Adapted from a handbill (ca. 1913) for his Concert Company
I have know Boone since he wore short dresses and can truthfully say he has not an enemy in the world. As an entertainer, I believe him to be the greatest man living today. This is a broad statement, but we can prove it by facts.
He has been on the road thirty year and given more piano recitals than any other man living. He has never been to a town or city that he did not have a return date to a paying business.… Our record show a continuous period of the thirty years of ten months each, and six concerts a week, which would make 7200 concerts. The distance would average 20 miles a day, or 144,000 miles, with sleeping in probably 7000 beds. Paid to churches, halls and charities an average of $25 a day. $180,000.* About three artists a week play for Boone, or about 3,000 artists,** many of them well known to the musical world….
In his own home in Columbia, Mo., Boone owns a Chickering, a Steinway, an Estey, and several other makes. Columbia is the seat of the State University, the Athens of Missouri, where he has thousands of visitors every year. The people of Columbia take great pleasure in pointing out his home to strangers. One can discover that he has not wasted his time or money. Thousands of men with good eyes have not done nearly so well.
The question is often asked “How does Boone keep so well posted in music?” Ever since there have been self-playing pianos, Boone has had one. He has at last succeeded in getting a Cecilian that plays 88 notes. It would interest one to see the pleasure Boone gets out of it. He has a large musical library—Beethoven’s works, Liszt’s, Chopin’s and all the old masters. He puts in day and night with these. The most difficult pieces he masters in a few hours, and ordinary pieces he can reproduce after hearing them only once.
Boone has had more eminent artists play for him than any other living man and he never forgets a voice nor the shake of a hand. Any person who has every played for Boone a piece of merit is always remembered. I have known him to reproduce for friends music they had played for him thirty years before, and the persons themselves have forgotten they ever knew the piece till Boone reminded them of the circumstance. Boone never sulks as did his famous predecessor, Blind Tom, nor does he allow anyone else to sulk around him. His favorite saying is ‘Just as you live, just so you die.’ He says time is too short and sweet to please the devil a minute.
Boone is charitable, and I have been authorized by him whenever I see a deserving person in need of assistance, to assist such person in his name. He has never allowed a boy or girl to stand outside if there is room within. It would amuse you to see him some evening with a string of boys and girls coming to the concert and saying to his manager: Mr. Lange, these are my little friends, take care of them.” If there was no room in the audience, I must seat them on the stage before he would begin.
We have the testimony of hundreds of parents who gave him the credit for the success of their children. They would see his wonderful work on the piano and go home to imitate him, fall in love with the piano and today are eminent artists. He would tell them that when he was a poor little blind boy his mother would go to work for the white people who would allow him to play on their instruments and in this helped him to his present eminence. He does not believe in natural ability. He says if one wants to be great in any line one must study and practice hard, and has encouraged many boys and girls to make a new start in music.
*Adjusted for inflation, this figure would be about $4.4 million today.
**A Boone concert usually featured an appearance by a talented local pianist, whose performance Boone might afterward imitate note-for- note, with comments on its musical structure.