by Jaime Lees
That was probably my favorite thing about him: how he could go on and on about any old thing. The man could spin a yarn. Most of his stories seemed to be exaggerated for effect, but that was part of his charm. In any case, Reuter seemed incapable of keeping his mouth shut. In a world where many commentaries are muted or diluted for a potentially disapproving audience, Reuter would've been talking and commenting all over the Internet and losing Facebook friends left and right. He would've been blabbing, and it would've been entertaining, at least, and possibly infuriating. Or it might have been insightful and wise. He was unpredictable, that Bob.
Reuter died on August 3 of last year in a tragic elevator accident. His passing punched a big fat hole into the heart of the St. Louis music scene, not just because he was gone but also because his death felt avoidable. Reuter was a leader (and much to his chagrin, an elder) of all of the beautiful musical and artistic weirdness that flourishes in south city. He was a musician, a DJ, a photographer and a writer. By extension, he was an accidental St. Louis historian and photojournalist, quietly and slowly documenting decades of St. Louis bands and characters.
On August 3 of this year -- exactly one year and one hour after Reuter passed -- I found myself sitting beside his ashes. I went to the home of Chris Baricevic to interview him about Reuter's legacy and his grand plans for the future.
Baricevic was written into Reuter's will as the executor of his estate. In a strange generational role reversal, Baricevic and Reuter mutually mentored each other. Reuter showed Baricevic the ways of the old-school St. Louis musicians, and Baricevic worked to help Reuter acclimate to new ways of doing things. Reuter once told me that he owed Baricevic for a "life turn-around."
It's an easy scenario to imagine. In all ways, Baricevic is a man who gets things done. As the founder of Big Muddy Records, he is an essential piece in the local music scene puzzle, and his specialty seems to be digging up and promoting worthy local talent. He will use whatever limited resources he has to somehow manage not only to complete his goals, but to thrive. He's calm, smart, hard-working and the kind of guy who seems to just naturally press coal into diamonds.
After doing his best to wrangle Reuter when he was alive, Baricevic now has the unenviable (and everlasting) job of managing Reuter's posthumous affairs. A month or so after Reuter's death, he hosted a memorial tribute concert at the Casa Loma ballroom. It was, by all accounts, a successful endeavor both spiritually and financially. Aside from being one of the most impressive, talent-packed and touching things that many in the local music community have ever seen, it funded the initial donation into a piggy bank that intends keeps Reuter's work available to the public for generations to come.
Baricevic has many projects up his sleeve. First of all, Reuter's band, Alley Ghost, is still touring and playing his music, and the men of Alley Ghost are scheduled to record even more Reuter-penned music soon. Recordings of his old band, the Dinosaurs, are currently being mastered by St. Louis expatriate Mario Viele (of Sex Robots fame) and will be eventually released to the hungry public. And Baricevic has big plans for his Cowboy Angel Foundation, an organization set up to ensure Reuter's legacy and contribute to the local music community.
Tomorrow night at the Ready Room, Bob's bandmate family will host a show in honor of his birthday. Alley Ghost is headlining, of course, and supporting acts include Johnny Walker (Soledad Brothers), James Leg (Black Diamond Heavies), the Defeated County and Jack Grelle. Joseph Sulier will be reading some of Reuter's writings, Ashley Hohman is spinning Bob's Scratchy Records after the show, and there will be merchandise for sale and a silent auction of items donated by local bands and organizations.
Read on for more about Reuter's legacy, legalities surrounding his death and the massive potential for the St. Louis music community through the Cowboy Angel Foundation in the interview below.
Jaime Lees: Tell me what's been going on in the past year.
Chris Baricevic: Well, what's been going on with Bob's stuff in the last year is this: Most of it is hung up in bureaucracy. We're still waiting for probate to stamp the will, you know, and so it's all kind of hung up in the legal process and probate court and all of that.
