Music Research Guide

The state of Missouri has a diverse musical history and is home to several unique musical genres. The people who came here brought their music with them, including French fiddle tunes, waltzes and ballads from Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, and gospel and blues from the South. In several instances, Missourians put their own unique spin on these musical traditions.

Missouri is significant for new types of music, including bluegrass, ragtime, jazz, and blues. African American musicians Scott Joplin of Sedalia and William J. “Blind” Boone of Columbia were instrumental in creating and popularizing ragtime music. After W. C. Handy wrote the tune, “St. Louis Blues,” in 1914, the city became home to a new blues style that relied heavily on piano. Kansas City developed its own kind of jazz throughout the 1930s and turned out notable musicians such as Count Basie and Charlie Parker. In addition to these popular musical genres, symphonic music has long been popular in Missouri's larger cities, especially St. Louis and Kansas City. Thus, Missouri's contributions to music are as diverse as the state’s citizenry.

Articles from Missouri Historical Review and Missouri Times

          "Bluegrass Time in the Show-Me State." Missouri Historical Review 112 (October 2017): 23-45.


Many of the State Historical Society of Missouri’s holdings are included in the SHSMO online catalog. Numerous titles can be found by typing the keyword “music” into the catalog search bar. The State Historical Society of Missouri has a large sheet music collection in the Columbia research center. These items may be located by using the key words “sheet music” in the catalog search bar, or by doing an author or title search.

Digital Collections

Historic Missourian Biographies

The State Historical Society's Historic Missourians website has an entire category devoted to musicians in Missouri, consisting of 6 biographies on Missouri musicians. Each biography includes images, primary resources, and other references for further study.


The State Historical Society of Missouri's manuscript collections contain many titles of primary source materials related to music.

View All Music Manuscript Collections


  • The Riverfront Times. St. Louis, MO.: Hartmann Pub. Co. (Uncatalogued)
  • New Music Circular. St. Louis, MO.: New Music Circle. (Uncatalogued)
  • Eleven Magazine. St. Louis, MO.: Eleven Media Group [H235.71 El27]