The landmark Blueberry Hill restaurant, bar and music venue in suburban St. Louis is marking its 50th year in business today.
Blueberry Hill isn’t on Route 66, but it’s such a touchstone, quite a few Route 66 travelers make a side trip to it. It’s only a mile from the admittedly more obscure Forest Park Parkway alignment of the highway.
Joe Edwards opened Blueberry Hill on Sept. 8, 1972, in a run-down section of the Delmar Loop in the nearby St. Louis suburb of University City.
Blueberry Hill became the catalyst for the rejuvenation of that district; it’s now one of the most popular areas in the St. Louis metro.
Edwards, who still owns the venue, talked to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
“I figured I’d try to open a place where I could program the jukebox with my record collection,” Edwards says. Every couple of weeks, he would rotate singles from his stash of 30,000 into the classic Seeburg jukebox. “I hoped people would enjoy it.”
They did. The original Blueberry Hill jukebox was named the best in America by Billboard and Esquire and the best in the world by the BBC.
“John Goodman and his friends would come in and pump quarter after quarter into the jukebox and play air guitar and sing along loudly,” Edwards says of the actor, a St. Louis native.
Blueberry Hill also has hosted a slew of concerts over the decades in its basement, including more than 200 by the father of rock ‘n’ roll, Chuck Berry.
I’d been fortunate to see about a half-dozen shows by Berry at Blueberry Hill — including a couple with his longtime pianist Johnny Johnson — before Berry died at age 90 a few years ago.
Blueberry Hill also has a display containing Berry’s guitar on which he composed his most famous song, “Johnny B. Goode.” Understandably, the guitar is encased in glass under high electronic security.
Blueberry Hills contains a ton of classic toys from Edwards’ collection, plus dozens of photographs of him standing with assorted music icons.
As a longtime St. Louis-area resident, I grew to appreciate Blueberry Hill over the years. It draws everyone from families, tourists, hipsters, punkers, Washington University students and working-class stiffs. The burgers-and-fries menu is excellent, and its draft beer selection is top-notch. It’s far better than just a tourist trap.
(Image of Blueberry Hill’s neon sign in University City, Missouri, by Jason Wolff via Flickr)