Remembering Bob Reuter: St. Louis Speaks [Multiple Updates]
Jason Holler, St. Louis musician, Kentucky Knife Fight
With a summertime head cold and two tall glasses of wine behind me, I would like to talk about the recent passing of Bob Reuter.
Our band owes a great debt to Bob. He was the first DJ to play us on the radio. Even though we hadn't pressed vinyl. Even though we were this young unknown band from Illinois. He would still give our CD a spin. Often times he would tastefully tuck our song between the Replacements and some rarity by Jerry Lee Lewis.
Many people knew Bob as the Friday afternoon madman, someone who documented St. Louis with his camera, a songwriter, a musician, a North side native with stories to tell, a South side curmudgeon with a wry wit and dark sense of humor, and a guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of rock n roll.
For me, Bob was all those things. It was my pleasure to be interviewed by him. It was my pleasure to be photographed by him. It was my pleasure to know him. He was a friend and constant supporter.
Bob and I admired tragedy. We would talk about it at length. We would joke about horrible things, awful things. Humor was our defense against a cruel and uncaring world. Music was our direct line to the beauty and potential of human beings.
There was one lunch in particular where I informed him that Chopin had supposedly requested to be buried without his heart due to a lifelong fear of being buried alive. Bob laughed with a mouthful of pasta. After he chewed, swallowed, and wiped his mouth he added in a low voice, "man, that's pretty twisted."
During the same lunch we listed off what we considered the most deceptively depressing songs ever recorded. I declared Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" the most deceptively depressing. I built up this five minute long case. It was fully equipped with a line by line dissection of the tune and I even emphasized my argument with wild hand gestures.
"Yeah, that's a pretty good one," Bob responded dryly, all the while not breaking stride from eating.
"What's your pick?" I asked.
"The Turtles' 'Happy Together,'" he said in between bites, while offering NO explanation. Why no explanation? BECAUSE HE DIDN'T HAVE TO!
Bob was a confidant on dark matters. He was an on-air shaman, whooping and howling around the studio. Through the lens of his camera he viewed a changing city. Among the young musicians of St. Louis he was an oracle. To his friends and radio listeners he was Scratchy Bob. Not only did he leave behind one hell of a record collection, an impressive selection of photographs, and a stack of heartfelt writings, he left behind generations of St. Louis musicians who will never meet him. That part hurts.
I sit here wondering what song was in his head when he stepped out into that elevator shaft. We'll never know.
But I bet it was a good one.