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Famous Missourian – Mark Twain

June 25, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Sam Clemens was born in the village of Florida, Missouri, on 30 November 1835, a few months after his father and mother—John Marshall and Jane Lampton Clemens—arrived from Fentress County, Tennessee. A few years later the family moved to the town of Hannibal, on the Mississippi River. It is Hannibal (called “St. Petersburg” in the novels) that serves as the setting for all of Tom Sawyer and the first part of Huckleberry Finn.

Sam Clemens had very little schooling. His father died when he was eleven, and young Sam dropped out of school at that time. Much of his informal education came in the print shops of Hannibal and other midwestern towns.

According to Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, the “one permanent ambition” of the boys of Hannibal was to get some kind of position on the steamboats, which were the most glamorous means of river transportation in those days. Young Sam succeeded in doing so and was taught the river in the late 1850s by Captain Horace Bixby, a process that Twain recorded amusingly in Life on the Mississippi. He later claimed that he loved steamboating better than any other profession he followed, that he expected to follow it for the rest of his life, but the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 brought this aspect of Sam’s life to a close.

After two weeks’ service with a little band of Confederate soldiers, Sam joined his brother Orion in traveling to the Territory of Nevada, where Orion had been appointed territorial secretary. While the war was being fought in the eastern part of the country, Sam spent his time in Nevada and California and did not return to the East until after the war was over. While in the West, he wrote for several newspapers, including the Virginia City, Nevada,Territorial Enterprise, in which

he first used the name “Mark Twain,” a river term indicating that the depth of the water was two (“twain” is an old-fashioned word for “two”) fathoms, or twelve feet.

While in the West, Twain heard a story about a stranger and a man who owned a frog, which he worked up into a piece for an eastern paper, calling it “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog.” Published in New York in 1865, it was widely circulated and much admired. Two years later Twain used it as the title story for his first book, a collection of pieces he had already published in newspapers, calling it “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

After a trip to Hawaii during which he sent back a series of letters to be published in California, he returned to the eastern part of the country via Central America and was soon making plans to join a group of Americans in a kind of pilgrimage to Europe and the Holy Land. The trip lasted several months, during which Twain dispatched regular letters for publication in New York and San Francisco. These letters formed the basis for his humorous travel book, a piece of fictionalized autobiography, The Innocents Abroad; or, The New Pilgrim’s Progress (1869). Though greatly impressed by a few sights in Europe (the gardens of Versailles, the cathedral at Milan), Twain was more often disappointed by what he found, and his cynical attitude proved popular with homeloving American readers.

With the success of The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain began to dig further back into his past to find material for books. His western experiences and the journey to Hawaii were treated in Roughing It (1872). In an 1875 series, “Old Times on the Mississippi,” later a part of Life on the Mississippi (1883), he told of his experiences on the river.The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) took him still further back in time, to childhood, for many of the happenings and characters were based on actual persons and events. A less fictional treatment of his days in Hannibal and on the farm of his Uncle John Quarles near Florida, was eventually given in his autobiography, parts of which were published in 1906-1907, near the end of his life.

After his first three books, Twain turned to writing a novel in collaboration with his Hartford, Connecticut, neighbor Charles Dudley Warner. The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873) begins with chapters set in Tennessee, based on the real-life experiences of Twain’s father. From Tennessee the action moves on to Missouri and then to Washington for an exposure of coraiption in government during the post-Civil War years, a time that has come to be called the Gilded Age, taking its name from the novel. The phrase suggests a greater concern with outward appearance than with inner substance—a gilded, rather than a golden age.

Far better remembered by the American people have been the novels that followed: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; The Prince and the Pauper (1881); Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884); and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889). Other novels, particularly The Tragedy of Pudd’nbead Wilson and the Comedy of Those Extraordinary Twins (1894) and The Mysterious Stranger: A Romance (1916), have attracted interest but have never been as widely read or as frequently adapted for movies and television.

Mark Twain traveled and lectured around the United States and in many parts of the world, visiting such places as Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Russia, Hawaii, Australia, India, South Africa, the Holy Land, and Egypt. He described many of his travels, often with humorous exaggeration, in three books: The Innocents Abroad, A Tramp Abroad (1880), and Following the Equator (1897).

