Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Festival Where All the Notes Were Sweet

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Festival Where All the Notes Were Sweet

Article excerpt

Late Saturday afternoon, Leroy Pierson paused between numbers on an outdoor stage on Laclede's Landing and looked out at an enthusiastic crowd of several thousand. He said, "I can't tell you how good it feels finally to be doing this in St. Louis and not in Peoria or someplace in Iowa."

The St. Louis Blues Heritage Festival brought the blues back home last weekend to the city celebrated in the most famous blues song ever written. It hasn't always seemed as though the blues were welcome here, but near-perfect weather, excellent organization by the St. Louis Blues Society and wonderful music from more than 200 performers made it a memorable homecoming.

The St. Louis Blues Heritage Festival had plenty of national acts, and fine ones. I would have hated to miss, for example, the rousing Sunday set by the venerable blues harmonica player Snooky Pryor, from Mississippi by way of Chicago. Pryor, performing with guitarist Jimmy Rogers and his band, had a crowd of several thousand, including many small children, dancing on the grass.

But the real accomplishment of the festival was in revealing to St. Louisans in a near-perfect outdoor setting just how rich is our own musical tradition. The St. Louis Blues Society did a superb job of showcasing dozens of local musicians like Pierson, Oliver Sain, the James Family, James DeShay and Henry Townsend.

St. Louisans who have achieved national prominence, like Johnnie Johnson, his old compatriot, Chuck Berry, and New York-based jazz musicians Clark Terry and pianist Ray Kennedy, joined in the homecoming.

Many St. Louisans who might not otherwise attend a blues concert took advantage of temperatures in the 70s and low 80s to sit under sunny, cloud-streaked skies and listen to the music. There were 39 separate performances over two days, with concerts beginning before noon and ending at dusk.

Many of the musicians and their fans then moved to clubs in the Landing and throughout the city to keep the festival going. …

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