"They overlooked St. Louis," he said. "St. Louis has just as much blues as Chicago."
St. Louis is "a major blues community," says Robert Santelli, a music historian and executive director of The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. It's a distinction earned in part due to the Mississippi River and the stream of levee builders and stevedores who called the city home.
What it lacked, though, was a major record label to draw blues recording artists. Chicago had Chess Records and Alligator Records, while St. Louis could counter only with the more jazz-tinged Delmark Records, which lasted five years before relocating to Chicago in 1958.
Santelli, a former vice president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and CEO of the Experience Music Project in Seattle, said St. Louis' project must cultivate a loyal local audience and build strong educational programs in order to succeed. Several music museums, from EMP to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame's paean to the Muscle Shoals sound, have struggled financially.
"Teachers are going to want to be sure that their students learn something of substance," he said. "It's not just going to be a day off listening to music."
National Blues Museum, www.nationalbluesmuseum.org
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