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National Blues Museum opening: ‘It touches something deep in the American soul, this music’

National Blues Museum
Part of an exhibit at the National Blues Museum, which has its grand opening on April 2 in St. Louis.

Rob Endicott is a classically trained trumpeter and blues musician in his own right. For the forseeable future, however, he has donned a different hat: Board Chairman of the National Blues Museum, which has its grand opening on Saturday.

“It touches something deep in the American soul, this music,” Endicott told St. Louis on the Air contributor Steve Potter.

The project, which tells the history of blues music from a national perspective, has been in the works for over five years. It fills 23,000 square feet in the Mercantile Exchange building downtown.

“There’s no other institution that tells the entire story of the blues from the national perspective,” Endicott said. “There are other museums that tell the story around the region, like the Delta Blues Museum. There are other museums that tell a story around an artist, like the B.B. King Museum in Indianola. But there’s no museum that tells the whole story nationally and internationally.”

Credit National Blues Museum
One of the National Blues Museum's interactive exhibits.

The museum features a performance venue with seating for 150, a wall of famous Blues musicians and several interactive exhibits — including an area where visitors can record their own Blues tracks in AAB format, sort of like Guitar Hero. There’s also an exhibit devoted to the female Blues musicians who paved the way for the musical form.

San Francisco-based Gallagher & Associates led the design of the museum, with help from creative advisor Robert Santelli. The designers of the museum are the folks behind the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, the Grammys Museum in Los Angeles and the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C.

“They are experts in the music-interactive experience,” Endicott said.

The museum’s executive director, Dion Brown, comes with vast museum experience from the B.B. King Museum and Exploration Place.

“We didn’t really ask anybody’s permission to do it,” Endicott said. “We just decided to do it. … In terms of selling it, when you have a brand new institution, there’s a lot of skepticism. We talked to a lot of people who said it was a great idea … but to let them know when we’re further along. No one wants to be the first person in the pool. I don’t think anyone heard the idea and thought ‘that doesn’t make any sense.’ It is always hard to get something new going.”

This weekend, the museum officially kicks off with a grand opening celebration on Saturday morning, featuring the musical styling of the Normandy High School marching band and a variety of Blues bands  large and small performing in the museum all day long.

Enjoy the weekend, everybody. Here's some music to start it off right:

Related Event

What: National Blues Museum Grand Opening

When: Saturday, April 2 at 10:00 a.m.

Where: 615 Washington Ave,, St. Louis, MO 63101

More information.

Regular Hours:
10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday
12 Noon - 5:00 p.m. Sunday and Monday

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 Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt 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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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.
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