Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

St. Louis: A musical history

1834—Johann Weber arrived in St. Louis and brought with him a library of scores, including Bach and Beethoven, among others. His passion led to the creation of the St. Louis Sacred Music Society. Just four years later, William Robyn became Saint Louis University’s first music professor and organized the St. Louis Brass Band.

1880—The St. Louis Choral Society opened, featuring an orchestra and choir. Now called it is the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, it is the second oldest in the country and is frequently referred to as one of the best.

1890s—Chestnut Valley became the birthplace of St. Louis ragtime. Currently occupied by the Scottrade Center, Chestnut Valley in the late 19th century included saloons and brothels that hired musicians to play background music. W.C. Handy composed the song “St. Louis Blues” while playing there.

1901-1907—Scott Joplin produced famous works such as “The Entertainer” and “March Majestic” while in St. Louis. The King of Ragtime performed regularly in the community during his time.

1950s—Chuck Berry became famous with hits like “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Johnny B. Goode.” His distinctive guitar riffs paved the way for future rock ’n’ roll music and had a great influence on future artists. His sound can still be heard today: he generally plays one Wednesday a month at Blueberry Hill on the Loop.

1957—Ike and Tina Turner meet in East St. Louis and form one of the most famous rhythm-and-blues groups in history. After opening for The Rolling Stones in 1969, they went mainstream and produced hits such as their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.”

1987—Alternative band The Urge combined punk, metal, ska, blues and rock in its high-energy concerts. With a trombone and saxophone among other instruments, its sound was unique to the time. In addition, its concert film “Live and Direct” was recorded at the Pageant.

2000—Nelly released his debut album, branding himself as the rap star of the Midwest. While in high school in University City, Nelly formed the St. Lunatics; Nelly went solo after no record deal was reached. His Midwestern roots are evident in his raps, and he has recently hosted some afternoon shows on WHHL Hot 104.1 in St. Louis.

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878