In 1870, Mark Twain married Olivia “Livy” Langdon of Elmira, New York, a young woman whose brother he had met while on his 1867 journey to Europe and the Holy Land. The couple had four children: Langdon, Susy, Clara, and Jean. Of these, only Clara outlived her father, and there are no descendants of Mark Twain living today. For many years the Clemens family lived in a large Victorian house built for them in Hartford, Connecticut. During the summers of the 1870s and 1880s, they usually lived with Livy’s relatives at Quarry Farm, near Elmira, where the greatest part of Twain’s work on his most celebrated books was completed.

Besides his famous novels, Mark Twain wrote short stories and tales, humorous sketches, essays, speeches, his autobiography, and a great many letters. Many of these, along with his notebooks and journals, have been published, though others still remain unpublished.

Halley’s Comet, which had been in the sky at his birth in 1835, returned in 1910 as he died at his house, “Stormfield,” near Redding, Connecticut. After a funeral in New York City, he was buried in Elmira beside his wife, who had died in Italy a few years earlier.


Missouri – Music Roots Part 2

June 25, 2013 at 8:36 pm

While Kansas City hip hop artists have not been as successful nationally as those from Chicago and St. Louis, Kansas City has maintained an active underground hip hop scene. Kansas City hip hop artists include Rich the Factor, Chat Monitor, Solè, and Fat Tone, but the most successful and well-known Kansas City rapper is Tech N9ne. Tech N9ne (born Aaron Yates, 1971–) began rapping in 1985, and his brand of hardcore rap has been distributed primarily by independent record labels. Tech N9ne is best known in mainstream rap for his collaborations with artists such as 2Pac, D12, Kottonmouth Kings, Insane Clown Posse, and Jurassic 5, among others. Tech N9ne released his first major label album Anghellic in 2001, but it was not commercially successful, and the next year he created an independent label with Travis O’Guin called Strange Music. Tech N9ne has maintained a strong and dedicated fan base in Kansas City but has received only limited attention nationwide. In the mid-2000s, songs by Tech N9ne appeared in several different mediums of popular culture: four of his songs were included in the 2006 film Alpha Dog, his song “The Beast” is included in the popular video game Madden NFL 2006, and two other songs are included on the 2005 video game 25 to Life. Although Tech N9ne’s songs gradually have found new outlets nationally, he still has not had a song or album breakthrough into mainstream rap.

Many of the major cities in the Territories have continued to support active African American music scenes. Omaha, Nebraska, although currently best known for producing rock acts, has supported a strong African American music scene since the 1920s. It has a growing underground hip hop scene that consists of such rappers as Jamazz, Titus, Lil’ Q, and Mars Black, although most Omaha hip hop artists, except for Mars Black, have not achieved much national success. Omaha has always been a center for blues music and it continues to thrive there, partially because of the support of the Omaha Blues Society and the annual Omaha Blues, Jazz and Gospel Festival. Other notable African American musicians connected to Omaha include Thomas Wilkins (current music director of the Omaha Symphony), singer and guitarist Lois “Lady Mac” McMorris (born in Omaha, though currently a resident of Kansas City), and Andre Lewis (from the R & B group Maxayn and former keyboardist for notables such as Frank Zappa, Buddy Miles, LaBelle, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Sly Stone).

Rhythm and blues and pop songwriter and producer Terry Lewis (1956–) is perhaps the most successful musician to emerge from Omaha. While in high school, Lewis met his production and songwriting partner James “Jimmy Jam” Harris and the duo formed a band called Flyte Tyme, which later evolved into the Time. In 1981, Morris Day joined the group and they toured with Prince under the name Morris Day and the Time. Lewis and Harris were fired from The Time in March of 1983 after they missed a show because of a blizzard, but at that time the duo started to receive greater attention as producers. They produced songs for Gladys Knight, Patti Austin, Thelma Houston, and Luther Vandross before collaborating with Janet Jackson in 1985. The resulting album, Control (1986), turned Jackson into a superstar and Lewis and Harris received the 1986 Grammy Award for producers of the year. The production duo have continued to work with Jackson throughout her career and have produced songs for Jordan Knight, Michael Jackson, Boyz II Men, Usher, Mary J. Blige, and Mariah Carey.

Austin, Texas, proclaimed the “Live Music Capital of the World,” is one of the few territory cities to see its music scene grow exponentially. Although known for country and rock music, Austin has also produced a large number of blues and jazz artists. Musicians travel to Austin in hopes of launching their careers at such venues as the blues club Antone’s, which over the years has helped advance the careers of such African American musicians as Fats Domino, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and B. B. King. Hundreds of music careers have been fostered by South by Southwest, a set of film, music, and interactive festivals and conferences held annually since 1987.

