It may seem strange for John Neiman to write about St. Louis. After all, he hasn't lived in the area since 1984. But it has been over ten years since John started a crazed obsession with a radio station. An obsession that led him to cross paths with dozens of current and former employees of KSHE, along with assorted fans, groupies, concert promoters, record reps, rock stars and a few crazed rock fans like himself. All of this effort turned into a massive coffee table book titled "In Concert: KSHE and 40+ Years of Rock in St. Louis." For many of us, KSHE once was, or still is a part of our lives as much as spending time with an old friend.
John is married to Kim, has two children and lives in a suburb of Chicago. Here he will give you a glimpse of what it was like to put together this book, along with stories from some of the folks that liken KSHE to home.
Uncovering the secrets on the walls of KSHE's Crestwood past is coming in 2017. A short movie that will include audio and home movies from the analog age. Enjoy the preview!
If Prince Knight (Ron Lipe) became a celebrity to a generation during his tenure at KSHE, his replacement became almost immortal. Bob Burch wasn’t born with the baritone voice that emanated from the Prince. Burch’s raspy tone influenced DJ’s long after he left KSHE and recordings of it from time to time surface on KSHE’s airwaves to this day.
The gift came from Contemporary Productions and it was like drawing 4 aces in a game of poker, only to follow that hand with a royal flush. The Who were coming to The Checkerdome and 100,000 people and I wanted a ticket to the show.
The movie brought back memories of when I first drove a car across the Mississippi River. The delicate steel monument was impossible to miss during the drive across across Poplar Street Bridge. While sandwiched between a shuffle of cars and trucks, my hands gripped the steering wheel a little tighter. Yet chaos didn’t keep me from stealing a glance at the monument as I had since it was first built. Years later, while riding in a child seat, my nephew Ryan looked in wonder at the gleaming monument and thought of fast food. “Big Fries,” was his take on the scene. Larger than life and celebrating 50 years, The Arch is still at it.
The note caught my eye. Written on a piece of notebook paper pinned to a cork board was a request. "Ride wanted to Bad Company show at Carbondale. Will pay for gas." Standing outside the massive cafeteria at Southeast Missouri State University, I jotted the number down and called the girl. Her name has long faded from my memory, but on that day, I found a new friend that I'll call "Betty."
In early 1980, my friend Ron invited me to a party at his house. As we drank beer and talked of old times, a former high school classmate approached me and explained that he had just married and his wife wasn't interested in going to see Harry Chapin. I thought about it for a minute. "Harry Chapin? I liked "Cats in the Cradle," "W*O*L*D," Taxi…"' At that point in my life, the narrow scope of my musical taste was constantly on display in the form of black concert shirts with the logos of bands such as Sabbath, Van Halen and Sammy Hagar. I was a young metalhead and KSHE pounded those riffs into my thick skull. "Crank out the drums, Crank out the bass, crank out my Les Paul in your face," weren't exactly the lines from a wordsmith. Did I mention the tickets were 2nd row center at the Kiel Opera House? Although I wasn't exactly gonna pump my fist at the show, what the hell? I never sat that close at a concert so I snapped them up for face value.
Scrounging though old letters and other keepsakes housed in a 78 record box, I spotted a button from the 1970s. The message "Do it." - devoid of an exclamation point - struck me as a pretty good description of how a bunch of kids I grew up with briefly lived their lives. Unlike the "Just Do It." that an athletic shoe company used to sell overpriced shoes in the 1980s and beyond, the simple "Do it." rung closer to home. The slogan wasn't about challenging one's physical endurance. No, it was about our knack for doing impulsive, stupid and downright illegal things, yet somehow most of us managed to survive. If there was one place where a carload of us managed to attempt to "Do it." that was Johnson's Shut-ins.
Driving all night in the '68 Plymouth, we made it to the Shut-Ins while the crickets were winding down their evening's song. The trip was uneventful, with the exception of a stop at an old truck stop, a 24-hour establishment where the local health department would have had a field day had they stepped foot in the place. Half-stoned and bleary-eyed, we sat in a booth and ordered breakfast. Before the meal arrived, unease crept over me from a weird sensation in my Converse shoe. Reaching down and pulling off the worn sneaker, a roach dropped and scampered off. Nasty! We were hungry and stayed on, ate quickly and went to pay. It wasn't until we were leaving that I noticed something seriously wrong with the establishment. The blotchy pattern in the linoleum floor wasn't for decoration. Those black splotches that were scattered all over the room were crushed roaches. This trip wasn't off to a good start.
I had to wrap it up. An eight year obsession about the beginnings of KSHE had left me stressed, exhausted and on the verge of going off the deep end. Tales, photos and recordings of the station and rock bands in their infancy had dwindled by 2009. Stories about “sex and drugs and rock and roll was very good indeed,” but it had to come to an end. So November of 2009 the book about KSHE was published.
Was that the last of the stories? Not quite. One of the mysteries that plagued me was the disappearance of David Rhodes. For those who don't know who David Rhodes was, he was a young man with an English accent who became a very popular DJ on KSHE in the early 1970s. All I had to go by was that he was from England or Australia. Google didn't help. No one from KSHE had heard from him since the 1970s. Whatever happened to David Rhodes? The answer came in an e-mail months after the book was in stores.
"We've got up front fanatics
Tearing down the barricade..."
Sammy Hagar, “Heavy Metal”
Sometimes the best moments catch you by surprise. Big guys were hired to keep us from where we shouldn't be at a rock concert. It was a cat and mouse game and the only thing that stopped us was their size.
Let me explain. My seat was behind the stage in the upper tier of Checkerdome. Nightranger was the opening band I'm pretty sure they played "Don't Tell Me You Love Me." At least that was what I think it was. The muffled amplified drone bounced from the opposite end of the Checkerdome. The sound was probably better in the parking lot. After their set, I asked my friend if he wanted to try to get better seats. "What do we gotta lose?" I asked. He declined, so I left him and the haze he was adding to the Upper Circle and bolted to the lower sections.
It is hard to believe Van Halen played their first headline tour thirty-five years ago. The band arrived at The Checkerdome on April 28, 1979. The band was a big deal to an 18 year old kid that year. Although their debut album had been playing on the radio for close to a year, it wasn't unusual to hear "Eruption" blaring out of the speakers in a car in which the stereo cost twice what the car was worth.
This movie attempts to illustrate the energy that met the band that night at The Checkerdome. It is kind of hard to put in words how crazy it was. Enjoy!