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Aug 29, 2014
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Slip Into The Beale, Where It's All About The Blues
By Sean Hixson - Photo by Sean Hixson
Posted On: 05/04/2004   

You live in St. Louis. You should know blues, soul and R&B history – local and otherwise. Take a hint from the first word of this bar’s name and buy an album from sax legend King Curtis. Then, follow/play along:

Today’s special is [St. Louis] Soul Stew.
We sell so much of this, people wonder what we put in it.
We gonna tell ya right now.
Gimme about a half a teacup of bass. (play air bass like James Jamerson)
Now, I need a pound of fatback drums. (air drum like Benny Benjamin)
Now, gimme four tablespoons of boy-lin [St. Louis] gih-tar.
This gonna taste alright. (air guitar like pre-1966 Jimi Hendrix)
Now justa little pinch of organ. (air piano like Ray Charles)
Now, gimme half a pint of horn. (air sax like King Curtis)
Place on the burner and bring to a boil. That’s it, that’s it, that’s it right there.
Now, beat well.

You’re ready. Take your air instruments to 701 S. Broadway and order up some stew.

The look …
The blocks south of the moon crater that will be our new baseball stadium are an interesting stretch. At Broadway and Cerre Street, Bud Jostes’ Beale on Broadway – the block’s newest addition – appropriately sits kiddie corner to the Eugene Field House and across from BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups. Up the street is the Broadway Oyster Bar.

The Beale is housed in a pre-Civil War brick corner-storefront. Inside this juke joint, it’s all worn brick, worn wood and guitars. This isn’t some pristine, uppity lounge. Like a good blues bar, it’s small, dimly lit and has seen use. Zero TVs. One bar game. Few beer signs.

The room softly glows pink from the candles, red stage lights, red Christmas lights and red-tinted ceiling-fan lamps. Between the small stage up front and small kitchen in back, take a stool at the bar or sit at the wooden tables. Space is at such a premium that the mixing board is on the bar top. Posted on the back wall: handbills from past performers. On other brick walls: autographed electric guitars, soul-decorated chalkboards (showcasing the weekly music lineup, daily food specials and daily beer specials) and Mardi Gras paraphernalia. Compare your air guitar to the acoustic guitars on stage.

Come warm months, The Beale sacrifices indoor ambiance for the larger 200-seat patio. Weather permitting, acts hit the outdoor stage while patrons hit the outdoor bar. Look for a covered stage and extended bar awning this summer.

The scene …
Seven days a week, The Beale oozes live music – blues, soul and R&B, with some roots rock thrown in for good measure.

The multiracial crowd typically leans 30+ in age but gets younger with younger acts. These are music lovers, so people enthusiastically listen and sometimes dance. No singles scene, but a great date scene. Volume prevents much talking during sets.

Catch local acts like The Ground Floor Band and Rich McDonough, national acts like Nick Curran and the Nitelifes and Deke Dickerson, and local-now-international acts like Kim Massie. A hundred percent of the gate goes to the performers, so no grumbling about the cover.

The Beale attracts its biggest crowd for Massie and the Solid Senders every Tuesday and Thursday. Apocryphal story or not, Keith Richards described Aretha Franklin’s voice as “The voice of God.” Massie mixes the voice of God with the growling nuances of Etta James, adding the blonde hair and attitude of Lil’ Kim. In the middle of smoothly belting “Chain of Fools,” I’ve heard her playfully spit rhymes for two whole minutes.

Deservedly so, she’s gained quite a following in the blues scene, even performing in Hungary. Local dance troupe Fusion recently hosted a blues exchange, bringing people from around the nation to dance and listen to Massie.

Cardinal games bring a whole other crowd. The stadium construction is forcing fans to park further south, so new people are discovering The Beale. On busy nights after games, chill inside for free, or pay the cover and enjoy the music on the patio.

Dress casually, unless you’re dancing.

The products …
Blues and liquor go together like grandma and grandpa. Beer connoisseurs will be indecisive with Jostes’ 35 bottled varieties ($2.75 to $5) and 14 on tap (about $4). Order the usual or try McEwan’s Scotch Ale, Pilsner Urquell or Warsteiner.

Pine for your ex over scotch on the rocks (or other spirits) for $5 to $6. Contemplatively sip house wines (Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Shiraz or white Zin) for about $4.

Jostes is overly modest about his food menu, saying The Beale is a blues bar that just happens to serve food. Still, this menu features a tasty array of Cajun and Southern cuisine. Order Catfish Bites, Creole Gumbo, New Orleans Po-boys, Home-style BBQ and more. The kitchen serves until midnight.

The straight 411 …
For authentic blues, soul and R&B in an authentic setting head to Beale on Broadway.

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