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

Categories: Local History

Little Rachel Fenton, St. Louis musician:

Bob is St. Louis, through and through, and I really learned a new appreciation for this fair city from knowing him. I am a transplant to this city. St. Louis seemed harsh and unwelcoming when I arrived... especially since I was the "new girl," moving in with the respected, established St. Louis musician. Even Mat [Wilson, Rum Drum Ramblers] did not want to go out in public in St. Louis with me much when we first started dating, because he didn't want to answer all the questions, or make me feel like I had to prove myself. He was trying to protect me, but I just felt even more like an outsider... like maybe he wasn't even sure I was going to be good enough. These St. Louis musicians were a tight bunch. They were a community...and they all looked up to Bob Reuter.

Mat was an original member of Bob Reuter's band Alley Ghost at the time I moved to St. Louis. I generally don't seek approval from others, but Bob intimidated the hell out of me. Since Mat and all his friends spoke so highly of him, I knew his approval was vital to my longevity here in St. Louis. I guess it was because he was so revered by so many talented St. Louis musicians I respected. I also knew Bob was very close friends with Mat's previous girlfriend of four-plus years. I heard he could be a bit prickly, and made no attempt to spare your feelings if he didn't like you. So, I kept my distance at first. It is literally impossible for me to be a kiss ass. Even if I tried it, I am completely incapable of it. I did seek Bob's approval, but I am unable to kiss ass to be in anyone's good favor, so I just avoided saying much at all.

What I learned in very little time is that Bob Reuter had a gift for seeing what is real, and appreciating it for being real, whether it is good or bad. I did not have to say much to get the approval I sought from him, because he knew I was genuine. I appreciated it so much that he could recognize that. He never once made me feel like I had to prove myself, and to my surprise, was completely accepting of me from day one. Bob played a song from one of my CDs on his KDHX show, Bob's Scratchy Records, even though it was a "CD," not a "record." That was one of the biggest compliments I could have imagined and one of the first times I ever truly felt accepted as a St. Louis musician. Bob knew what was real, and to get the "Bob's Seal of Approval" was an honor. His acceptance made me appreciate the tight community of the St. Louis music scene and feel more welcomed as a part of it.

I still can't believe this is how the story ends for Bob Reuter. I know he has left behind a legacy of artistic work far beyond what most artists dream of putting out there. My only hope now is that he will continue to gain the recognition in death that he should have been able to enjoy in life. Thanks, Bob, for opening so many ears and eyes to the beauty of what is real, with your music and your pictures. You will be greatly missed. This is an end of an era.

Mario Viele, St. Louis musician and engineer:

We recorded Born There in two nights. We went into Firebrand Recording, set up sixteen mics and let the band rip. The plan was to get a high-quality studio record on a garage-band's budget so we treated it like the Stones would have and just HIT. Any audio messes would be cleaned up as best they could later, and however much or little that was SO BE IT. Bob was totally on a high the whole time, he didn't want to play songs more than one or two times and if anyone wanted to cut another take he would yell stuff like, "COME ON, MOTHERFUCKERS, THIS IS ROCK & ROLL!"

There were arguments, there were broken rules, there was blood and steam and sweat and fire (like when Chris's crazy voodoo incense altar almost burned down the whole joint and we laughed like madmen), and there was a whole lot of truth. Everybody worked long and hard, and in the end we got the lightning in the bottle. Born There is a real live Midwestern rock & roll band going lo-fi on hi-fi; a reckless, off-the-rails testament to the songs Bob had written. He was so giddy with excitement that Maysam and Mat had to explain to him why he couldn't play the rough mixes on the radio; he just wanted to so bad. When he heard the test pressing it was as if he might have exploded right then. It's an amazing record, and it's for everyone.

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I heard one of Bob's ex-friends put a New Orleans style curse on him a few months ago. He had treated this person very badly, inexcusably so, in a way that only Bob could try to excuse. Kinda' makes ya wonder...though knowing Bob it probably wasn't the only time he'd been cursed. Don't think I'm disrespecting him, but he did have a nasty side. Which probably made his softer side even sweeter.

Patrick Lester
Patrick Lester

Black Friday radio show-Funny Dude,at a different level than most peoples minds operant on!


Known Bob Henry Reuter as people say off and on since 1968. Don "Frankie" tomazi, DeAndreis, North St. Louis his mom . . . Dinosaur days, Kamikazee Cowboy photos books . . . Watched over him in intensive care twice . . . Was in my wedding "uncle" to my kids . . . He was no saint but he was real . . . Like any real artist he was sometimes a jerk . . . but I can say that like so many others there is a big hole in my cynical old heart . . . I loved the man, his music, his art . . . And his struggles Bob was no saint but he was a "real" artist and appealed to the better angels in all of us flawed and sometimes dark but ALL heart no surrender


I was never a fan of Bob Reuter.  I listened to his radio show at times; I saw him perform around town.  I never connected with his rowdy radio host personality or with him as a performer.  I didn't dislike him, it's just that I never connected with him in a way that made me want to hear more.  I believe we had some things in common; he attended some of the same shows I attended and we had mutual friends.

