Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Handy Connection

I made a Garage Salin' connection this morning.  While reading an regular feature called "A Look Back" in this morning's Sunday edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I came across a familiar name.  The article told the story of W. C. Handy and his most famous song St. Louis Blues: 

Handy was a successful band leader and composer on Beale Avenue (later Street) in Memphis when he published the "St. Louis Blues" in 1914. He said hard times in St. Louis inspired the lyrics.

But Hardy originally called it "Jogo Blues" and renamed it in honor of Russell Gardner, a wealthy buggy manufacturer from St. Louis. Gardner enjoyed Hardy's music and tipped him $20 whenever he visited Memphis.

"It became a great favorite of his," Handy said of the song and Gardner.

I recognized Russell Gardner as the owner of Banner Buggy Works, of which I have a silver spoon with an engraved image of the company logo and wrote about here.

I was surprised to learn how wealthy Russell Gardner was.  Apparently, he even owned his own steamboat, the Annie Russell.  From the Post-Dispatch article:

Look Back:  W.C. Handy, 1932

Look Back:  W.C. Handy, 1932
Russell Gardner on the desk of his steamboat, the Annie Russell. Gardner was successful and prominent in St. Louis and along the river. His brother, Fred Gardner, was Missouri governor from 1917 to 1921. Russell Gardner's buggy factory on the riverfront just south of downtown on Rutger Street.
It makes me wonder if the spoon was a souvenir spoon as I had thought, or could it have actually been used on the steamboat.  If you can afford your own steamboat, surely you can afford to have all of its silverware engraved with your company's logo.

One final connection to this morning's article: I'm also pretty sure we performed St. Louis Blues on the album I recorded with the Oakville High School Band I wrote about here.


  1. With the buggy business in decline Russell Gardner started the Gardner Motor Car Co. 1919-1931. Before that he built all of the Chevrolets in a 9 state area.

  2. `Russell Gardner was a very interesting man. He made several attempts to buy one of St. Louis' baseball clubs. He did own the Memphis Chicks and gave it to his son in law. The silver spoon with a Banner Buggy on it was a premium for those who bought a new buggy.

    1. Thanks for the tip on the spoon. Another garage sale mystery solved.


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