Kansas City, Missouri Musical Roots

June 25, 2013 at 7:11 pm

The African American music scene in Kansas City declined following the conclusion of the city’s golden age of jazz, resulting in many of the historic jazz clubs closing down during the 1940s. Many of the old clubs were also demolished and, in 1954, a 19-block area of the jazz district was razed, destroying many famous jazz clubs such as the Blue Room and Elk’s Rest. During the 1970s, efforts were initiated to restore some of the old jazz venues and a restoration project began in 1989 that focused on restoring the 19-block area around 18th and Vine to its previous glory. These restorative efforts assisted in the revitalization of jazz and blues music in Kansas City and now provide additional venues for audiences to hear live music.

Kansas City currently hosts the American Jazz Museum, the premier jazz museum in the United States, which was constructed as part of the restoration efforts. The museum, which officially opened in September 1998, is located in Kansas City’s historic jazz district at 18th and Vine and is housed in the same building as the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. It explores both Kansas City’s contributions to jazz and the history of jazz music in the United States through interactive exhibits and films, educational programs, and rare photos and other memorabilia of jazz legends such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Charlie Parker. The museum also offers live jazz music in the Blue Room (a jazz club located within the museum) and the Gem Theater (a 500-seat performing arts center across the street from the museum).

Kansas City recently has produced several successful African American vocalists, such as Kevin Mahogany (1958–). Mahogany began his musical career as a saxophonist, but stopped performing on saxophone after his graduation from Baker University in 1981 and began to focus on singing. Mahogany returned to Kansas City and performed with local rhythm and blues and soul groups before focusing on jazz in the early 1990s. Mahogany’s debut album Double Rainbow, released in 1993 by the independent German record label Enja, includes infrequently heard ballads, bop tunes, and blues songs. Mahogany has released albums on Warner Brothers, Telarc, and, his own label, Mahogany Music.

Angela Hagenbach (1956–), a former fashion model, is a top singer in Kansas City. Hagenbach’s contralto voice displays a great deal of flexibility. She is known to sing both traditional jazz standards and rhythmic Brazilian jazz. She was raised in a musical family; her mother was a pianist and her father a saxophonist, and she originally played trombone before deciding to pursue a singing career in 1989. From 1990 to 1994, Hagenbach worked as a soloist at Kansas City’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel and has since been featured at numerous international jazz festivals and venues throughout the Kansas City area. Hagenbach leads her own quartet and quintet, and, along with pianist Joseph Cartwright, is the co-leader of the Musa Nova Latin Jazz Ensemble. She is the president of her own record label, Amazon Records, through which she has released several albums.

In addition to the singers mentioned above, Kansas City has produced many successful African American instrumentalists. Saxophonist and composer Ahmad Alaadeen (1934–) is one of the most significant musicians to emerge from Kansas City during this period. The Kansas City native began performing professionally at the age of 14 and later studied formally at the Kansas City Conservatory of Music, St. Mary’s College, and DePaul University. He has remained active as a performer for the past five decades and is based primarily in Kansas City, although he also has lived in New York, Chicago, Denver, St. Louis, and San Antonio for significant periods of time. Alaadeen has released several albums through ASR records, a label founded by Alaadeen and Victoria Dunfee, and his compositions are published by Fandeen Publishing.

Chris Burnett (1955–), another saxophonist, was raised in the Kansas City metropolitan area and is mentored by Alaadeen. After graduating from high school in 1974, Burnett began a 22-year career performing with various U.S. military bands before retiring in 1996. In 2001, Burnett moved back to Kansas City and now remains active as a saxophonist, composer, and bandleader. Burnett formed his main group, the Chris Burnett Quartet, in 2001, and has completed more than 150 original compositions.

Burnett’s brother, drummer, and former professional football player Richie Pratt (1943–), has become a successful musician. Pratt was raised in the Kansas City metropolitan area and attended college at the University of Kansas before moving to New York to play football. After sustaining a career-ending injury in 1970, Pratt stayed in New York and pursued work as a professional musician. Pratt has appeared with a diverse representation of groups, such as the American Symphony, the Joffrey Ballet, and the New York Jazz Quartet, and is comfortable performing in a variety of musical styles. Pratt currently lives in Honolulu, Hawaii, and remains active in their local music scene.

