Amoeblog

Happy Missouri Day, Frankie & Johnny!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 20, 2010 10:47pm | Post a Comment

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.


Al Britt's grave

Happy Missouri Day, Stagger Lee!

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


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.


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.


Stagger Lee's old residence

According to a witness, Lyons dropped the hat, at which point Shelton yelled, "Give me my hat, nigga!," picked it up and walked back to his home on Sixth in "Tamale Town," gave his gun to his landlady and hit the hay. At 4:00am, Lyons died in the hospital.


Shelton went to trial (twice) and ended up getting sent to Jeff City to serve his 25 year sentence. He was paroled in 1909 but went back two years later after robbing a house and bashing owner William Akins's head in with his gun. In 1912, Stagger Lee died in prison of consumption. He's buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in Hillsdale.


John Lomax
published the first known version of a commemorative song which he was given by Ella Scott Fisher in 1910. Mississippi John Hurt wrote what many consider the definitive version. In 1959, Lloyd Price had a massive #1 hit with his version, recorded the previous year.


It's also been done by Beck, Bill Haley & His Comets, Dave Van Ronk, Doc Watson, Dr. John, Duke Ellington, Fats Domino, Frank Hutchison, Furry Lewis, Huey Lewis and the News, Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown, Johnny Dodds, Ma Rainey, Memphis Slim, Neil Diamond, Nick Cave, Pat Boone, Professor Longhair, Sam the Sham, Sidney Bechet, Snatch and the Poontangs, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Taj Mahal, The Isley Brothers, Tim Hardin, Tom Rush, Wilbert Harrison, Wilson Pickett, Woody Guthrie and many more...


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Show me the Mo Movies!!! - Missouri in Film and TV

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 30, 2010 10:00pm | Post a Comment
Some folk that know me know I have to see dang near err movie that's filmed in, set in or tied to Missouri (whurr I grew up). With the Bourne Trilogy, those ties were somewhat tenuous... Badass Jason Bourne is merely informed that his real name is David Webb and he's from Nixa. No wonder he joined the military. Needless to say, people are sick of hearing me talk about my home state, but most of yins are strangers so it will hopefully be only a fraction as annoying as what they put up wither pritnear err time I sip on somethin'.


I just sawl Winter's Bone the other day. What can I say? The boyz (and gulz) in the woodz is always hard! Wisely, they actually filmed in the Ozarks rather than in Canada or some other pale stand-in. Not much in the way of distracting celebrities either. Perfect music by Tindersticks' Dickon Hinchliffe. Real recognize real, ya heard? Anywho, hurr's my pretty complete timeline of Mo Films.


MO MOVIES IN THE SILENT ERA

  

Silent Movies were ideal for the people who made "Show Me" thurr motto. With outlaws from Missouri including Tom Horn, and badass cowgirls Belle Star and Calamity Jane, it's kind of surprising how many Missouri-set Westerns overwhelmingly favor popular Missourian Jesse James. Apparently, the most Missouri silent movie would have Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer joining the James Gang. Just consider the following silent films set in the state:

The James Boys in Missouri (1908), Coals of Fire (1911), In Mizzoura (1914), Tom Sawyer (1917), In Mizzoura and Shepherd of the Hills (both 1919), Huckleberry Finn (1920), Jesse James as the Outlaw (1921) and Jesse James (1927).

MO MOVIES IN THE EARLY SOUND ERA


People have always love songs about Missourians wildin' out. Just consider "Frankie and Johnnie," about Frankie Baker, who rubbed out her man in 1899 after she found him with another woman. It inspired the films Her Man (1930) and Frankie and Johnnie (1936).

Then thurr's Lee "Stagger Lee" Shelton, a Mack who killed William Lyons in 1895 after he made the mistake of touching his pimp hat. "St. Louis Blues" is relatively peaceful by comparison, and was in essence, one of the first music videos.

There were more movies about the creations of Mark Twain and Robert and Zerelda James too. Interestingly, thurr seems to've been a short-lived vogue for movies about people ('specially dames) from Missouri, probably in part due to the popularity of Missourian actress Jean Harlow. Consider the following:

 Meanwhile, the events of her famous lovers quarrel inspired films, including Her Man (1930) and She Done Him Wrong (1935). After that, her legend spread nationally and people hounded her for autographs and prank called her. Frankie and Johnnie (1936) followed.

