John William Boone

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John William 'Blind' Boone
Blind Boone.jpg
Background information
Birth name John William Boone
Also known as Blind Boone, Little Willie[1]
Born (1864 -04-17)April 17, 1864
Origin Miami, Missouri, U.S.
Died October 4, 1927(1927-10-04) (aged 63)
Genres Ragtime
Occupation(s) Composer, musician, pianist
Instruments Piano

John William "Blind" Boone (May 17, 1864 – October 4, 1927) was an American pianist and composer of ragtime music.

Early life[edit]

Boone was born in a Federal militia camp near Miami, Missouri, May 17, 1864, to a contraband slave, Rachel Carpenter, who had been owned by descendants of Daniel Boone. His father was a bugler in the 7th Missouri State Militia Cavalry (Union). Doctors removed both of Boone's eyes when he was six months old in an attempt to cure his brain fever. He grew up in Warrensburg, Missouri, where Camp Grover was the headquarters of the 7th MSM at the end of the Civil War.

Boone's mother, Rachel Carpenter Hendricks, worried that her son would find life too difficult without some sort of education. Because of this, his hometown of Warrensburg decided to make sure that Boone received an education and paid for him to attend the St. Louis School for the Blind where he played the piano for first time. After growing bored with his experience there(they tried to teach him to make brooms), Boone’s rule breaking habits(sneaking off at night to listen to piano music at the local barrooms)got him expelled. He returned to Warrensburg where he began to wander, playing with local musicians. He was actually kidnapped for a time by a gambler and sometime showman, Mark Cromwell, until his step-father, Harrison Hendricks caught up with them in Mexico, Missouri. In 1879, Boone was "discovered," by Columbia contractor, John B. Lange, Jr., who put Boone on the road, as Blind John. Only meager financial success was attained until Boone was boarded for two months at the home of George Sampson in Iowa. Mrs. Sampson was an accomplished pianist herself and taught Boone how to properly play the great European masters. It is said she taught him not only their minds, but their hearts as well. Upon his return to Iowa, Lange found his young protege had acquired much new skill, and with the addition of a vocalist, began billing as the Blind Boone Concert Company. The Company worked hard, traveling from town to town on a whistle-stop like tour. They began to acquire fame and fortune, returning to Columbia in 1887 with a large sum of money to deposit in their bank account. By the new century, they are among the most popular acts in the country, playing 300-plus dates annually. John Lange died in Kansas City in 1916. Boone continued on, touring the eastern US in 1919, spending an entire month in New York city. Upon announcing his retirement from touring in 1924, Boone was described by a Kansas City newspaper as having, "combined talent with hard work to make life worth living." Due to financial difficulties brought on by a less than adequate manager, Boone continued to play concerts until the spring of 1927. He died of acute deflation of the heart on October 4, 1927 in Warrensburg. He was buried at the Columbia Cemetery (Columbia, Missouri).[2] "Blind Boone, His Early Life and Achievements," Mrs. Melissa Fuell-Cuther, B.S.D., Evangel Pub. Society, Robbins, Tennessee, 1918.

Professional career[edit]

Boone played thousands of concerts in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.


Blind Boone sculpture in Warrensburg, Mo created by Ai Qiu Hopen

The home of Blind Boone still exists in Columbia, Missouri. In 2000, the City of Columbia purchased the home and it is currently undergoing restoration.[3] The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[4]

Boone's 1891 custom-made Chickering piano has been completely refurbished and was gifted to the Boone County Historical Society's Walters-Boone Historical Museum The 9 ft., oak grand piano is curated by the historical society and is on display to the public during the museum's open hours. The piano is also brought to life several times each year by being the featured attraction of a concert series held in the gallery where the piano resides.

The John William Boone Heritage Foundation was founded to preserve the history of Blind Boone and to elaborate the important role Missouri played in the development of Ragtime and early Jazz music.


  • Batterson, Jack A. Blind Boone: Missouri's Ragtime Pioneer. ISBN 0-8262-1198-4
  • Fuell, Melissa. Blind Boone, His Early Life and Achievements. Kansas City, MO: Burton Publishing Company, 1915; reissued as: Merit, Not Sympathy, Wins; The Life and Times of Blind Boone. Kirksville MO: Truman State University Press, 2012 . ISBN 978-1-61248-065-7
  • Harrah, Madge. Blind Boone: Piano Prodigy. ISBN 1-57505-057-9

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Prioleau, Phoebe (January–February 2005). ""Blind" Boone, Missouri Honors Its Ragtime Pioneer". Humanities, Volume 26/Number 1. Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  2. ^ Patterson, R (4 October 1927). "Official Death Certificate, Warrensburg, Johnson County, Missouri" (PDF). 
  3. ^ Salerno, Lucille. "A Brief History of John William "Blind" Boone". Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  4. ^ Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 

External links[edit]