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

Categories: Local History

Musician Eric Gebhardt, better known as Red Mouth, wanted to share a story that Bob wrote about the first time they met, as a tribute. It follows here, with minimal editing to preserve Reuter's inimitable tone:

"Me and Red Mouth: Well, I still got no money but am trying to ride loose in the saddle, so I had this cat named "Red Mouth" come in right after the radio show...let me start that over. I met this guy on Myspace -- not even sure how we became friends but he contacted me saying he was coming up here and could I maybe hook him up for a gig. Well, I couldn't but told him I could get him on the radio and then we'd see what we could do.

So I scheduled some studio time right after my show on Friday and he drove up from Springfield, Missouri, where he had played the night before. That's about a three hour drive, and he literally just gets out of the car and walks in sets up his shit and performs in front of four of us, who he don't know from Adam -- and he fucking just ruled!!! I mean he brings in this wooden platform that he sits a stool on and pounds his foot. And the platform's about four inches high -- and so it amplifies it -- so all of a sudden this six foot three kid with long stringy red hair, his eyes get real big, lines form on his face and he's all like...crazy. And this voice comes out of him that's like some seventy year old man who's possessed by the fucking devil or somethin'. It's like the devil's defiantly in the room -- like he's eaten up Harry Smith's dead body and is spewin' every mutilated confederate soldier, wound or insult the south's ever taken -- every dead mule!!

And the studio's already backed up cause it's Twangfest weekend and they've got bands stacked up like planes over Laguardia, and somebody with a stop watch is policing Red Mouth's one hour jealously... and BOOM! everybody just stops what they're doing at that moment and silently stares into the studio.

So anyway, there's this guy from fucking Alabama, and I want to buy him a meal or something, but I got no money and neither did he so I come up with this idea. And we go down to U. City and play on the sidewalk in front of Vintage Vinyl -- out on the sidewalk, the two of us. And there's all these college kids and tourists and young black kids and the whole Twangfest crowd (it was alt-country weekend and all these liberal young professionals were going to that, and that was weird cause I know a bunch of them and they were sneaking by kind of like I was embarrassing for them...) Anyway, we wound up making like $48 which we kinda split -- gave him the extra eight bucks and we took twenty a piece and then we went and bought a roasted chicken at the grocery store, and tore that apart with a little container of potato salad. And then we went down to a bar downtown, the Tap Room, and watched Magic City, Peck of Dirt and some out of town band called Slick who were nothing if not the living embodiment of Black Oak Arkansas, complete with a heavier version of Jim Dandy himself. It was kind of a warped southside anti-Twangfest celebration with all my southside rocker pals.

Then Saturday we slept half the day then ate Mexican down on Cherokee street, where I introduced him to this wonderful trash pile of a "drugstore" we got called Globe Drug, where you can buy all kinds of railroad salvage bargains for hardly anything. Red Mouth buys himself a case of energy drinks for six bucks -- he says they taste like ass but he's got to stay up twelve hours to get back to the Gulf! So we ate Mexican down there, (the street's kind of a little barrio of it's own, so there's plenty o' great places down there to tie the feedbag on) and then we went to this party that my band, Alley Ghost, was playing that night for this friend's 47th birthday.

This house is owned by this great couple named Ross and Kim, who are both unbelievable cooks/punks/hippies/really cool folks with a huge garden and about seven dogs and cats, and this wonderfully bizarre house that they moved into and forged out of the ghetto wilderness. They lived there for at least two years with no electric power or heat. Anyway, given the playing that me and Red Mouth had just done the night before we worked out a deal for me and my band to back him up -- so he did a gig after all! It was fucking great! We played in a bedroom on the third floor, filled with about thirty people in the room and bout twenty more in the room just below us downstairs. Red Mouth became the old crazy fucker again, just a-slappin' his tamborine and stompin' his foot for like two songs, and then we got up behind him and jammed on another two songs, which together went about ten minutes. And all we were doing was jammin' around a G chord on either one -- it was like some crazy-ass white boy hill country trancin' shit like ol' RL Burnsides used t'do.

Damn man, my band's the fucking best, too. I mean they hadn't ever even seen this cat before, let alone heard his music, and we were just wreckin' the room -- Red Mouth kept turnin' his head to look at me with this big shit eatin' grin on his face. "GET RIGHT CHURRRRCCCHH!!" he was a-shoutin'! Then he moved over and we kicked into our own set. Christ, the room went wild! I kept on lookin' out into the crowd and could see kids mouths movin' like they knew my words by heart -- they were singin' along, pumpin' their fists and just dancin!! Hee hee!

By the time we got done it was like 3 a.m. Red Mouth grabbed him a last beer and I went around with my hat, beggin' Red Mouth some gas money for his trip back to the Gulf. S'mazing how big drunken hearts can be -- he made enough for gas and for us to eat one more meal! It was 5 a.m. by the time we got back to my crib, and we just crashed -- he slept in my front room on a water-stained futon that took up the whole floor. We slept till noon the next day and went out to my fave natural foods restaurant (Shangrala!) to do our usual Sunday brunch (the owner has named our little group as the "hipster Algonquin round table"). Well, we ate our fill and then he hit the road back south about three in the afternoon. I'm gonna play his session on this week's radio show -- little bits of it anyway! Fuck. What a weekend. Wish they were all this good! -b"

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13 comments
archangel666
archangel666

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!

CLEMENSBYRON000
CLEMENSBYRON000

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

SocRandom
SocRandom

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!

tonypatti
tonypatti

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.

jasminblu59
jasminblu59

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
bill.streeter

@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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