A Nighthawk Passes

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Mark Gilliland
Bob Schoenfeld, a prime mover in the early 1980s harmonic convergence that resulted in St. Louis becoming one of America's foremost reggae outposts, died last week at his home in Maryland Heights at age 57.

Schoenfeld formed Nighthawk Records with then-partner Leroy Pierson in 1976. The label released some of St. Louis' essential blues recordings -- including Henry Townsend's classic, Mule.

Over the next decade Nighthawk also put out seminal roots reggae albums, recalls Vintage Vinyl co-founder Tom "Papa" Ray. "Nighthawk released landmark sets of the Gladiators, the Itals and Junior Byles," Ray notes, adding that Schoenfeld (who bought out Pierson's half of the company in the early 1980s) also coauthored Roots Knotty Roots, an important work about early Jamaican music. Ray calls Roots "a real labor of love [and] the first effort at a definitive discography of Jamaican music up to 1985. It's a real landmark as far as reggae scholarship."

Look for more on Schoenfeld's legacy in a future post and/or in that weekly we publish.

-Randall Roberts

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