Bobby Watson (1953–) is another instrumentalist who has emerged from the Kansas City metropolitan area. Watson demonstrated superb flexibility on the alto saxophone through his mastery of different styles of jazz, such as swing, hard bop, and free jazz, and is active as a composer, arranger, bandleader, and educator. Born in Lawrence, Kansas, his family moved frequently throughout the Midwest before ultimately settling in Kansas City, Kansas. He attended Kansas City (Kansas) Community College and the University of Miami before moving to New York in 1976. From 1977 to 1981, he performed with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and eventually became the group’s musical director. In the 1980s Watson, along with bassist Curtis Lundy, created the jazz quintet, Horizon, and formed the New Note record label. Watson performed with a variety of solo artists and ensembles throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including Wynton Marsalis, Joe Williams, the 29th Street Saxophone Quartet, the George Coleman Octet, and the Savoy Sultans. In 2000, he returned to Kansas City to become the director of jazz studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and remains active as a performer.

In addition to its jazz scene, Kansas City has maintained a vibrant blues circuit. Clubs such as Blayney’s in Westport, BB’s Lawnside BBQ, Marty’s Blues Cafe, and The Grand Emporium frequently host regional and national blues acts, as do several other clubs in the downtown and Westport area. Founded in 1980, the Kansas City Blues Society has maintained a prominent role in the promotion of blues music in the Kansas City metropolitan area. The society has gathered fans, bands, and clubs in support of blues music and has distributed a monthly newsletter promoting upcoming concerts since 1991. The Kansas City Blues Society has been active in the utilization of blues music as an educational tool, especially through its Mayfield Towns Dollars for Blues Scholars committee. The committee, which was active from 1994 to 2000, hosted blues clinics, awarded scholarships, and donated used instruments for needy students.

Province Hatch, Jr. (1921–2003), better known as Little Hatch, was one of the many blues performers active in Kansas City since 1968. The singer and harmonica player was born in Sledge, Mississippi and was known for his urban blues performance style. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Hatch relocated to Kansas City in 1946 and began working for Hallmark in 1954. His employment with Hallmark supported his musical endeavors for the next three decades until he retired in 1986. Hatch primarily performed in Kansas City, frequently with his band Little Hatch and the House Rockers, but he occasionally toured the United States and Europe.

Gregory “D. C.” Bellamy (1949–), guitarist, singer, songwriter, and halfbrother of Curtis Mayfield, is one of the top blues artists active in Kansas City. Originally from Chicago, Bellamy spent the early portion of his career behind the scenes as an arranger, sideman, and background vocalist. He accompanied such acts as Betty Everett, Donny Hathaway, and Brook Benton before releasing his first solo album, Water to Wine, in 2000. Around the same time, Bellamy relocated to the Kansas City metropolitan area and currently performs in the Kansas City area and throughout the Midwest.

Kansas City has hosted several blues and jazz festivals in recent years, including the Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival. In its original form, the Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival, the result of a merger between the Kansas City Jazz Festival and the Kansas City Blues Festival, was held annually from 1991 to 2001. It was succeeded by the Kansas City Blues and Heritage Festival in 2002, and later appeared as the Kansas City Music Blues and Jazz Festival in 2005 and 2006. During its history, the festival has featured such headlining artists as Bo Diddley, Pat Metheny, and John Lee Hooker, in addition to local and regional acts. Other festivals held in the region include the Rhythm and Ribs 18th and Vine Jazz Festival (held annually since 2005) and Jazz in the Woods (held annually in Overland Park, Kansas, since 1990).

Missouri Sports and Entertainment

June 20, 2013 at 9:22 pm

missouri sports

There are six major league professional sports teams in Missouri, including the Kansas City Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball, and the Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams of the National Football League. The Royals defeated the Cardinals in a “Show-Me State” World Series match-up in 1985. The Cardinals, however, have 11 World Series titles, including a victory over the Texas Rangers in 2011. The Chiefs play in Arrowhead stadium and have not made it to the Super Bowl since the 1969 season, which they won against the Minnesota Vikings. The Rams moved to St. Louis from Los Angeles after the 1994 season and now play in the 70,000-seat Edwards Jones Dome, which opened in 1995. They won the Super Bowl in 2000.

