creath's riverboat bands were based.. The tragic race riot in East St. Louis of 1919 could have killed off the life of the city, and in some respects it did: sixty-odd years later it is still an ugly urban wilderness, written off by planners and administrators alike. Blues has found a home in such environments, offering both an outlet for frustrated emotions and a release for unsatisfied creative instincts."

With its ragtime background St. Louis was a Mecca for blues pianists like Speckled Red and Henry Brown, Sybester Palmer and Roosevelt Sykes, Peetie Wheatstraw, Barrelhouse Buck McFarland and Wesly Wallace. But it was discovbered early by the guitarists too, Sylvester Weaver and Lonnie Johnson, Clifford Gibson and Charley Jordan, J.D. Short and Hig Joe Williams among them. There were plenty of women singers too, like Mary Johnson and Edith Johnson, Alice Moore or St. Louis Bessie Mae Smith. And while there were big name recording stars like Walter Davis there were many very good but lesser know ones: St.Louis Jimmy, Blind Teddy Darby, Aaron "Pine Top" Sparks, Lawrence Casey, Oscar Carter and many others." Paul Oliver (3)

"The blues men who took St. Louis to be thier home are responsible for some of the most magnificent country music to be recorded during the twenties. Inexplicably, the plethora of musical wealth has been left unpulicized and, blueswise, St. Louis has scarcely been tapped for all the information it could yield." Don Kent (4)

"The St. Louis blues scene, as reflected in recording by performers associated with it, was one of great diversity, ranging from country approaches almost wholly unafffected by contact with urban influeces on to the most contrived products of the urbane jazz-blues idiom, with just about every shading between these poles represented. Such a stylistic spread is of course to be expected of a city whose traditions were as cosmopolitan as were St. Louis. The constand influx of people into the city brought a wide variety of influences together in its music. The rural southerrn idioms assured the citys's music a solid traditional base, constantly re-emphasizing and re-asserting the values and stregths of common Negro folkways: at the same time they were tranmuted and extended through contact with the diverse non-traditional elements they encountered in the river city. The grown of small blues ensembles had the inevitable result of regularizing the music, a process which did not so much geld or debase the rough country idioms as producer a music with a different set of emphasis and conventions. The so-called city blues style did reflect a different way of life, a different set of tensions, a different environment or setting for the acting out of the drama of the American Negro experience. Life in the city was, after all, different from life in the country even if the central expreriences of prejudice, exclusion and repression were much the same in both."

"One of the earliest reports of the appearance of the blues dates from the early 1890s, when W.C. Handy recalls having been impressed by the singing of Negro guitarists there. "While sleeping on the cobblestones [on the levee] in St. Louis (1892)," he wrote, "I heard shabby guitarists picking out a tune called "East St. Louis." It had numerous one-line verses and they would sing it all night." Pete Welding (6)

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by Louman » Sat Nov 26, 2011 1:10 pm

I'm just going to address a few comments because to me most of these comments are very interesting.

#1. There is a quote: "St. Louis had "contributors", but not a scene." My response: Seriously? And this guy wrote for a newspaper? You can't spawn "contributors" without having a "scene". That's common sense. Researching the St. Louis Blues scene is not hard at all. Tons of Bluesmen, many of them well-regarded in Blues circle, who migrated to St. Louis and made names for themselves locally and nationally. They came primarily from Mississippi and Arkansas, but others came from Tennessee and Alabama. Many local Bluesmen nurtured newcomers to St. Louis and they fed off each other resulting in a vibrant Blues scene.

#2. The fact that the "Father of the Blues" (W.C. Handy) did not only write and compose "St. Louis Blues", which is one of the most recorded Blues and jazz songs ever, while in St. Louis, he actually lived, worked and ultimately became homeless in St. Louis. Handy was likely attracted to St. Louis by the ragtime scene. Although he did not live in St. Louis long, he had more than one stint in St. Louis. He was also influenced by St. Louis Bluesmen. The Mississippi River was a conduit for traveling bluesmen and they performed in cities up and down the Mississippi River for money.

