Roots N Blues N BBQ took hometown roots to another level at this year’s festival: It inducted famous ragtime pianist and Columbia icon J.W. “Blind” Boone into its hall of fame.
Boone, whose home became the historical landmark on Fourth Street and who is the namesake for the community center on Providence Road, was inducted into the Missouri Roots Songbook Hall of Fame at the festival.
The Missouri Roots Songbook recognizes legendary Missouri-based musicians for their contributions to music and culture. Boone was the festival’s second honoree to be inducted into the hall of fame, preceded by Chuck Berry, a rock ’n’ roll musician born in St. Louis who was honored in 2018.
Thumper Entertainment co-owner Tracy Lane announced Boone’s induction on the Lottery Stage in Stephens Lake Park just before the blues festival’s last act, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, performed. The Rev. Clyde Ruffin followed Lane’s announcement with a speech about Boone’s story.
Boone was born May 17, 1864, in Miami, Missouri, and died Oct. 4, 1927, in Warrensburg, shortly after announcing his retirement in June 1927.
Boone developed cerebral meningitis at 6 months old, according to the State Historical Society of Missouri’s website. The only treatment known at the time led to blindness. Despite his disability, historians said that Boone was able to play piano music by ear at only 9 years old.
At 14, Boone was discovered by Columbia businessman John Lange. He completed 47 touring seasons throughout his career.
Many musical historians believe Boone’s work inspired the development of ragtime music, influenced by rhythms and compositions from the African American community.
Boone lived in Columbia for 40 years. Today, his home holds a number of artifacts, including two pianos — one believed to be Boone’s practice piano — and a bronze sculpture of Boone by artist Harry Weber.