All this being said, when I heard about his tragic death over the weekend I was compelled to follow the story.  I was shocked; I wanted to know what had happened and why.  We are still waiting for some of those answers and we may never know some of them.  As I followed the story, I began to read the tributes about him, written by friends and fans.  I listened to his songs in a way I never had before; I looked at his photography and thought "WOW!".  I began to see something that I had never seen before, never noticed, never sought out.  I saw that he put his heart into the things that he did, the way he lived his life.  He was completely himself, and he didn't care who liked him and who didn't.

What I started to really see is that he was the type of person that I aspire to be.  He made a mark.  He influenced people by what he did and who he was.  Not everybody will recognize this influence but it is there.  I started to feel a kinship with him by realizing that he was motivated by the same thing that motivates me: a passion and love for art and creativity.  I realized that I write songs and record them so that people will know me better after I am gone.  I do this for my daughter first and foremost, so she will someday know me as a person and not just as a parent.  She will know what/who I loved, what I cared about, and how I struggled.  I also do this for my family and friends, and anyone else who cares to listen.

There are two very valuable lessons we can learn from Bob's life.  First, be who you are and don't be afraid to show it.  Second, appreciate those people around you while they are here, rather than when they are gone.  Thanks Bob!


Bob made himself important almost casually, by recording and releasing the first DIY punk rock single I remember seeing. There were no covers, just plain white sleeves, but the label had a wild, crude, howling figure decked out like a punk on one side, and that was enough. Up until this point, most of the musicians around town had only vague ideas about recording music, which seemed like something only signed musicians were allowed to do. Bob's now commonplace act, of doing it himself, was a radical invention to every band that saw it. You have to understand what this meant to St. Louis: Bob literally jump-started the entire scene with this 45 record. 

The Dinosaurs played with all the earliest punk bands of the late 70s. The Retros, The Camaros, The Felons. But Bob didn't look punk to us. He looked old, with his beard and his balding hair, his plain cowboy shirts, so many of the kids and punks rejected him, not so violently, but by limiting their enthusiasm. And soon after getting everyone whipped up with that record, Bob went away to Syracuse, and we all wondered what happened to the Dinosaurs.

Through the years, I kept going back to the Dinosaurs. The first big punk band! Rock'n'Roll Morons! The ancient shows, dim in memory, the excitement of something radical and new happening.

When he came back through, punk rock had curdled into the formula of the 80s that reached it's most formulaic height in the band Green Day decades later. Bob was now singing country music, and this was even more radical than I might be able to get across. There was probably no time in the musical landscape when country music was more unhip than the mid 80s. Bob seemed irredeemably lost to most people in the local music scene. He must have been bitterly angry about the lack of attention he suffered back then, but he still had his fans, just not the cool, cruel, trend-loving alternative kids. 

But Bob never stopped playing, he just got better. His band Kamikaze Kowboy suddenly seemed to fit into the scene a little more naturally, as Uncle Tupelo and Diamond Stud started throwing down country covers, and Uncle Tupelo started writing songs that had a strong country influence, much like what Bob had been doing without any recognition. They blew up big time, and Bob continued, with a bigger fan base, doing his rock and country hybrid, with Kamikaze Kowboy, throughout the 90s.

In 2000, after a couple of minor recordings, he recorded his greatest alt-country CD, Down In America, and seemed to have reached a kind of peak, at least of songwriting and critical recognition. But Kamikaze Kowboy kind of fell apart, and Bob mostly played solo most of the time, and could be seen working the door at Frederick's Music Lounge. A lot of people who he became close to got to know him then, as an old guy who did a lot of solo gigs and sold photos in bars.

His comeback, after nearly dying of a heart attack, was mythic, inspiring, glorious. That bitterness, that anger, that resentment of seeing everyone else get their slice of the glory finally started to fade, a little, though the habit was hard to break. A lot of people through the years could never understand Bob's distance, his anger, his sharp edges, but through the years of never-ending struggle just to have a toehold in the music scene while shallow stars shot up and faded away around him, he managed to use that anger as fuel to keep going, to keep true; always offering us a chance to see how brightly he could shine.


Bob once told me that for all that he had a million contacts in his phone, there was only maybe one or two people he could really call when he was in need of help. He felt his "friendships" were very superficial, that he never got close to people. "Everyone I get really close to always leaves me and you're prolly going to leave me, too" he'd say. I don't think people left him so much as he drove them away. He'd get abusive and alienating and controlling. That, and his racism and his borderline perverted desire for young girls did, in fact, drive me away, too. It's sad to me, because the part of him that was gold was 24 kt solid. We were very close, for a very short time, until his demons took over. I hope when he crossed the River Styx he left those demons on the far shore, and I hope he is now really resting in peace...

bill.streeter topcommenter

@jasminblu59 I think that Bob's obvious human flaws is part of what makes him attractive as an artist. That he could have these deep personal shortcomings and still contribute something wonderful to the world is something we can all learn from. He knew he had demons, he acknowledged them, he wasn't proud of them but he was able to expose them to the light of day and examine them in public through his music and writing and we're all better off for this. 

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