Handy's most popular piece was created in St. Louis. And before his untimely death in 1958, W.C. Handy was scheduled to be in St. Louis to attend the premier of a Paramount film, which was dedicated to his music, called none other than, "St. Louis Blues".

Also this from W.C. Handy’s March 29th, 1958 obituary...
"Mr. and Mrs. Handy had planned to fly to St. Louis on April 7 for the opening of the Paramount film "St. Louis Blues," a fictionalized biography of the composer, and featuring, of course, many of his blues songs. The film will open also in New York and other major cities on the same date."
So although he wasn't a native and the "St. Louis Blues" song wasn't put on a St. Louis-based imprint, his mere presence as the Father of Blues and earlier stint in St. Louis easily validates St. Louis' role and influence in the evolution of Blues and Jazz.

#3. St. Louis was a "halfway" point between Memphis and Chicago for some Bluesmen. And that's nothing to be ashamed. At least they came. Most musicians are transients. This holds true even today. Many musicians choose to go where they feel they have the best chance to fulfill their dreams. Keep in mind too that while some left, others preferred St. Louis, others stayed until death, then many of the musicians that left came back. While K.C. can lay claim to Charlie Parker's birthplace, Count Basie was not a native of Kansas City and he only lived there for about seven or eight years. Basie eventually moved his band to New York City and Charlie Parker didn't even want to be buried in Kansas City. However, I won't diminish KC's role in Jazz music.

#4. A commenter suggested that St. Louis was not an integral part of the Blues music like Kansas City was on Jazz.

Absolutely bogus. Ever heard of St. Louis Boogie Woogie that was popularized by "Pine Top" Smith and Roosevelt Sykes. "Pine Top" Smith had one of the first "boogie woogie" style recordings to make a hit. Pianist Roosevelt Sykes was another influence on St. Louis blues. His barrelhouse (early boogie-woogie) style made him very popular in St. Louis and throughout the blues circuit (Source). Read up on them. In regards to Jazz, while Parker was a central figure (one of the father's) in the development of bebop jazz, he did not do it alone. Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie were the premier figures of bebop jazz. On the other hand, St. Louis' own Miles Davis ushered in the Birth of The Cool. And he pioneered it alone.

#5. Jump Blues was one of the dominate forms of Blues cultivated in Kansas City just as piano-blues, early boogie woogie and jump-blues were cultivated in St. Louis. In essence, both cities were incubators for the jump-blues music scene. Brinkley, Arkansas-native Louis Jordan, considered the father of jump-blues and R&B, and others performed jump-blues, which was a precursor to R&B, in St. Louis and Kansas City. Louis Jordan lived in St. Louis for a short time, eventually married a woman from St. Louis and he is buried in St. Louis. His headstone allegedly reads, "I made the Blues jump." Both Chuck Berry and Ike Turner cited Jordan as a musical influence.

#6. Someone mentioned, that the title (of "National" museum) must be earned, not self-declared.

Unbelievable comment to say the least. To its credit, St. Louis had the King of Ragtime (Scott Joplin), the Father of the Blues (W.C. Handy), the Father of Rock and Roll (Chuck Berry) and Ike Turner, who was very influential in early Rock and Roll and R&B. All of them called St. Louis home for a period of time and/or ultimately produced their best work in St. Louis. All them were Bluesman, the exception being Joplin, although he could be considered a Blues pioneer. Please. A national museum has been declared because it has been earned. What you are willing to "grant" is irrelevant. St. Louis Blues history speaks for itself.

#7. I wouldn't call Bobbin Records a failed imprint because it did have marginal success, but not longevity. Bobbin, simply put, couldn't keep up with the numerous Chicago labels. St. Louis had other labels, but Chicago and Memphis proved formidable, which is more of a testament to the people running the imprints in St. Louis than St. Louis as an authentic Blues City. It's also not a reflection on the quality of Bluesmen/Blueswomen that called St. Louis home. However, keep in mind that Chess isn't around either. Stax died and has been revived recently.

