Although I was in St. Louis for a Recording Academy event, the event wasn’t until the evening, so I had the better part of the day to go around to local book stores and record stores, and St. Louis is really a dream come true to anyone who collects books or records. As the day progressed, I made my way around to Left Bank Books, the Book House, STL Books, Vintage Vinyl and Euclid Records, the last of which was only a couple of doors down from where our event was being held.
I’ve eaten many breakfasts in St. Louis over the years, but somehow never made it to the Goody Goody Diner , a 1948-era chrome and formica place on Natural Bridge Avenue that is a St. Louis landmark, and rightfully so. For more than 60 years, the Goody Goody belonged to the Connelly family, but at the end of April 2014 it was sold to new owners. Happily, my experience in the second week of May was a good one, so hopefully the owners are continuing the place’s great tradition, and what a tradition it is. Breakfast is what brought me to the Goody Goody, and the diner has numerous options for that most important meal of the day. Omelettes are my thing, so I ordered my favorite bacon and cheese omelette, and was very pleased with what I got. Chicken and waffles is also on the menu, as well as pancakes, and of course there are plenty of non-breakfast options. One would expect such a historic spot to be full of tourists, but most of the customers seemed to be from the local neighborhood, giving the place a friendly, hometown feel. The Goody Goody Diner is definitely worth a visit when in St. Louis.
Whether from it being Mothers’ Day or it being Sunday, finding anything to eat in St. Louis in the late evening was extremely difficult. Almost every place I tried was either closed or had quit serving food even if the bar remained open. Fortunately, one place I called on my cell phone was still open, a burger place downtown called Bailey’s Range. It turned out that Bailey’s is a family of restaurant concepts in St. Louis, and Bailey’s Range is a burger place, with a unique difference. Sleek and modernistic in appearance, Bailey’s Range is also New American in its approach to this most American of dishes, the hamburger and french fries, with a menu consisting of unique gourmet hamburger varieties. Of course, using the “build your own” menu, it is possible to create your own more traditional offerings, but Bailey’s seems proud of their creations. I opted for a more prosaic bacon cheeseburger, and was not disappointed. The accompanying french fries were also really good. Bailey’s Range also has desserts, mainly based around their all-natural ice creams, which they also use to make milk shakes, but after my bacon cheeseburger and fries, I had no room for any dessert. Altogether I was fairly pleased with my experience, and was especially thankful for Bailey’s Range’s extended hours.
All of a sudden, it was winter, and I didn’t prepare for it. I hadn’t brought any warm clothes to St. Louis because I had naively assumed that the weather wouldn’t be that different than what we had been getting in Memphis for the last week. So much for assumptions, and now I was shivering as I drove out to Uncle Bill’s Pancake House on South Grand for breakfast. It was a great choice, a classic late 50’s style place with a classic neon sign thrown in for good measure, and, not surprisingly, great food.
Despite the cold, the weather was bright and blue, so, after I finished breakfast I drove across the bridge to East St. Louis to look for the Gateway Geyser and see if I could get a good photograph of the St. Louis skyline and Gateway Arch. Finding the park that contained the geyser was not easy, as it was tucked behind the Casino Queen, but I did find it. The geyser was evidently not working, but there was a large overlook facing the arch, and I climbed to the top of it to snap a picture. If the weather was cold on the ground, it was absolutely frigid at the top of the observation deck, so I quickly came back down.
Driving out of the park, I accidentally ventured into a warren of old streets through overgrown woods with one abandoned house at an intersection, but I was soon able to get back to the interstate. Given the area’s proximity to the casino and park, I couldn’t help thinking that it would make a wonderful Beale-Street-type entertainment district for East St. Louis. When I got back to the hotel, it was time for the I Am Music Workshop events to get underway, and the events took most of the afternoon. I was on the distribution panel, along with representatives from Fontana Distribution and Jive Records. Afterwards, those two decided to go with me to dinner, so I drove them up to a place called Pi on the Delmar Loop in University City where we ate gourmet pizza and talked about the music business. It was nearly midnight when we left, and I dropped them off at a trendy hip-hop club on Washington Avenue near the hotel. I was too tired for a hip-hop club, and it was too late for me to make it to the Trio Tres Bien performance at Robbie’s, so I returned to the hotel and went to bed.
I had been invited to be a panelist at the I Am Music Workshop in St. Louis on Saturday, so I headed out early Friday morning up I-55, vainly searching for some sort of breakfast. Finally, at Blytheville I found a Hardeee’s where I could pick up a biscuit breakfast, and then I headed on into the Missouri bootheel.
At Cape Girardeau, I went into town to browse at some thrift stores and pick up a cappuccino at the Broadway Books and Roasting Company, and then I continued northward into St. Louis.
I had thought about doing some musicological research in old East St. Louis newspapers at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, but I decided that if I did that, I wouldn’t have any time to shop at local record stores, so I changed my mind and headed to Record Exchange instead. I found a number of 45 singles on St. Louis and East St. Louis labels, but I hadn’t brought much money to spend and I wasn’t sure what I would find at other stores, so I didn’t buy anything there.
The weather was already grey, and turning much colder as I returned to my car and drove over to Euclid Records in Webster Groves. I ended up not buying anything there either, because the Leo Gooden CD I was hoping to find was one they had sold out of, but I did pick up a flyer about live jazz Friday night at a place called Robbie’s House of Jazz in Webster Groves. After a brief stop at Webster Records, I realized that I had only a little time for dinner if I hoped to make it back to the jazz club for live music, so instead of driving over to Vintage Vinyl in University City, I drove to the Galleria where the Cheesecake Factory was, and ate dinner there. After stopping by a Borders Books where I bought a true crime history of East St. Louis, I drove over to the jazz club I had heard about. The club was predominantly African-American, but I was warmly welcomed and made to feel right at home, and the large local jazz ensemble that was playing was excellent. If I had stayed to the end, I might have gotten to sit in on piano, but I was really exhausted, partially from the drive, and partly from having overeaten at the Cheesecake Factory. So I left and drove back into St. Louis on Manchester/Chouteau until I came to the Sheraton hotel where the conference had booked my room. Valet parking was quite expensive, but I had no problems checking in, and my suite of a room was beautiful. I learned that the building had been the Edison Brothers shoe warehouse, and that half of it had been made into a hotel, and half of it into condominiums.