Tag Archives: Blueberry Hill

IT’S BECAUSE I WRITE 8/10

I have been doing a bit of a retrospective over my three years of writing by listing the top 10 things that have happened to me since I have started writing.

Topics Covered So Far:

#1 of 10 – My O.P.U.S. Blog

#2 of 10 – Bourbon Zeppelin

#3 of 10 – Meeting a Hero of Mine

#4 of 10 – My Love Affair with Hawaii

#5 of 10 – The Time My Books Were Featured on TV

#6 of 10 – The Story I Took 35 Years to Complete

#7 of 10 – Bourbon Mixology

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Telephone Call with a St. Louis Legend

Almost as long as I can remember, I’ve  been a fan of local businessman Joe Edwards. As a kid, he was the owner of Blueberry Hill, a local restaurant that was really well known in the area. Joe had opened it way back in 1972.

Joe Edwards_009_hi-res

Joe Edwards at Blueberry Hill, picking out items for the opening of his new Peacock Diner

Inside the restaurant was an eclectic gathering of pop culture items. Lunch boxes, Howdy Doody memorabilia, board games, movie and concert posters and much more filled every nook and cranny of the restaurant. I first became a fan of Joe’s when he made the local news when the creator of Archie comics came in to dine during a visit to St. Louis. As he was looking at Joe’s impressive collection of memorabilia, he noticed one piece of Archie memorabilia he didn’t have in his personal collection but had been searching for: an lunchbox from the early years of the comic.

The creator of the comics tried to buy the lunchbox, but Joe Edwards wouldn’t sell it. Instead, Joe offered a trade. If the Archie creator would put Joe in an Archie comic he would give him the lunchbox.

Deal!

That’s right, a few months later, Archie and the gang go out on a road trip and stopped by Blueberry Hill to meet “cartoon Joe Edwards.”

Man, I was hooked. If you could parlay a lunchbox into getting your mug in a comic book… now that’s business I can understand.

I went on a mission to go to Blueberry Hill, but, my Dad, who was a policeman, wouldn’t take me there. “It’s a bar and it’s in too bad of a neighborhood,” he’d tell me.

The next several years, I continued to catch Joe in the paper promoting Blueberry Hill. When he noticed people writing on the bathroom walls… he noted that the stuff they were writing was either funny or oddly insightful. Deep thoughts kind of stuff. So he encouraged it. You could ask for markers at the bar and write on the walls of the bathroom. Then Joe would take the best sayings and sell them on these “graffiti shirts.”

Dad, “Can will you take me to Blueberry Hill to get one of those graffiti shirts?”

I think you can guess his answer.

But…

Fast forward to when I turn 16.

Guess where the first place I went?

Yep, Blueberry Hill.

Burger, malt and one of those graffiti t-shirts!

Joe was even there.

I’ve continued to go to Blueberry Hill and Joe’s often there. I can’t say I’ve ever said anything more than “Hi” but I’ve continued to follow what he’s done for the area, “The U-City Loop” where Blueberry Hill is domiciled.

What used to be vacant buildings, or drug paraphernalia and voodoo shops is now a vibrant area of restaurants and respectable businesses. Much of this is due to Joe’s efforts. He started buying up property and investing in the area. Soon he owned a hotel, more restaurants, a bowling alley and two music venues in the area. He also headed up the St. Louis Walk of Fame which honors individuals who have lived in St. Louis and contributed to society in some way with a star on the sidewalks of the Loop.

The Loop Trolley

His latest project is an impressive one. He’s bringing trolley cars back to St. Louis. He’s navigated the local regulators for approval and even the Federal government for funding to create a line that will take you from Forest Park, which is a large urban park in St. Louis city where you can enjoy the outdoors and museums to the Loop where you can enjoy amenities like restaurants and shopping. It’s such a great idea it’s unbelievable. On a personal basis, I can’t wait for this to get completed. My Dad’s father, my grandfather, was a trolley car driver in St. Louis. It will just be special for me to ride one of these trolley cars my father used to tell me so much about.

All of this gets me to the story. I just wanted to set the stage to tell you how important Joe Edwards is to St. Louis, and specifically the area known as The Loop, as well as how much I’ve followed his career… from a distance. After my father passed away, and I started writing, the first real book I was working on was the book about my father, Life with Akester.

Part of the book was going to occur at Blueberry Hill. I was going to a couple of concerts at the restaurant (they have an unbelievable concert venue called the Duck Room underneath Blueberry Hill that the “retro-fitted” after it opened by digging out underneath the restaurant). I thought I had better check with Blueberry Hil to make sure this was going to be okay since I would be writing about them and taking some photos for the book.

