Hidden history heard again

J.W. “Blind” Boone started out life as the child of a run away slave and a bugler in the Missouri Militia. Before his death in 1927, he was one of the most famous Missourians — black or white — and one of the wealthiest, income from a touring schedule that took him all over the country, including New York and Boston. But before his death, he and his manager John Lange, a former slave himself, owned their own homes and we considered wealthy men.

All that, Boone’s success, his and his manager’s wealth, all began with a strange and wonderful concert competition between former slave “Blind Tom” Wiggins, a black man who toured and could imitate any music he heard and J.W. “Blind” Boone. That concert kicked off Boone’s career that would span the playing and writing of classical and ragtime music.

His home at 10 N. Fourth St., has been saved and awaits further restoration.

But the competitive concert was re-enacted by Sutu Forte, as Boone, and Tom Andes, as Wiggins. This March 5, 2014 article, “The Battle of the Keys,” outlines the historic event and its recent repetition. The event was sponsored by the Boone County Historic Society.


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