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.
Back in 1982 next to Highway 159, a 20 year old Thunderbird had a for sale sign on it. The car was 2-tone - beige and primer. From the side, the long sleek lines resembled a rocket mounted on 4 wheels. I was smitten and bought the old hulk. This 1962 Ford inherited the factory AM/FM radio that I pulled from the 1964 wagon. KSHE on that old radio lived on for a few more years.
"You can really throw a frisbee. You must have been a partier."
comment from fellow recruit, Air Force technical school, May 1984.
In the 4th grade at Jefferson Elementary School a cop dropped by our class to lecture us on the perils of marijuana. "When you get a little older, other kids will try to convince you to try drugs. You'll be sitting in a class and a kid will turn around and ask if you want to try some pot. Don't buy it." he warned. This scenario sounded ominous to an 8-year old kid. "My gosh! Kids smoking pot in school?" I imagined. Trouble was "some kid" from a future class never happened. The pusher was my best friend and after school he badgered me for months go to the dark side. By my Junior year in high school all of my friends had succumbed to the draw of the illegal substance. "Come on Neiman, just give it a try," he pushed me day after day. As we sat in the grass atop of Suicide Hill in St. John's Cemetery one summer day, I finally caved and took my first toke. The high didn't do much for me with the exception of a sudden burst of paranoia. In my mind, the cops were gonna pull off the road at the base of the hill, leap out the car, charge up the incline and slap the cuffs on us. Despite the initial panic, I tried it again and decided I liked the sensation. Collecting beer cans, coins and baseball cards were a thing of the past. I had a new interest and all that was needed was some weed, paraphernalia and tunes keep it going.
Five miles south of Collinsville, The Token Shop was situated in a strip mall in Fairview Heights. The head shop became the chosen place to buy bongs and pipes. On one visit, a large glass hookah caught my eye. The 4-hosed monstrosity was sixty dollars, a large sum of money for my low busboy wages. After receiving the next couple of paychecks, I revisited the head shop and plunked down the cash. Parties in my basement had a new addition. Stereo, albums, a fireplace and a hookah fulfilled the recommended daily allowance of good times.
In 1978 my younger brother Mike had a surprise for me. The curiosity was located in the middle of a tract of forest behind my father's house. On that warm summer day a little ways north of Collinsville, he led me alongside the rippling waters of a creek, crossed over a fallen tree, then made his way up a large hill. Shafts of light broke through the canopy above as we pushed aside weeds along the way. His recent growth spurt made it difficult for me to keep pace - he passed effortlessly through small tree branches and thistles while I struggled to keep up.
"Well I was movin' down the road in my V8 Ford, I had a shine on my boots, I had my sideburns lowered."
ZZ Top, "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide"
Few things in life excite a 21-year old guy as much as the acquisition of a car. After hitting that milestone in life, Jeff - one of my oldest friends - was given the keys to an immaculate 1964 Ford Galaxie station wagon from his grandfather. Jeff accepted the car with his grandfather's simple words, "Take good care of it," the old man requested. A week later, the 17-year old vehicle was no longer pristine. Jeff pulled the station wagon out on Belt Line Road in Collinsville onto the path of another car. The car smashed the Galaxie's rear quarter panel causing damage almost beyond repair .
While I was in the 8th grade at Webster Jr. High, KXOK had a contest. The competition pitted schools across the St. Louis area against each other to gather the most signatures proclaiming the Top 40 icon as their favorite radio station. The winning school was awarded free passes for the entire student body to Six Flags. And so for a week or so during my math class, we signed hundreds of papers. Skipping algebra for a week, the students arranged the desks in a U shape and passed the sheets around until everyone's hand was sore. This wasn't a part of the regular curriculum, but who cared? We won and got our free day at the amusement park.
Back in 1983, some of the legendary rockers who populated KSHE's early playlists were touring the country. These bands had once sold out shows in 10,000 seat venues across the country. With their popularity on the decline, you could catch them in smaller settings. At Mississippi Nights I was fortunate to see Steve Marriott with his reformed Humble Pie. Eric Burdon also dropped by the historic venue on the Landing. Then there was Alvin Lee at Stages for a KSHE-95 St. Patrick's Day Jam. It's hard to believe it was 30 years ago this week and sad to hear of his passing last Wednesday. Back on March 17, 1983, it had been years since his music had been on the charts, and that night was he was wailing on that Gibson a few feet from me. The legendary performer took the stage with force that gave me a glimpse of why he rocketed to stardom onstage at Woodstock. His high-energy show was highlighted by his raking of the guitar strings against the mic stand, sending shards of feedback throughout the nightclub.
Pete bought a bought a Torino around 1977. He thought that car was a monster and my guess is he took in a weekly dose of Starsky and Hutch, therefore he was Starsky – or Hutch – whichever one drove the shiny red Ford with the white stripe. Imagine my excitement when he asked me to ride to school on the car's maiden voyage! After all, I didn’t own a car. We took off a little early and on the way I became a little concerned once he passed the normal route to the high school. Wondering if he was confused as how to get to school, his plans became apparent once we reached a residential stretch in town. At a stop sign on St. Claire Street his foot stomped on the gas and the dinged up hulk barreled down the road. Mid to late 1970s cars weren't known to leave one pressed back in the seat upon acceleration but that piece of crap hit 50 by the time we approached a curve. There the tires squalled and strained to stay on the pavement while my head bounced off the passenger window. After the sharp turn, the road abruptly descended down a long hill. A few minutes later we managed to arrive in Collinsville High School's vocational parking lot where Pete continued his antics. The vocational parking lot was just right for the likes of Pete and his Torino.
"We did it all there in my room..."
"In my room" Billy Thorpe, 1980
San Jay explained the facts of life to me when I was in the 2nd grade. We were only 7 years old and he had yet to graduate from booger eating. Still he shared the definition of the f bomb just so he could make me queasy during recess. So it wasn't surprising that I was skeptical because somewhere in translation my classmate fudged an important detail. "You mean they piss in each other?" I asked. "Yeah, they sure do." he answered.
It had been a little over a month since my fiasco selling t-shirts culminated in a visit to The Checkerdome's security office. Little did I know I was going to pay them another visit.
Reading about the death of Richard Miller reminded me of my own experience with the former owner of KADI. In 2005 I was urged by former KSHE DJ and A&M rep Ross Gentile to speak to Richard. Ross told me Richard Miller was a good friend. It wasn’t always that way. As KADI burned to the ground in 1973, it was Ross who put on every “Fire” record he could get his hands on from the KSHE library. Gentile gave me Miller’s number and told me he was loaded with stories of the history of KSHE, KADI and the rock scene in St. Louis.