I sent an email and the woman who responded said I really needed to call her.

I thought this wasn’t good. Was she going to tell me I couldn’t write the book? Why did she need to speak to me?

So, I dialed the number she gave me. We spoke briefly. She said they were fine with the concept of the book. They even had some photos I could use. I started asking a little bit about the history of the restaurant when she said, Joe would be better off answering these questions.

“Joe Edwards?,” I asked.

“Yes, Joe,” she responded.

“Do I set up a time?” I inquired.

“No, he’s here right now, hold on.”

In the background, I hear her say, “Joe, this is Steve from the email. He’s asking about the history of Blueberry Hill.”

Next thing you know… I’m talking to Joe Edwards.

The call was great. Do you know how when you look up to someone, you just want them to be human. When I was a kid I used to idolize baseball players. I’d play street ball and you would stand at the plate with the mannerisms of the ballplayers you liked. All of my friends did it. We used to wait for the opposing team’s players by the hotel right by the stadium for autographs. It was amazing. So many of them would yell at us. Here I am, a 10 year old kid who just wants an autograph of the guy I’m acting like at the plate, and here he is screaming at me. “Don’t you kids have anything better to do.” It’s me, my fellow 10 year old neighbor and his 3 year old brother. Not an overwhelming amount of people mind you.

Anyway, you just want these people to be… people. Well, that phone call with Joe couldn’t have gone any better. He answered every question. Took an interest in my project asking me about it. Just a great guy.

I continue to look up to Joe Edwards for everything he’s done for the area. Most of all, I respect those 30 minutes he spent talking to me about my Dad and my book.

This all happened for one reason…

It’s because I write!

_______________________

Write Steve Write! is a weekly blog by author Steve Akley. Typically it is posted on (most) Sundays and features insight about his writing… though there is an occasional movie review or random thought post. It should be noted it’s posted as a live feed… no editing, no planning beforehand, it’s typed out on Sunday morning and the “publish” button is immediately hit. Apologies for any errors but you get this just as Steve thinks it!

Coming Sunday: We’ll be continuing on with my “It’s Because I Write” series next week!

In the meantime, follow check in on Steve in a variety of ways:

Steve’s Catalog on Amazon: http://goo.gl/kJpKcP

The OPUS Blog: steveakley.tumblr.com

Evan Haskill’s Blog: I am a contributor here: thebourbonguyandrye.com

Sign Up for Steve’s SAP News (writing updates) Newsletter: Email Registration

Sign up for Bourbon Zeppelin (bourbon newsletter): Email Registration

Check out the latest issue of Bourbon Zeppelin: See it here!

Twitter: @steveakley

Instagram: @steveakley

What’s App: Steve Akley

Untappd: steveakley

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IT’S BECAUSE I WRITE 3/10

This is the third edition of my “It’s Because I Write” series featuring me talking about some of the greatest things that have happened to me since I’ve started writing. So far, I’ve talked about meeting great people via my O.P.U.S. blog and living out a lifelong dream of publishing my own magazine with Bourbon Zeppelin (even if my “magazine” is an online newsletter).

Today I’m going to tell you all about the time I got to meet one of my heroes… thanks to my writing.

I will tell you right away, I am still a “heroes” guy. I know celebrities are people just like us, but, even in adulthood, I’m still the type to get starstruck by someone who has accomplished something of interest to me in the pubic eye. That’s what makes this little tale to much fun. I got to meet someone I’ve always looked up to based largely because I had become a writer.

It all started with a business trip to London for a trade show. This was the winter of 2013, shortly after my father passed away. I was in a small pub enjoying a few beers with a colleague. With our American accents, the waitress asked us where we were from. When we told her St. Louis she had never heard of it. As we were having this discussion, Johnny B. Goode came on the radio. Since we were having the discussion where we were from, and St. Louis meant nothing to her, I thought I would at least make the point it wasn’t in the middle of nowhere by pointing out Chuck Berry was from St. Louis, too, so I said, “Hear this song… the guy playing it is also from St. Louis.”

To my surprise, she responded in her way cool English accent, “You are from where CHUCK BERRY lives? Oh my god!”

What?

A woman who hasn’t heard of St. Louis knows Chuck Berry?

When I asked her about this, she went on-and-on about how everyone knows Chuck Berry and how influential he is.

