Bob Reuter could be the most admired musician, photographer and radio personality you’ve never heard of. In his hometown of St. Louis, Reuter is considered a cult hero and the “godfather” of the underground music scene, credited with influencing generations of musicians and artists in the Gateway City. Writers for alternative publications in St. Louis have called the 60-year-old singer-songwriter a “holy grail of rock ‘n’ roll,” “iconic” and “legendary.”
Most importantly, as anyone familiar with Reuter’s medical history can tell you, the seasoned rocker is a “howlin’-at-the-moon” survivor with the scars to prove it.
Reuter gratefully accepts the high praise his fans and followers have lavished on him. But he asserts that he hasn’t gone out of his way to garner the approval of his peers.
“I feel all right with people calling me iconic,” Reuter said. “I’ve kind of put in the hours, you know? But there was no other possibility as far as I was concerned. I mean, I haven’t known any other way. It’s the life I’ve chosen to lead, to put my creative life above all else.”
A musical child of the 1960s, Reuter gained his chops early on, playing bass and guitar with numerous garage bands in the declining north side of St. Louis. Originally a rocker, Reuter drifted in and out of bands during the ’70s and ’80s, exploring roots music until the ‘90s when he found his voice as an alternative country artist. Reuter said his music has been influenced by Bob Dylan, Leadbelly, Jerry Lee Lewis and, he adds, “about a million Black guys!”
Two brushes with death ultimately served as catalysts to shape Reuter’s career and artistic vision. In 1997 he fell victim to dangerous blood clots, which left him disabled and unable to work. During his convalescence, Reuter switched out his guitar for a camera and began shooting and developing photographs. A book of his raw, somewhat ghostly, low-resolution photographs, titled “Light Fuse And Run,” reflects what the artist calls his “punk-rock aesthetic.” Heart problems for Reuter in 2009 led to quadruple bypass surgery and his subsequent hospitalization, which prompted visits from St. Louis musician Mat Wilson, a fan of Reuter’s radio show “Bob’s Scratchy Records,” who became eager to pump new life into the folk-punk stylist’s career.
When Reuter was back onstage after being released from the hospital, Wilson and his friend Chris Baricevic, another St. Louis musician and the head of Big Muddy Records, were in the audience.
“He was as strong as ever, stomping around onstage and howlin’ at the moon,” said Baricevic, who now plays guitar and keyboards in Alley Ghost. “I turned to Mat at one point and said, ‘I want you to produce a Bob Reuter album.’ That’s how the band was born. It started as a folk-punk thing and has since grown into this proto-punk juggernaut.”
Reuter said “just being connected up with these guys brought new life to me.” Before long, Reuter and his new mates were playing acoustic and recording the band’s first album live in his apartment kitchen, an accommodating arrangement that took Reuter’s delicate condition into consideration.
With a new record, “Born There,” Reuter and Alley Ghost are currently on tour, bringing R&B-tinged folk-punk songs to audiences in the South and the Midwest.
Bob Reuter & Alley Ghost
9 p.m. Friday, March 16
The Office (inside the Days Inn)
901 Carter St. (423) 634-9191