I've been trying to find a spot -- like, a public spot, to put the bulk of his ashes in. I've been talking to the woman in charge of the park that's going in next to Mangia and -- fingers crossed -- they'll let us put them in there. But that's in the same kind of process. They told me they have to, like, write policies and stuff. So I don't know if that's a for sure thing or not, but that's what I'd like to do: have him on South Grand somewhere where people can visit. I mean, he was a public figure. So we'll see what happens with that. I don't really have a backup plan.
As far as his music goes, Mario [Viele] took a bunch of reel-to-reels up to New York. He's been mastering them over the course of the past four or five months, and he's got enough that we'll be putting out two full LPs of original Dinosaurs recordings from 1978 to 1979. There will be one album of home-studio recordings -- they had a four-track machine, it seems -- and one album from a live reel. They used to play three- or four-hour gigs at these different bars in town, and they recorded a few of the shows, and we have one full concert which they play pretty much all of their originals, and it sounds really good. So we're going to put out a "live at the no-name disco" LP, as well.
As far as going through Bob's past work, that's as far as we've gotten is the Dinosaurs. And other than that, Alley Ghost is going to be recording a new record in a few weeks here at Native Sound. Mario is coming into town to get behind the board, I'm going to be producing it and Brice [Baricevic] is doing most of the vocals. Mat [Wilson] does a song or two. And Alley Ghost as Bass Amp [Maysam Attaran], Brice, Mat, Adam [Hesed] and Dan-O [Daniel Lawless] have been touring about once a month pretty much since the beginning of 2014. Next week they're doing a five-day run down to New Orleans. So they'll continue to be touring with the Bucket City booking agency, and we'll be doing that record.
And as far as when that stuff will come out? I don't know. Because I think I have to wait for the will to go through probate court first.
When do you expect that?
[Laughs] You can't expect things from the legal process. You're just kind of at their mercy.
You've had good, proper legal advice, right?
I've definitely had legal advice, but I don't know what legal advice is good and proper! [Laughs]
So has someone argued that the will is invalid for some reason? Is that's what is taking so long?
No, it just takes a long time to process. It took me about four months to get his death certificate. It was so ridiculous. Because you can't even start the probate process until you get the death certificate, so I was just calling every few weeks and ask if it was done. They'd say, "No, it's not done yet." I would call the, you know, the coroner's office. And then one day in December I called them and this lady was like, "I don't know what you're talking about. We've had this thing done since September." So just more bureaucratic fun. [Rolls eyes] I don't know what happened. I just got the feeling that it was some kind of filing-cabinet error. Who knows.
Before you can advance with the Cowboy Angel Foundation, all of this has to be done first, right?
OK, so here's what's up with the foundation: That all seems like a somewhat far-off vision. All of the money that we made in the month after Bob died with donations and income from the concert, pretty much all of that is going into records: into the Dinosaurs records, into the Alley Ghost record. All of the money made from those will go back into it. It will all have the Big Muddy boat label on it, but financially, all of Bob's recordings are separate. The money we made was enough to start putting out records, basically.
But not enough to keep putting out records?
Well, we'll keep putting them out if they sell. But to do anything on the scale of what I'd like Cowboy Angel to be is, like, a way bigger endeavor that would require a lot more start-up cash, so all we can afford to do is start putting out Bob's stuff. And then eventually, hopefully, we'll have enough money to start putting out all of his photography, his writing and stuff as well. And until we find a buried treasure somewhere...
I mean, you're open to benefactors, right?
Oh yeah! Totally, totally. But until then we'll just keep putting our energy towards that. The band wants to keep doing their thing so they'll have all of Bob's merchandise with them. It's been going really well with them on the road.
Alley Ghost has really been touring every month?
Just about. At least a weekend or two. I know that they've done a lot of the cities that they went to with Bob. I think they're still just doing the same kind of stuff: small shows and small venues and bars that a band starting out on the road would play.
I think it's great that Bob can get new fans without even being there.