St. Louis Blues (1929), Tom Sawyer (1930), Huckleberry Finn , Kitty from Kansas City (both 1931), The St. Louis Kid, The Girl From Missouri and Kansas City Princess (all 1934), St. Louis Woman (1935), The Voice of Bugle Ann (1936), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), I’m From Missouri,  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer – Detective, Jesse James and Days of Jesse James (all 1939).

Huckleberry Finn 1931Voice of Bugle Ann

Adventures of Tom Sawyer 1938           

MO MOVIES IN THE '40s

The '40s were pritnear a continuation of the previous decade as the nation remained obsessed with popular, racist murderer who stole from everyone and gave to himself (Jesse James). Just look at these'n's:

In Old Missouri and The Return of Frank James (1940) Bad Men of Missouri, Belle Starr, Jesse James at Bay, and Shepherd of the Hills (all 1941), A Missouri Outlaw (1942), Meet Me in St. Louis and Kansas City Kitty (both 1944), Down Missouri Way (1946), Adventures of Frank and Jesse James (1948) and Calamity Jane and Sam Bass and I Shot Jesse James (both 1949).

    

 

TV AGE MO

Finally, movies about Missouri started to get a little more interesting in the 1950s, focusing often on modern crimes and juvenile delinquents, and not just outlaws from the Old West. Consider the following:

The Great Missouri Raid, Return of Jesse James and The Missourians (all 1950), Pete Kelly's Blues (1951), The Pride of St. Louis and Kansas City Confidential (both 1952), Calamity Jane and The Great Jesse James Raid (1953), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Jesse James’ Women (both 1954), The Delinquents (1955), The True Story of Jesse James (1956), The Pride of St. Louis (1957), The Cool and the Crazy (1958) and The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959).

     True Story of Jesse James



MO MOVIES IN THE '60s

After nearly half a century, Americans seemed to have finally had enough of films about Tom Sawyer and Jesse James. As a result, movies taking place in Missouri became fewer and farther between; consider:
Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (both 1960), Hoodlum Priest (1961),  Beetle Bailey and Hottenanny Hoot (both 1963), and Ride a Wild Stud (1969).




MISSOURI IN THE '70s

After a decade away from screens, a new generation of film-goers clamored for cinematic representations of Tom Sawyer and Hollywood obliged. Missouri-loving audiences were also blessed with many new characters.

Huckleberry Finn and Kansas City Bomber (both 1972),Tom Sawyer (dir. Don Taylor), Tom Sawyer (dir. James Neilson) and Paper Moon (all 1973), Huckleberry Finn and Lucas Tanner (1974), Huckleberry Finn, Bucktown, Linda Lovelace for President and Kansas City Massacre (all 1975), The Student Body (1976), The Baxters (1977) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1979).

 
   

MISSOURI IN THE '80s

When most people think of '80s cinema, teen sex comedies often come to mind. Not in Missouri, thank you. For Hollywood, Missouri in the '80s meant a revival of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn films... and Mama's Family. Things began, finally, to change toward the end of the decade.

Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (all 1981), After MASH, The Day After and Mama’s Family (all 1983), Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer (all 1984), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1985), The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James (1986), Huckleberry Finn and Bird (both 1988) and Miss Missouri, Parenthood and Road House (all 1989).
After MASH 


MISSOURI IN THE '90s

For whatever reason, in the '90s it became somewhat popular to set things seemingly randomly in the Show Me state... that, and the subject matter began to expand in odd directions. Look the these:

The Josephine Baker Story, Mr. & Mrs. Bridge, White Palace (all 1990), Child’s Play 3 (1991), Sniz and Fondue and Article 99 (all 1992), King of the Hill, Adventures of Huck Finn, Huck and the King of Hearts, The John Larroquette Show and What’s Love Got to Do With It? (all 1993), On Our Own (1994), Casino (1995), Malcolm and Eddie and Kansas City (both 1996), The "Airport" episode of Newsradio and Waiting For Guffman (both 1998) and Ride With the Devil (1999).

Josephine Baker Story        


 Article 99King of the Hill


THE NEW MO-LLENNIUM

For some reason, the new millennium brought a decrease in Missouri's star turns. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and The Lookout were both obviously filmed in Canada and the latter film was a steaming piece of horse pockey.

 



Living in Missouri
(2001), The Games of Their Lives (2003), Jesus Camp (2006), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and The Lookout (both 2007), Albino Farm (2009).


MO IN THE 2010s

I haven't been home in a while but Winter's Bone made me nostalgic; so far it's the only MO Movie of the decade that I know of. Update: The Pruitt-Igoe Myth was great too. 

