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.
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!
Car Craft Street Machine Nationals were coming to Springfield, Illinois and a friend invited me to head up to automobile paradise. Well, that is what I thought the whole scene was gonna be about. We were to partake in viewing Muscle cars galore. I couldn't possibly imagine the visit was also gonna have an element of Dukes of Hazzard mixed with Mardi Gras. But you get a bunch of loaded guys with fast cars; you'd expect something would happen. What I never imagined was that my friend would get us kicked out of the town before the sun was down. My friend was a big guy who occasionally liked to raise hell. Lets just say his name was Bill. He loved muscle cars and was fiercely loyal to the Mopar brand — mainly late ’60s Dodge's and Plymouths. On occasion, raw power and a wild streak helped Bill to get himself on the wrong side the law.
I had a photography class in 1983. Rather than driving all the way to work, I parked on Broadway and walked to Jefferson. This was Market street about 7 in the morning.
By 1983 it was getting harder to smuggle a camera into a rock concert. Although winter clothing provided help in concealing a 35mm for some shows, Robert Plant was coming in the middle of August and I needed to devise some way to get the whole camera in. Breaking it apart, I could shove the body down my pants, but what was I gonna do with the 200mm lens? After mulling it over I came up with what I thought was a great solution. I figured I could submerge the lens in a Big Gulp from 711 and walk right in. On the day of the show I rode with my friend Bob in his prized '72 Cutlass to Kiel Auditorium.
30 Years ago when the Robert E. Lee still resided at the riverfront, I set up the tripod on the cobblestone near the river and captured the moment at the 4th of July celebration.
Going through the old photos I came across this picture taken 30 years ago. I believe this was in Creve Coeur.
It had been 30 years since I caught up with Gregg Allman at The Roundtable Restaurant. The year the KSHE book was published; I got another chance to get an autograph from the musician. By some strange alignment of the planets, I met him again at my place of work.
In 2009 Gregg Allman was finishing his book My Cross to Bear. That summer he made an impromptu visit to our office building. On that day, I was mired in my work when an art director stunned me with the news. "Hey John, do you know Gregg Allman is on 27?" he asked.
Work came to an abrupt halt, and I dashed down six flights of stairs. Shortly after he started telling stories that were to go into his book I caught up with the rock star. As I stood at the outer edge of the crowd, I could hear him recount how he and his brother held a "foot-shootin'" gathering, a plan concocted in order to avoid getting drafted during Vietnam. Gregg seemed comfortable with the setting and told a number of stories that day. Unfortunately, I have no recollection of anything else because I knew that there would be a brief question and answer period.
"What the hell should I ask him?" I wondered. I was short of breath from the mad dash from my cubicle. My mind was reeling. By 2009, I had talked to a number of people who hung out in the late 1960s at Gaslight Square, Castaway, and Prince's Palace in Belleville when Duane and Gregg Allman played gigs at those clubs with the Allman Joys and Hourglass. I heard some great stories of those bands from that brief time before The Allman Brothers Band were to become famous. Once the question and answer session started, I shot my hand up. After a few co-workers got their turn, he pointed at me. "Do you remember The Acid-Sette?" I asked. The room was stone silent for a few seconds, as he appeared unsure. The uncomfortable stillness in the air for that brief time made it apparent that he had no idea what I was asking. Before I could elaborate, the moderator interjected and wrapped up the event and the crowd closed in as he was quickly ushered in the opposite direction. Feeling a bit dejected, I took the elevator back to my floor.
Every once in a while someone says, "You're a rock star." It is funny to hear. The compliment usually comes after completing some project at work with a ridiculous deadline. Those words are hard to take seriously since way back in 1979 I met a rock star, and based on that chance encounter, I am anything but a rock star.
On a Friday night in 1979 at the restaurant where I worked at the time, a cook blurted out, "Hey John! The Allman Brothers came in for lunch! They were snortin' cocaine on the dining room tables! They're stayin' at the motor lodge." I had just stepped into the steamy kitchen at the Roundtable Restaurant and couldn't believe it. The band was playing at the Mississippi River Festival that night and somehow got kicked out of the Edwardsville Holiday Inn. At least that was the rumor that was floating around the waitress station. The band was staying at the motor lodge, a stone's throw away from the restaurant. By that year I had seen a bunch of concerts but had never gotten that close to a band. I was fired up they were so close, but kind of bummed I hadn't gotten there earlier so I could have asked any of them if I could take their plate or refill their water glass. The restauran wasn't too busy, but I still needed an excuse to go down to the motor lodge. It wasn't too long before I had my shot.