#8. Quote: "I am not ready to crown St. Louis some Blues capital."

It doesn't matter if you are ready or not. St. Louis certainly is not the capital of the Blues because that would easily go to the Deltas or Memphis; and the St. Louis region knows this. However, St. Louis is easily a significant epicenter (or major cradle) for Blues history and music. It would be hard for anyone - including a scholar - to ignore St. Louis' major impact on the Blues and American music in general.

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by earthling » Sat Nov 26, 2011 3:46 pm

Louman wrote: #6. Someone mentioned, that the title (of "National" museum) must be earned, not self-declared.

Unbelievable comment to say the least. To its credit, St. Louis had the King of Ragtime (Scott Joplin), the Father of the Blues (W.C. Handy), What you are willing to "grant" is irrelevant. St. Louis Blues history speaks for itself.
You misunderstood nearly all comments made but I'll clear this one up. I was talking about a museum earning national status by not displaying mostly local content. A museum 'earns' status of being 'national' when it receives contributions from outsiders relevant to musicians who spanned the nation rather than just local musicians or those in the local scene. It is then a 'national' museum. If it's mostly about the local 'scene', then it's a local museum.

It's great STL is attempting this, was just saying it will likely start out as a 'local' museum, not a national museum. If it gains content (especially donations) mostly about musicians from across the nation and is more about informing blues across the nation than just in STL, then it earns national status.

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by ntbpo » Sun Nov 27, 2011 12:44 am

:D The bickering over this is amazing! STL has a very fine blues history and national blues museum is a fine addition to that city. It would be like saying that KC has not earned the right for a national college baskeball museum.......even though the Kangaroos and the Hawks have produced some fine basketballers. This entire arguement is stupid :shock:

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by mean » Mon Nov 28, 2011 12:43 am

It's not about "earning" as far as I'm concerned, just seems an odd fit. In terms of popular music bona fides, St. Louis hits harder in R&B and rock 'n roll, in my opinion, thanks to Chuck Berry and Ike Turner. But whatever, I'm sure it will be cool.

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by Louman » Mon Nov 28, 2011 3:45 pm

earthling wrote: You misunderstood nearly all comments made but I'll clear this one up. I was talking about a museum earning national status by not displaying mostly local content. A museum 'earns' status of being 'national' when it receives contributions from outsiders relevant to musicians who spanned the nation rather than just local musicians or those in the local scene. It is then a 'national' museum. If it's mostly about the local 'scene', then it's a local museum.

It's great STL is attempting this, was just saying it will likely start out as a 'local' museum, not a national museum. If it gains content (especially donations) mostly about musicians from across the nation and is more about informing blues across the nation than just in STL, then it earns national status.
Thanks for the clarification. There's no doubt this is going to be a "national" museum. Why would they call it "national" if they were going to feature local blues artists only? St. Louis Bluesweek is an educational and fundraising effort designed to get local and national bluesmen behind the museum; and many of them have already. If Chuck Berry, who was honored recently with a statue in the Delmar Loop, donates his duck-walking boots and a guitar to the museum, it's already national. Actually, the museum could be international because he was an international artist. But yeah, I have no reservations about its "stature" as planners have already said this will be a "world class" museum - especially with Robert Santelli as a consultant. Kind of small, but still one of the largest Blues museums around or planned at this time.

For your listening pleasure.

Check out Albert King on St. Louis' Bobbin Records here.
Check out Little Milton on St. Louis' Bobbin Records here.
Check out Clayton Love and the Roosevelt Marks Orchestra on St. Louis' Bobbin Records here.

A little nostalgia.

Image
Last edited by Louman on Mon Nov 28, 2011 3:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: National Blues Museum (St. Louis)

Post by mean » Mon Nov 28, 2011 3:57 pm

This is obviously the best song Albert King ever did: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhajbgPOv6c :P

Nice to hear AK get some love on this board, even if it's in context of a dick waving contest about St. Louis's blues cred. One of my favorite guitarists ever.

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