Another Quiet Gentle St. Louis Arts Icon passes. Remembering Blake Travis
Blake Travis.ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
When Blake Travis told stories to children, they would start out sitting six feet away from him. By the end of the story, they had inched up so close, they were right at his feet.
“Their excitement and openness is my reward,” he told an interviewer in 2006.
Mr. Travis died Friday (Feb. 26, 2010) at his home in Webster Groves. He was recently hospitalized for congestive heart failure, diabetes and kidney failure. He was 60.
He was proud that he was able to earn his living as a professional musician, storyteller and actor.
He sang, played an assortment of percussion instruments and recorded songs, most often with the bands the Dangerous Kitchen and the Road Apples and, earlier, with singer Joe Bidewell. He played jazz, rock, funk and soul, country-rock and Cajun.
His storytelling took him across the country. He acted out vignettes about bias and led discussions on the topics. He described his stories as traditional African, African-American, Native American, European and Asian.
His stories were for adults as well as children. They were meant to entertain, he said, “but they still have a moral.”
Mr. Travis grew up in Webster Groves, the eldest of four children. He studied the oboe in fourth grade and graduated from Webster Groves High School.
He was one of the student participants in the legendary CBS documentary “16 in Webster Groves,” which aired in the mid-1960s.
He attended St. Louis Community College at Meramec, then performed in San Francisco, Colorado and with Billy Crystal in New York.
He was 15 when he got his first paying gig. By 1993, he was still supporting himself with a day job as manager of a school bus company. He decided it was time to become a full-time artist.
“I believe in the arts,” he later recalled, “and I wanted to influence others in a positive way.”
He credited his wife, Annette, for helping him make the career move. The night they met, she said, she knew they would marry.
“I wrote a letter that night to ‘My dearest Blake on my wedding day,'” she recalled.
She planned to give it to him on their wedding day. “But I forgot it and had to give it to him later.”
Kathy Corley, an area filmmaker, is making a film about Mr. Travis’ life.
Visitation will be 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday and 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. Friday at the First Baptist Church of Webster Groves, 3251 South Brentwood Boulevard. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the church. Burial will be at Valhalla Cemetery.
In addition to his wife, among the survivors are two daughters, Morgan Travis and Lilah Travis, both of Webster Groves; a son, Josh Travis of Collinsville; his mother, Jessie Travis of Webster Groves; two sisters, Linda Clay of Kirkwood and Loretta Travis of St. Louis County; and three grandchildren.
I remember Blake playing percussion in the late 80’s and early 90’s with the Road Apples. They came on our bluegrass show on KDHX for membership drives. They did a great job playing and Blake was terrific. I know he was an intregal part of the folk culture in St. Louis. I did not know Blake well but Naomi and I both remember him as a kind and loving soul who gave of himself 24-7-365.
St. Louis has lost two wonderful people recently. Larry Weir and now Blake Travis. Too early in the year and too soon in their lives. I hope he’s banging on congas and telling the angels stories, especially all of those little kids who passed away too soon.
God bless him.
with Naomi Soule and Farbee the Seeing Eye Dog.
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