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Alonzo Townsend takes lessons from his legendary parents to spotlight St. Louis music

Miya Norfleet
St. Louis Public Radio
Alonzo Townsend is the founder of Townsendx3 Agency.

Alonzo Townsend is not just a champion for St. Louis music — he was born into it.

The St. Louis native founded the Townsendx3 Agency to support local artists by managing them and putting power behind their brands, something he learned to do as a child from his dad, blues legend Henry "Mule" Townsend.

“My dad was big on having me [be] a part of his business. He had me writing checks, reading contracts, doing computer invoicing and typing letterheads out for him. I was selling CDs for him at festivals,” Townsend told St. Louis on the Air. “I was fortunate to travel with him a lot.”

Townsend’s mother, Vernell, was a gospel blues singer and sang with Henry on several songs, including “Tears Come Rolling Down” and “Going Down Slow.” She also had a career in her own right.

Alonzo Townsend, age 5, with his parents and blues legends Henry 'Mule' Townsend and Vernell Townsend in 1991.
Alonzo Townsend
Alonzo Townsend, age 5, with his parents and blues legends Henry "Mule" Townsend and Vernell Townsend in 1991.

Despite music being in his blood, Townsend didn’t realize just how unusual his parents were. “I still didn't really understand how much weight, not only my dad [carried, but] both of them [had] — the legacy behind it,” he said.

After Henry Townsend died in 2006 at 96 years old, Alonzo Townsend took a break from the music business. It was a call from Jeremy Segel-Moss of the St. Louis Blues Society that got Townsend back in the game.

“[The St. Louis Blues Society] had this event called the Baby Blues Showcase. It was for artists that [were] under the age of 30 that play blues and roots music. He’s like, ‘You will be a great representative of this whole thing. Have you thought about coming in and getting back active?’” Since then, Townsend has championed local blues, hip-hop, R&B and soul musicians.

Townsend now supports numerous homegrown musicians including Mvstermind, DJ Nico Marie, NandoSTL, Marquise Knox and Dylan Triplett. Drawing from his experience as a “tiny salesman” while working with his father, Townsend works closely with venues like the Dark Room and City Winery to highlight the many talents in St. Louis.

Townsend is determined to keep as many artists in the city as possible.

“I want to be a hand in giving St. Louis the only thing that we've really missed when it comes to music and our artists, and that's infrastructure — its ecosystem. We have the heritage and history already, if not more than cities like Chicago, Memphis, Austin, Nashville, New Orleans [or] L.A.,” Townsend said. “Musical cities that have their music and their artists wired into infrastructure — it is in their tourism, it is in the fabric of their economy. They make sure that they use it to thrive. That's the only thing that St. Louis has missed for so long.”

For more on Alonzo Townsend’s childhood growing up around blues greats like Kim Massey, Johnny Johnson and Tommy Bankhead, as well as how Townsend negotiated contracts for his father at just 9 years old, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast by clicking the play button below.

Alonzo Townsend takes lessons from his legendary parents to spotlight St. Louis music

Related Event
What: Townsendx3 Agency Presents: Dylan Triplett
When: Sept. 3
Where: City Winery 3730 Foundry Way, Suite 158,
St. Louis, MO 63110

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Ulaa Kuziez is our production intern. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org

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Miya is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."