Music of Missouri

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St. Louis was an important center of blues and jazz, as well as country and bluegrass. Kansas City was also an important place for blues and jazz, with performers such as Charlie Parker, Count Basie, Lester Young, and its own jazz style. Ragtime got its influential hold at the city of Sedalia thanks to Scott Joplin and his publisher John Stark, and through another Missouri native, James Scott. Rock and roll pioneers Big Joe Turner and Chuck Berry were born in Kansas City and St. Louis, respectively. In the Ozarks, hillbilly music developed, and from 1955–1961, Springfield was home to some of the first national country music programs on American television. Porter Wagoner and Speck Rhodes were from West Plains. Since the 1980s, Branson has become a country music tourist mecca. In the 1990s, St. Louis area band Uncle Tupelo blended punk, rock, country-influenced music styles with raucous performances and became pioneers of Alt-country. In hip-hop, Tech N9ne from Kansas City and Nelly from St. Louis rose to prominence in the late 1990s-2000s.


Country blues singer and songwriter Lottie Kimbrough was born in West Bottoms, Kansas City, Missouri.


Jazz artists from Missouri include Dixieland jazz and ragtime clarinetist, composer, and bandleader Wilbur Sweatman, trumpeter, saxophonist, accordionist, and bandleader Charlie Creath, ragtime musician and composer Scott Joplin, tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, bebop saxophonist and composer Charlie Parker, tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest, pianist and bandleader Bennie Moten, trumpeter Shorty Baker, trumpet and flugelhorn player Clark Terry, violinist Eddie South, alto saxophonist, arranger, and composer Lennie Niehaus, saxophonist, clarinetist, arranger, composer, and bandleader Oliver Nelson, clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, double bassist Wendell Marshall, trumpeter Lester Bowie, trombonist Joseph Bowie, trombonist Melba Liston, alto saxophonist Luther Thomas, cornetist and trumpeter Louis Metcalf, alto saxophonist Jimmy Woods, saxophonist and composer Ahmad Alaadeen, guitarist Grant Green, drummer Phillip Wilson, organist Wild Bill Davis, organist and pianist Milt Buckner, organist Charles Kynard, singer Anita O'Day, smooth jazz musician Bob James, smooth jazz musician David Sanborn, trumpeter Baikida Carroll, soul, jazz, and gospel singer Oleta Adams, guitarist Pat Metheny, and smooth jazz guitarist Norman Brown.

St. Louis' Gaslight Square entertainment district was an important area for jazz from the mid 1950s-60s. Jazz club Peacock Alley was the site of Miles Davis' recording Miles Davis Quintet at Peacock Alley in 1956.

The Black Artists' Group was a multidisciplinary art collective in St. Louis from 1968-1972 that fostered jazz and the Black Arts Movement in the city.[1] BAG inspired the foundation of Human Arts Ensemble.

Music of Branson[edit]

Branson, Missouri is a tourist area, especially associated with mainstream country music. The town's popularity grew in the 1980s when a number of prominent country stars moved to the area, including Boxcar Willie, Sons of the Pioneers, and Roy Clark. Two major attractions had roots in the 1950s, the Shepherd of the Hills Theatre and Park and Silver Dollar City. Modern music festivals in Branson include the Old-Time Fiddle Festival, Branson Jam and the State of the Ozarks Fiddlers Convention. The largest music venue in Branson is the Grand Palace, which seats upwards of 4,000 people.[2]

Prominent local attractions in Branson include the entrepreneur and performer Jennifer Wilson, a regional celebrity known for her show the Americana Theatre,[3] the Mabe family's Baldknobbers, which has been running for three generations, and Jim Owen, of the Jim Owen Morning Show.

The area's country music broadcasting history, however, can be traced to Springfield in the mid-1930s, when Ralph D. Foster's KWTO began carrying live performances and syndicating them to other stations across the country. The station's most famous program was Ozark Jubilee, which starting in 1955 was carried live on ABC-TV across the country. Foster became a major figure in the region's music history; there is a museum named after him on the campus of the College of the Ozarks.[2]

Other national country music TV programs originating from Springfield included Five Star Jubilee and Talent Varieties.

Branson's place as a tourist destination was sparked in large part by the publication of the popular novel The Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright in 1907, which is set in the Branson area. It was the first novel in America to sell over a million copies, and readers flocked to Branson to see the places described in the book. The local music scene and a tourism industry developed as a result.[4]

Alt-country/indie rock[edit]


In the mid-1980s, the Saint Louis area (and nearby southern Illinois) was home to garage rock band the Primitives and rock band the Blue Moons.[5] The Blue Moons featured Festus native Mark Ortmann on drums and Brian Henneman.


The Primitives reorganized and transformed into Uncle Tupelo in the early 1990s.[5] At the same time, Chicken Truck, an original outlaw country rock band, featuring Brian Henneman and drummer Mark Ortmann, was giving memorable performances in clubs such as Cicero's. Chicken Truck reorganized and became the indie roots rock band the Bottle Rockets in 1992. A country cover band called Coffee Creek linked all of these upstart bands. Coffee Creek was composed of Jay Farrar, Brian Henneman, Mike Heidorn, and Jeff Tweedy.[6]

Uncle Tupelo disbanded in 1994.[7] Founding members of Uncle Tupelo formed Son Volt and Wilco after the split.

Bottle Rockets became known for their hit songs, "Radar Gun", "$1,000 Car", and "I'll Be Comin' Around". Their success led to appearances on the television show Late Night with Conan O'Brien performing one of their original songs as well as being featured in a comedic skit.


After extensive remodeling, Cicero's became what is currently known as Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, and Chuck Berry performs there monthly, as do national touring rock music artists.[8]

Angel Olsen is a folk and indie rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was raised in St. Louis.

Rock and metal[edit]

The Urge are from St. Louis. Christofer Drew and his indie rock band Never Shout Never are from Joplin. Shaman's Harvest is from Jefferson City. Prog metal band Anacrusis are from St. Louis. In 2005, rock band Living Things gained national attention after the release of their album, Ahead of the Lions.

Hip hop[edit]

See also: Midwest hip hop

Tech N9ne from Kansas City helped popularize the chopper rap style in the late 1990s and co-founded the Strange Music label.

Nelly from St. Louis had 4 #1 Billboard Hot 100 hits in the early 00s, including "Hot in Herre" in 2002, and one with Murphy Lee.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "River of Song: Music Along the River". Retrieved 2015-10-24. 
  2. ^ a b Byron, pp. 123-140
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ Dale Cox (2015-04-23). "Branson, Missouri - Music Capital of the Ozarks". Retrieved 2015-10-24. 
  5. ^ a b "No Depression liner notes". Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  6. ^ "Coffee Creek". Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  7. ^ "Uncle Tupelo's last song". YouTube. 2007-09-13. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  8. ^ Pick, Steve. "Bottle Rockets « Americana and Roots Music". No Depression. Retrieved 2010-05-20.