Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Grave of John William "Blind" Boone

The story of this statue as a commemoration remains untold...
Statue of "Blind" Boone in Blind Boone Park in Warrenburg, MO

The Hutchinson News, May 15, 1926.
John William Boone was born on 17 May 1864, the son of Rachel Boone. When he was six months old he developed “brain fever,” and to relieve the pressure doctors removed his eyes. Boone grew up in Warrensburg, Missouri, and displayed an early talent for music. After an unsuccessful time at the Missouri School for the Blind in St. Louis, he took to wandering, playing in the tenderloin district of St. Louis, traveling central Missouri, singing to passengers on trains, and playing in churches. Once while playing in a church, Boone attracted the attention of John Lange, a black contractor in Columbia, Missouri. Lange was to become the initial underwriter and finally the manger of the Blind Boone Company. By 1885 the Blind Boone Company was regularly booked and playing in both the large cities and small towns in the Midwest, with enthusiastic reviews from everyone. Wealth and fame was lavished on Blind Boone. By the 1920s Boone’s career was declining with the coming of the jazz age, and in 1927 Boone died of a stroke. Heavy debts scattered his estate, and he was buried in a grave that remained unmarked until the 1970s. A revival of interest in ragtime music prompted the establishment of the Blind Boone Memorial Foundation, Inc., and the subsequent acquisition of his piano, along with benefit concerts honoring his music.

Alton Evening Telegraph,Oct 5, 1927.
The benefit concerts in the early 1960s were only the first experiments in raising money for the Blind Boone Memorial Foundation.  The project lumbered on for ten years before the the sesquicentennial committee for the town of Columbia added the dedication of a headstone to its list of celebratory events planned around the anniversary of the town's founding. Though the "Blind" Blake Museum may have remained an elusive institution to local boosters, several scholarly works examine the life and career of the Missouri-born composer.   The picture at the top of this note is a statue of Boone, which sits in a park bearing his name, in the city of his death.   Some of the music venues in his hometown bear his name as well.  Some of the venues that once bore his name are gone.  His historic home in Columbia, however, sits in a state of disrepair--stabilized, yet requiring serious renovation.  The campaign to raise the funds for the full historical restoration of the blind artist's home is now ten years old....

The Pittsburgh Courier, Sep 14, 1929.

The following is a selected list of books, articles, and manuscripts about John William "Blind" Boone in the research centers of the Missouri Historical Society.

Other Articles

North Todd Gentry,  Blind Boone and John Lange, Jr.” Missouri Historical Review 34:2 (January 1940), pp. 232-234. 

“Blind Boone,” Jefferson City Daily Tribune, April 27, 1898. 
Blind Boone and His Life Story,” Columbia Tribune, July 25, 1912. p. 1, 3.
“Blind Boone Closes Forty-Fourth Season on Musical Platform,” Columbia Missourian, June 3, 1924. 


Mary Barile and Christine Montgomery, eds. Merit, Not Sympathy, Wins: The Life and Times of Blind Boone (Truman University Press, 2012.)

Jack Batterson, Blind Boone: Missouri’s Ragtime Pioneer (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1998).

Melissa Fuell, Blind Boone, His Early Life and His Achievements (Kansas City, MO: Burton Publishing Co., 1915).

Madge Harrah, Blind Boone: Piano Prodigy (Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, 2004.)
The Sedalia Democrat, Aug 19, 1960.
The Kansas City Times, Feb 8, 1961.