Thursday, July 25, 2013

Preserving St. Louis' intangible cultural legacy; Stagolee, Frankie and Johnny, the Club Plantation.

   Billy Lyons may have had three little children and a very sickly wife, 
but when he wasn’t gambling, he worked as a short order cook.

   A lot of the truth has been lost in the retelling of the fable of badman Stagolee and Billy, two men who were real people living in St. Louis over a hundred years ago. In fact, the real lives of Billy Lyons and Lee Shelton have never been told.

   And as far as world famous legends go, Stagolee is about as big as they get. The story and song tell of the murder of Billy Lyons during a card game. But over the years, the prose outlived the facts and the buildings are gone. No artifacts remain. And that’s St. Louis’ fault.

   The city has what seems like a compulsion for demolishing buildings. And although there are individuals and groups concerned with the preservation of old buildings, those efforts are often more interested in architecture, rather than what happened within the buildings. Unfortunately, the sites of most of St. Louis’ culturally important landmarks are not the unique or ornate buildings. 

   The stories are our intangible cultural legacy, and it’s a kind of demo by neglect when it’s lost because we didn’t fight to save it. Stories, traditions and folklore are as significant to civilizations as their monuments. We have a world-famous legacy. We need to preserve our heritage and we need to be the advocates for our cultural history to preserve it. 

   Frankie Baker revisits the empty lot where the rooming house stood 
where she shot Allen Britt in 1899. The song Frankie And Johnny 
was created by the musicians of the city and became an international 
favorite and one of the oldest and most popular American standards. 

The Palladium building in Grand Center, site of the St. Louis Club Plantation is under threat of demolition.

 The site of where Chuck Berry's Club Bandstand stood in 1958.

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