I thought I would really get her going by saying, “Get this, Chuck is not only still around, he plays once a month at a club called Blueberry Hill. It’s just a small intimate place where you can see him play for about 30 U.S. dollars.”

I thought that would really get a fan going and fill her with envy of how cool my colleague and I were as well as how great of a place St. Louis must be.

Instead, she got me with this line. “That is so great. How many times have you gone and seen Chuck play there?”

Ummmmmmmmmmm……

None.

That’s right, despite being a big fan, I never had gone to see Chuck play. It’s just one of those things where you always plan to do it… but you never actually have the time.

These comments where like a defibrillator zapping my heart. With the sudden death of my father only 2 months before, things had changed in my life. I no longer was going to have eternal “to dos” that never get “to done.” (That makes no sense but sounds kinda snappy, doesn’t it?)

When I spoke to my wife later that night, I told her to buy some tickets to the next Chuck Berry show at Blueberry Hill.

The next night, when I spoke to her, she confirmed she got the tickets for Chuck Berry, but then she said, “You know that one guy you like, Dick Dale, he’s playing there a few weeks later.”

Whooooooaaaaa!

Dick Dale? The King of the Surf Guitar. The guy who was friends with Jimi Hendrix. A guy I would pattern my own writing career off of (stay independent, retain the rights to everything you create, don’t let others make decisions about your work for you). The guy who can play the guitar like no other. The man who created the sound of one of my all-time favorite movies in Pulp Fiction with his song Miserlou.

Yes, that Dick Dale.

So the wife and I agreed to also get tickets to see Dick Dale as well.

At this same time, I had already started to write a book about my father. Ultimately, it would become the book, Life with Akester (my Dad’s nickname) that included a biography and some of the favorite stories I had collected about him (I always wrote these crazy stories about the stuff he would do… and then share them with friends and family, including him. This was the best of those).

Since I was going to be writing the book, I thought I would write Dick Dale to make sure it was okay to write about the experience of the concert in this book about my father. His wife Lana responded and put me in touch with their lawyer. I was pleasantly surprised to have their representative quickly sign off on my idea.

I continued to email back-and-forth with Lana as the show grew near. We would share personal stories about our lives… me talking about my father and her talking about things from the life of her and Dick (I’m not going to share personal correspondence, but it was really cool).

The night of the show was incredible. We got there early and ended up in the front row (there is no assigned seating at Blueberry Hill).

In his late 70s, a multi-time cancer survivor, the guy can still rock. The band has no setlist either. Dick Dale just starts playing and his band follows him with whatever he’s doing.

Dick Dale.JPG

One of the many great shots I got of Dick Dale playing that night

The show ended with Dick playing Miserlou.

I’m not kidding when I had goosebumps watching that guy play that song. It goes fast… and then faster… and then explosively fast. I’ve seen a lot of shows in my life, I don’t think any moment from all of those shows tops watching DD shred that song.

After the show I got to meet Dick and Lana. He’s a cool dude and she’s a sweetheart.

DD Guitar.jpg

I got a bunch of items signed that night, including this mini Dick Dale guitar

My book came out a few months later. I shared the story of grief and how a couple of things, like the Dick Dale and Chuck Berry shows truly helped me at that time. I was so down. The enjoyment of those shows demonstrated you could still have guilt-free happiness even in the face of something as traumatic as losing your father.

I stayed in touch with Lana and Dick for the next year or so after that. We even exchanged Christmas cards later that year, but, over time, the communications became further-and-further apart. I wanted to maintain contact with them, but never wanted to force communication so finally it just kind of faded away.

My enthusiasm for Dick Dale and his work has faded a bit, though. The guy is still a hero of mine and I would love to see him play again one day.

All of this came about because I write!

_______________________

Write Steve Write! is a weekly blog by author Steve Akley. Typically it is posted on (most) Sundays and features insight about his writing… though there is an occasional movie review or random thought post. It should be noted it’s posted as a live feed… no editing, no planning beforehand, it’s typed out on Sunday morning and the “publish” button is immediately hit. Apologies for any errors but you get this just as Steve thinks it!

Coming Sunday: We’ll be continuing on with my “It’s Because I Write” series next week!

In the meantime, follow check in on Steve in a variety of ways:

Steve’s Catalog on Amazon: http://goo.gl/kJpKcP

The OPUS Blog: steveakley.tumblr.com

Evan Haskill’s Blog: I am a contributor here: thebourbonguyandrye.com

Sign Up for Steve’s Newsletters: Email Registration

Twitter: @steveakley

Instagram: @steveakley

What’s App: Steve Akley

Untappd: steveakley