Yeah! They've been saying that it's going really well.
So, with the terrible stuff concerning that elevator and all, you can't legally do anything about that until...when?
Everybody tells me that I can't do anything legally about it at all. At all.
Because Missouri says you have to be a blood relative to sue. It's a rare thing. Missouri is, like, one of two states where the executor of the estate doesn't have any stake to sue on stuff like that.
Well, that's disappointing.
Yeah, if this were Illinois it would be an open and closed case. It would probably be so obvious that it would be settled out of court.
So, there's no hope that there's a giant check coming your way still from stuff like that?
Well, that's not even the point, though. From what I understand, the person that's responsible... [trails off] Honestly, it's all just so crazy. It needs, like, a Nick Fury-type detective to come in and pull all of the shadows away. It's all very blurry. The city tells me that the investigation is ongoing. All I know for sure is that I don't have the power to sue. Everybody keeps telling me that I, personally, can't.
Well, it would be nice to have the option even if that's not the path that you decided to take. What's the point of an executor if you can't execute?
And also, it just seems like somebody is getting away with some very extreme criminal negligence here. Somebody or multiple people, you know. The city is ignoring it. The people whose names are on the building are ignoring it. So it's all pretty frustrating.
Because you knew him so well, what do you think that Bob's fans could to as the best tribute to him? What do you think that he would like for them to do?
Just to listen to his music, read his books and look at his pictures. That was pretty much what he cared about: his art. I think that Bob would just want people to get into his stuff, honestly. He'd want them to get into his stuff and to get into themselves in the same way; to be a creative spirit.
So what are your ideas for the future?
I do have somewhat of a vision for what Cowboy Angel should be. I've really only tried to vocalize it once or twice before. But the idea would be -- in a land of infinite possibility with no financial or resource restraints -- there's this building. And it's a center for artistic and creative people in St. Louis. It would provide them with living resources. Like, for example, it would be a place where you go to get help finding a job, finding a place to live, finding medical help, psychiatric help, life coaching, counseling. Also, the center would also be a place where music lessons are taught and organized. For example, we would have musicians from the city going out to teach people with the focus being on underprivileged people who don't have these resources normally.
It would be a place for people who don't have the environment to craft not only their art, but also their life so that it is allowing them to continue making their art. Which is pretty much what I did with Bob -- I was working with him to help him get his life to a place where he was working on his art and still getting by without any kind of frustration in that cycle.
So the center would focus on that idea and kind of web out into all the things that an artist or an aspiring artist would need to survive with their art. That includes work spaces, education, etc. It would be a community in which people can support themselves and each other in ways that are just kind of up to their imagination. And the idea is that it's this thing that exists with Bob's spirit and some of the money would be funneled into it, but the bulk of that money will stay towards the continuing production of his music. It's such a grand notion that eventually it would have to have separate fundraising. But the basic idea is just that it's a center for south-city freaks and weirdos and creative people to just kind of make their lives better and to contribute to and be a part of the community.
It's nice because there's already a lot of that in St. Louis but on smaller levels.
It's something that happens naturally, for sure. The community aspect of this is just a forward-movement of all of that.
Like an extension of it?
Right, exactly. But the focus would be more on the things that all of these people struggle with, you know? Which is a lot of times just help getting by or help finding resources that they don't know are available to them. And maybe situations will improve with health care changing, but honestly poor people are still going to need financial help.
Yeah, a new health-care system doesn't change the gas bill.
Right. So the idea is just to have this place where people get together that is just helping the artist to get by and live better lives. But, like I said, it's a grand vision for the moment, unless somebody wants to step in and throw down to make that more of a reality.
Or hand you a building?
Right! Or hand me a building! It's just kind of a far-away vision. Right now my focus is on what Bob's legacy is going to be, on Bob's band still doing their thing and on the production and distribution of his art.
Event information for the Bob Reuter Birthday show here.