Devil At The Confluence started as a project to make a series of portraits commemorating the blues and jazz era musicians from St. Louis. I found there was very little information collected and documented about these artists and the research was what took so long to create this book.
Finding so much amazing new information, (new information that represents a reconsideration of the long-held theories regarding the roots of American music, actually) I realized that the stories of the talented St. Louisans of my portraits and the detailing of their important contributions to American culture needed to be presented and commemorated.
This was important not only for the musicians who never received the recognition that they deserved, but for the future generations of young hopefuls in the arts who might otherwise think that St. Louis is not a place that traditionally has had much creative achievement and would thus be discouraged in pursuing their talents.
And I began to realize that there were a number of reasons why the many talented musicians of this area were never given the recognition that they deserve.
One major reason was that early interest in original American music by authors and scholars had been focused on the southern United States, and that limited thinking led to a common error of American music history, missing entirely or under-acknowledging hundreds of important, creative St. Louis musicians.
Another reason is a type of inferiority complex that the city has. St. Louis has a strong heritage of amazing creative talent in all of the arts, but it is generally shy when it comes to standing up and pointing out her qualities and heroes.
I would like Devil At The Confluence to change these problems.
Giving credit where it's due is what my book is all about.
So it was an honor to receive a Kick Ass Award last night from 52nd City Media. This was the 6th Annual event, honoring the people who are cultural gems to our city chosen by the editors of 52nd City - a cadre of artists and writers dedicated to developing, incubating and releasing diverse and experimental works of interest created by local talent.
Since 2004, nearly 100 St. Louis individuals, organizations, businesses, newspaper editors, progressive activists, bloggers and other entities have been honored by the publishers of 52nd City, who promote the event, dedicated to folks in the community who often don’t get the praise they deserve… or, in other cases, folks that the publishers of 52nd City really, really dig.
(www.52ndcity.com, and www.kickassawards.blogspot.com)
Former honorees include: Jazz pioneer/legend Hamiet Bluiett, Preservationists and architectural historians, Michael Allen & Claire Nowak-Boyd, local cultural scene activist and co-producer of KDHX's Literature for the Halibut, Ann Haubrich, The Webster University Film Series, The Crossroads School, Missouri ProVote and The International Institute.
My award was the final award, the mystery honoree, and I was truly caught off-guard. I have a vague recollection of what I said at the microphone, but I'm going to clarify my acceptance a bit further here.
I share this award with and on behalf of the nearly 200 pre-war musicians of St. Louis. Thank you 52nd City. I hope that I can make the book and the story of St. Louis music live up to the meaning of the award. I would like to include this partial list of names of recorded pre-war artists who very much deserve the Kick Ass Award:
Lonnie Johnson, Teddy Darby, Walter Davis, Clifford Gibson, Peetie Wheatstraw, Big Joe Williams, John Lee Sonny Boy Williamson, Charley Jordan, Stump Johnson, Charlie Creath, Dewey Jackson, Mary Johnson, Barrelhouse Buck McFarland, Katherine Baker, Virginia Liston, Mozelle Alderson, Henry Brown, Peter Clayton, Alma Rotter, Al Miller, St. Louis Jimmy Oden, Luella Miller, Alice Moore, Bessie Mae Smith, Romeo Nelson, Eva Taylor, Robert Nighthawk, Milton Sparks, Roosevelt Sykes, Edith Johnson, Gene Rodemich, Irene Scruggs, Alma Henderson, Lizzie Washington, JD Short, Henry Townsend, Aaron Sparks, Speckled Red, Victoria Spivey, Priscilla Stewart, and Wesley Wallace.
Thank you for the honor and thank you 52nd City for seeking out, commemorating and supporting that which kicks ass in St. Louis.
That's my purpose in doing this book.