Based on research conducted by Jack Batterson, Christine Montgomery, and Mike Shaw, written by Doug Hunt
John Lange, Jr., Boone’s brilliant manager and dear friend, died on July 13, 1916, and was interred in what was said to be the most elegant and expensive funeral service Kansas City had ever seen. The service was probably funded by Boone out of the Company’s financial reserves. Boone collapsed at the graveside, sobbing.
Within a week, however, he was on the road again, playing a sold-out concert in Lawrence, Kansas. For two years, Boone held the Company together without a manager, relying on his new principal singer, Marguerite Boyd, to handle correspondence and keep books and on his seasoned advance man, Alfred Coffin, to scout venues and manage publicity. Thus the troupe survived a heavy blow and continued to be one of the few successful entertainment companies owned and managed by African-Americans.
In 1918, Marguerite Boyd married John Day, a successful Kansas City contractor. Boone chose to bring Day on as manager, and so began a fresh era in the Company’s history. Under Day’s influence, Boone undertook the “Big East Coast Tour” of 1918-1920, playing venues in Baltimore, Washington, Trenton, Providence, New York, and Philadelphia, as well as appearing at Yale and Harvard. This highly successful tour, which ended with an extended stay in Chicago, might have marked the high-water mark of Boone’s national fame, but it drained his energy. He began to talk about retiring or at least reducing his bookings. Nonetheless, the Company kept up a full schedule for the next two seasons, traveling through several states and venturing as far from home as Ohio.
On June 24, 1922, John Day was struck and killed by a taxicab in Chicago. Once again, Boone held the company together, finishing a season that included an appearance with the boxing champion Jack Dempsey on the Fourth of July. Over the next five years, the management of the company seems to have been partly in Boone’s own hands and partly in the hands of Joe Hendrix, his nephew, and of Wayne B. Allen, the owner of a Columbia music store. Nearly sixty years old, hampered by difficulties in walking and breathing, Boone restricted his appearances to Missouri and the adjacent states. He continued to perform brilliantly, sometimes before large audiences like the 2500 who turned out in Pittsburgh, Kansas, in 1924, but sometimes before small audiences for a flat fee of as little as $40. His financial situation declined along with his health.
By the time he gave his final concert in Virden, Illinois, on May 31, 1927, he was showing unmistakable signs of congestive heart failure (then termed “dropsy”). Nonetheless, he concluded the Virden performance with his most famous and physically demanding composition, “The Marshfield Tornado.” When he returned to Columbia, he talked publicly about retirement, but privately began to plan for another season. On October 4 he traveled to Warrensburg to visit Samuel Hendrix, his stepbrother. He died of a heart attack that evening. Three days later, his funeral service was conducted at the Second Baptist Church in Columbia and he was buried in the Columbia Cemetery.