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The Musicians, Venues And Traditions That Make Up ‘St. Louis Sound’

Amanda Doyle (left) and Steve Pick (right) wrote "St. Louis Sound: An Illustrated Timeline," which tells the rich history of music out of St. Louis.
Tom Lampe
Amanda Doyle (left) and Steve Pick (right) wrote "St. Louis Sound: An Illustrated Timeline," which tells the rich history of music out of St. Louis.

Alongside contributions to the world such as beer and baseball, St. Louis also has a rich history of generating great music. The region is not only home to bands of various genres such as jazz, rock, Americana and hip-hop — but also to world-class institutions such as the St. Louis Symphony and the Fox Theatre.

Many well-known — and not-so-known — performers are included in a brand-new pictorial history of St. Louis and its music titled “St. Louis Sound: An Illustrated Timeline.”

The coffee table-sized volume also goes beyond the men and women who made and wrote the music; it includes the disc jockeys who promoted it, the record stores that sold it and the venues where musicians performed in.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with the co-authors of the book, Steve Pick and Amanda Doyle. After much research, the duo completed the project with a total of 177 entries to include in the book.

“We could’ve easily doubled it or tripled it, because every day people are saying, ‘Is this [so and so] group in the book?’ And it turns out no, they’re not, but maybe volume two? Who knows,” Pick said.

The book begins with acknowledging the history and influence of the region’s natives, from their civilization to their ceremonial use of music.

“We thought it was important to talk about how the place that we live in became a place. And really the culture that was at Cahokia was kind of the first version of our metropolis now: It was a huge thriving city [that] had a lot of little suburbs — they happened to be mounds — somewhat similar to our situation today,” Doyle explained.

The book goes on to share unusual stories of the various European settlers — such as French and German — who established communities in the region.

“When we get way back into the history, we talk in the book about the community bands that were really important to the different immigrant communities in St. Louis,” Doyle added. 

Credit Dave Brickey
Cover of "St. Louis Sound: An Illustrated Timeline" book.

There are many influential musicians that have made their mark nationwide: Frankie Trumbauer, Miles Davis, Chuck Berry and Nelly, for instance “it never stops. There’s always somebody from here going someplace,” Pick said.

He added that he would consider the 1950s to be St. Louis’ “heyday.”

“Since Chuck Berry completely rewrote the rule book for a whole new form of music — rock’ n’ roll — he created the guitar signature licks and the very concepts of what you sing about,” Pick continued, “[and] lots and lots of things; Miles Davis was huge in the ’50s, [so] that might be the decade.”

Taking the book to the next level

In addition to the book, the authors have organized a five-day music festival starting Saturday. Subterranean Books will host the book’s launch party, where Pick and Doyle will hold a book signing and share video clips of various musical performances.

Related Events

What: St. Louis Sound Project Music Festival
When: March 23 to 30, 2019
Where: Various venues

What: Steve Pick & Amanda Doyle Reading & Signing for "St Louis Sound"
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 4, 2019
Where: Subterranean Books (6275 Delmar, St. Louis, MO 63130)

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex HeuerEvie HemphillLara Hamdan and Jon Lewis give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.
Jeremy is the arts & culture reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.