Winter's Bone (2010)



The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (2012)


 
Masters of Sex

*****

To read about Missouri and music, click here

******

COMETBUS ISSUE #52 THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS, ANOTHER GREAT READ

Posted by Billyjam, September 16, 2009 11:36am | Post a Comment
cometbus
I recently picked up Cometbus #52 (The Spirit of St. Louis) at the Berkeley Amoeba Music store -- one of several fine independent retailers that carry the legendary, decades old, punk-literary series. As with all the previous installments of this Aaron "Cometbus" Elliot- penned slim book, such as last year's Cometbus #51 The Loneliness of the Electric Menorah, ever since I started reading it I can't put it down...which is a problem, in a good way, because I know in no time I will have read the entire engrossing 66 pages of this latest Cometbus. So  I find myself rationing my reading, allowing myself just nine pages, which is three Cometbus chapters, a day.

Cometbus #51 was a sort of history of the subculture of Telegraph Avenue, focusing on its bookstores and record stores. It incorporates into its story Cody's, Moe's, Universal, Rasputin, and (of course) Amoeba Music, as well as such age old Telegraph Avenue characters as Ace Backwards and Julia Vinograd (aka The Bubble Lady), whose poetry was included in that last issue.

For the The Spirit of St. Louis Cometbus, as its title implies, Aaron writes about St. Louis and the close-knit cast of colorful characters (including Brett, Pete Feet, Spike, Wayne Two, Penguin, Jody Lee, & Katie from Haiti) in the local punk scene that he interacted with in a previous time -- he never says exactly when, but, based on the music references, it seems like it is circa early/mid nineties. 

Continue reading...

St. Louis Union

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 10, 2008 09:24pm | Post a Comment
St. Louis Union were a Manchester six piece fronted by impeccably-coifed singer, Tony Cassidy. Shortly after forming they won a Melody Maker beat contest in 1965 which scored them a deal with Decca. They were billed as "THE Group on the Northern Soul Scene." Their sound was centered around Alex Kirby's tenor saxophone and Keith Millar's electric guitar backed by some serious organ by Dave Tomlinson, John Nichols on bass and Dave Webb on the skins.

Their live set was built around "Turn On Your Lovelight," "Woke Up This Morning," "Every Day I Have the Blues" and "Get On the Right Track Baby."

Their name seems to be a reference to the St. Louis Union Station, a train station famous, like many things in St. Louis, as having been the biggest and busiest thing in its field way back when. Its archways are designed so that one can whisper into them and someone else can hear you clearly on the other end, a design feature with no apparent practical applications, save simple amusements in a simpler time. It was largely built of limestone taken from Indiana, probably just to remind the Hoosiers who's boss, as the state of Missouri is entirely made of limestone and they're the nation's leader in lime production.


Truman having a laugh at St. Louis Union Station

In the 1970s, the station was bought by Amtrak. They ended operations soon afterward and relocated their operations to a building the unhealthily train-obsessed refer to as Amshack. Now it's a mall where tourists watch the guys at the Fudge Factory put on a show and the Footlocker has a basketball hoop with the backboard autographed by the D.O.C.

While ridership of trains out of the station began to decline in the 1960s, 1966 was the Mancunian band's biggest year. Their debut single was a cover of the Beatles' "Girl," which reached #11 on the charts. A band known as the Truth also released a cover at the same time and didn't score a hit. Such was the world of British pop in mid-60s bands releasing covers of their peers. The b-side was a cover of Otis Redding's "Respect." They went on to open for him when he played in Manchester.


Their second single was a recording of slept-on genius Mancunian Graham Gouldman's "Behind the Door." The b-side was "English Tea."


They appeared in the Spencer Davis-centered Ghost Goes Gear alongside Dave Berry (singer of "The Crying Game"), The Three Bells and Acker Bilk (as the object of Modernists' disdained Traditionalist Jazz). It's not a great film, but as a relic it's fascinating and provides us with the only visual evidence of  St. Lous Union's impeccably forward fashion, timeless hair and considerable stage presence.

"East Side Story" backed by "Think About Me" failed to make the top 40 and it proved to be their final recording.

They split the following year, in 1967. Webb still plays drums, in a heavy metal band, T F L. Nichols went on to become a respected fashion photographer. Tomlinson, as Dave Formula, played with Magazine, Ludus, Visage and other bands. Millar went on to play synthesizer with many major artists and co-wrote Divine's "Think You're a Man." He died of a brain hemmorage in 2005 at just 58 years old. Cassidy, the swaggering singer, died that same year, just 57 years old.

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