Amoeblog

Happy Missouri Day, Frankie & Johnny!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 20, 2010 10:47pm | Post a Comment
Frankie Baker
In recognition of Missouri Day, here's a brief breakdown on Missouri's second most famous couple (after the fictional Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher), a real-life couple usually referred to as Frankie and Johnny. After Frankie caught her man in flagrante delicto with another woman, Alice Pryor, and shot him dead, it was commemorated in numerous songs and films.

Frankie Baker was a 22-year-old St. Louisan dancer who was dating 17-year-old Allen "Al" Britt. Britt had another girlfriend on the side. Britt's friend Richard J. Clay warned Britt about dating two women at the same time but Britt carried on. Then, on October 15th, 1899, around 3:30 in the morning, Baker headed home to her apartment at 212 Targee Street in Chestnut Valley and caught Britt in bed with Pryor. An argument ensued with Baker's roommate, Pansy Marvin, testifying that Britt threw a lamp at Baker and cut her with a knife. In return, Frankie shot him once with her Harrington & Richardson .38. Britt died of his wounds two days later. Baker claimed in her trial that she'd acted in self-defense. She was acquitted but didn't escape notoriety.

Britt Allen's Grave
Al Britt's grave

Happy Missouri Day, Stagger Lee!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 20, 2010 05:35pm | Post a Comment
Stagger Lee

Stagger Lee
is one of Missouri's most celebrated characters in song. Loads of people have sung about the seemingly amoral anti-hero, but here are the facts, ma'am.

Chestnut Valley, St. Louis

Lee "Stag" Shelton
was born on March 16, 1865. As a young man he drove a carriage cab and pimped. He also operated a "sporting club," the Modern Horseshoe Club in St. Louis's "Bloody Third" Ward, in an area known as Chestnut Valley. Chestnut Valley and the sporting clubs located there were instrumental in the development of ragtime. Shelton was part of a pimp clique called The Macks. His trademarks included a high roller stetson, rings, an ebony cane, spats and St. Louis flats -- mirrored shoes with pointy, upturned toes. Oh yeah, and a .44 Smith & Wesson.


On St. Stephens Day, 1895, Shelton and Billy Lyons were at a the Bill Curtis Saloon (described by the paper as "the envy of all its competitors and the terror of the police") together, in the "Deep Morgan" neighborhood. Initially they were cordial, but after more drinks, began smacking each others' hats after the conversation turned to politics. First, Shelton grabbed Lyons' derby. Lyons then removed Shelton's stetson. According to witnesses, Shelton demanded either the hat be returned or Lyons pay with his life. Lyons pulled out a knife he'd borrowed in advance from his friend and companion at the bar, Henry Crump. Shelton then shot Billy Lyons.

Continue reading...

The roots of jazz - ragtime

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 24, 2009 04:48pm | Post a Comment
Although for most people the strains of "The Entertainer" and other rags now primarily evoke quaint, scratchy images of silent films projected at the wrong speed, when ragtime first appeared around the 1870s, it was the soundtrack of Missouri's whorehouses, parlors and gambling clubs.

st. louis 1870
St. Louis in the 1870s

Ragtime was also one of the first truly and distinctly American musical forms. After cakewalk, ragtime was one of the first global music crazes. That Ragtime's cradle was the river towns of the Missouri Valley shouldn't be a surprise. Missouri, located at the center of the country, has long been and remains a crossroads of cultural exchanges. No state borders more than Missouri and noted ragtime musicians came from all the neighbors and spread to them (except Nebraska and Iowa, states whose people are known to be deaf to the joys of melody and dance). The character of ragtime -- drawing from folk, European and American marches, minstrelsy, spirituals and other forms -- connects Europe, Africa and North America, town and country, classical and popular, black and white.

Continue reading...