The St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League and the Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer are the other two professional teams. Sporting Kansas City was created as a re-branding of the Kansas City Wizards following the 2010 season, and the team began playing in the newly constructed Livestrong Sporting Park in 2011.

Horse racing has a long history in Missouri. In 1812, St. Charles County sportsmen held two-day horse races. By the 1820s, race tracks were laid out in nearly every city and in crossroads villages.

In collegiate sports, the University of Missouri once competed in the Big Twelve Conference but in 2012 moved to the Southeastern Conference.

Theatrical performances are offered throughout the state, mostly during the summer. In Kansas City, productions of Broadway musicals and concerts are staged at the historical Starlight Theater, which seats 7,860 in an open-air setting. The Missouri Repertory Theater, on the University of Missouri campus in Kansas City, also has a summer season. In St. Louis, the 12,000-seat Municipal Opera puts on outdoor musicals. Other notable playhouses are the 8,000-seat Riverfront Amphitheater in Hannibal and the 408-seat Lyceum Theater, located in the historic village of Arrow Rock (population 78).

Leading orchestras are the St. Louis Symphony and Kansas City Symphony. The Opera Theatre of St. Louis and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City are distinguished musical organizations. Springfield has a regional opera company.

Between World Wars I and II, Kansas City was the home of a thriving jazz community that included Charlie Parker and Lester Young. Leading bandleaders of that time were Benny Moten, Walter Page, and Count Basie. Country music predominates in rural Missouri in places like the Ozark Opry at Osage Beach. There are over 40 performing venues in Branson.

There are about 350 arts associations and over 50 local associations in Missouri. The state provides arts education in all of the approximately 550 public school districts. In 1994, the Missouri General Assembly established the Missouri Cultural Trust, a state endowment for the arts, with the goal of building it into a $200 million operational endowment in 10 years. The trust is one of only a few such trusts in the nation and the only one that receives dedicated annual tax revenues. The Missouri Humanities Council sponsors an annual week long summer history festival on various themes. The festival is generally held in a different community each year.

Missouri Tourism and Imagery

June 20, 2013 at 3:42 am

During fiscal 2009/10, the state hosted 35.8 million domestic travelers, which represented more than 19 million households. Both number of travelers and expenditures were lower than the previous year due to the recession that began in 2008. Just over $6 billion was spent on travel-related expenditures, which was 3.5% lower than in fiscal 2008/09. Missouri’s tourism industry supported 281,255 jobs in fiscal 2010.

With hundreds of attractions and seven national landmarks and monuments, Missouri has much to offer vacationers. The most popular vacation areas are the St. Louis region (40% of all visits) and the Kansas City area (23%). The principal attraction in St. Louis is the Gateway Arch. At 630 feet (192 meters) it is the tallest humanmade national monument in the United States. In the Kansas City area are the Truman Sports Complex, Jesse James’s birthplace near Excelsior Springs, and Harry Truman’s hometown of Independence.

Branson is considered the “Live Music Show Capital of the World.” Memorabilia of Mark Twain are housed in and around Hannibal, while the birthplace and childhood home of George Washington Carver is in Diamond.

Missouri has 51 state parks and 35 historic sites. Lake of the Ozarks State Park is the largest, covering 16,872 acres (6,828 hectares). The 1,375 miles (2,213 kilometers) of shoreline and swimming, fishing, and boating opportunities ke Lake of the Ozarks a popular vacation spot in mid-America.

In 2009, Missouri’s 150 public libraries had nearly three million borrowers and a circulation of 51.5 million. TheMissouri State Library, in Jefferson City, is the center of the state’s interlibrary loan network. The University ofMissouri-Columbia has the leading academic library. The federally administered Harry S Truman Library and Museum is at Independence.

The Missouri Division of Tourism lists about 200 museums in the state. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City and the St. Louis Art Museum both house distinguished general collections. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal has a collection of manuscripts and other memorabilia. The Harry S Truman Library and Museum is in Truman’s hometown of Independence. Also notable are the Pony Express National Museum, City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis Center Museum of Science and Natural History, and McDonnell Planetarium. The Steamboat Arabia Museum, located in Kansas City, displays the treasures recovered from a steamboat that sank in the Missouri River in 1856. Buried for more than 130 years, the Arabia contained well-preserved artifacts, including bottled foods, china, supplies, and the like.