Remembering Bob Reuter: St. Louis Speaks [Multiple Updates]

Categories: Local History

Evan Sult, Sleepy Kitty, Eleven Magazine

Bob Reuter's voice has been in my dreams all weekend. Mostly it's the sound of him kind of chuckling his way through the middle of a story. I seem to be focused on the funny way his lips would twist into a smile. I did my best to make him laugh when I saw an opportunity.

Bob Reuter was plenty intimidating, physically, but I never actually saw the man be an asshole to anyone, though I don't doubt the testimony. The guy I talked with was a guy who seemed to be warming up to his own life, and it was dawning on him that he was, in fact, exactly the guy he set out to be. I'm sure we all worried about how the hell he was scraping by, and maybe even how the hell he was going to handle being a broke old guy. But he sure as hell wasn't a broke old guy yet -- he was a broke artist with almost a half-century of productive work to his credit, actively working on new music, new photos, new writing. Hell, he died moving into a new space where he could get more work done, get more wild -- not less.

Everyone who dies is irreplaceable. In Bob's case, though, whole formats go down in flames. There's no replacing his radio show: those crazy screams, perverse songs ("And if that's not bad enough for the guv'nor"....), dark passages, personal shout outs, screeching needles. Other folks can talk about Wolfman Jack, but that was a long time ago and happened to someone else. Bob's Scratchy Records was right now, and it happened every Friday afternoon, and it was for St. Louis, and I'd stand it right up against old Wolfman.

And there's definitely no replacing his photographs. Hell, as far as I know, no one else in this town, and probably only a handful of photographers in the entire world, still shoot ONLY on film and print only on paper, especially so prolifically. It's a medium he owned, and it's permanent now. We're lucky that it's St. Louis he shot; he summoned and perfected through his lens a wild underground civilization of grainy, sexy, broke, loud, defiant humans in a grainy, sexy, broke, loud, defiant city.

His eyes were wise. His voice, in my dreams, is talking about all the stuff he's in the middle of making.


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