Monday, November 29, 2010

Bob Kuban and the In-Men, Our Local Band

Wherever you grew up there was probably a local musician or band that made it big. The St. Louis area spawned many famous musicians, most notably Chuck Berry, Ike & Tina Turner and more recently Michael McDonald, who graduated from my high school, McClure High, in Florissant, Mo. I had already graduated before he began high school so I'm sorry to say I didn't know him. In North St. Louis in the mid '60s the local band that made the big-time was Bob Kuban and the In-Men. If you've heard of them, you are either familiar with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's one hit wonder list or you’re from the St. Louis area or you have an incredible amount of rock & roll trivia rambling around in your brain. I'm guilty of all three.

Bob Kuban was the drummer and band leader of the In-Men. On Friday nights during the summer, his band would play at Jackson Park, a relatively small park in Berkeley, a north St. Louis suburb. Jackson Park hosted a variety of local bands during the hot St. Louis summer nights. In the summers of 1964 and 1965, my friends and I would go back and forth between Jackson Park and the local YMCA where there was usually a band playing as well. But when Bob Kuban was playing at Jackson Park, we tried not to miss it. He had a first rate band.

The Beatles and the British bands were taking over America at that time and they were the major influence on popular music. Bob Kuban's band was not your typical band of the era. It had more more in common with the earlier rhythm and blues bands of Ike Turner, Wilson Picket and James Brown. In an interview Bob Kuban states that Ike Turner was a big influence on him and his formation of the band. As a footnote to my story, in 1951 before Tina joined him, Ike Turner's band was called The Kings of Rhythm. They recorded a song called Rocket 88 which some believe was the very first rock & roll song. How's that for local boy making history?

Bob Kuban had an eight piece band with horns, drums and keyboard, which was played by a guy from my neighborhood, Greg Hoeltzel. The lead singer was Walter Scott, who had a great voice for this style of music. During those two summers we listened to our local band, knowing they were a cut above the other local groups, playing in their unique St. Louis style. This was several years before The Chicago Transit Authority(Chicago) and Blood Sweat and Tears would bring the big band sound back to popular music. In 1966 Bob Kuban and the In-Men hit it big with The Cheater. The song was all over the radio for months. That year we watched our local guys on national TV, but their run was short lived. They had only a few other songs that got national play, Teaser and a cover of a Beatles song Drive My Car. I also remember hearing a song called Jerkin' Time and the Bat Man Theme on the radio as well, but they may have just been popular locally.

Walter Scott left the band shortly after The Cheater's popularity to pursue a solo career. He never had another hit song, but in his repetoire sang (Look out for) The Cheater over and over again in a variety of performance venues. In 1983 when Bob Kuban was trying to get the original band back together for a reunion concert, he discovered that Walter Scott was missing. Scott was found 4 years later floating face down in a cistern with his ankles, knees and wrists bound. He had been shot through the heart from the back. In one of life's ironic turns, it was discovered that his murderer were his “cheater” wife and her "cheater" boyfriend. There was a Forensic Files TV show about it as well as a book written titled The Cheaters: The Walter Scott Murder by Scottie Piesmeyer.

Bob Kuban still has a band that plays in the St. Louis area. I read that recently they played a summer evening gig at Jackson Park and invited all the fans to come out for old time's sake. I would have liked to have been there. That's the problem with being a nomadic type and having moved away years ago. Not only have I lost touch with most of my old friends, I haven't been back to St. Louis since my friend Paul and I visited eight years ago. But I still have memories of those hot summer evenings in the '60s at Jackson Park listening to our local band that finally made the big-time.

5 comments:

  1. I remember "The Cheater" very well. I was a rock DJ in the 60s' & 70's and played that song to death.

    I was in Syracuse, NY attending college and then working for the leading Top 40 station when Paul McCartney picked a local guy to be his new drummer for Wings. Joe English had been a member of a Syracuse group with a large following, Jam Factory. After being picked by Wings Joe hit the big time and left town.

    It's fun to remember these stories and relive a bit of our youth.

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  2. Nice post. I remember The Cheater but nothing about the group. I'm a Missouri boy too (Lee's Summit near KC) but I've probably got a 10 year head start on you. Haven't been back since my mother died and don't have any reason.

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  3. Those nights at Jackson Park were special. It kept us busy and out of trouble. Imagine a band today that was the most popular in town, seen on American Bandstand, and plays for free once a week. I also would have enjoyed hearing them again. I have a picture of my high school prom with my hot blond cheerleader date and Bob Kuban in the background. Great memories...keep them coming. Maybe a trip on the admiral or to Chain of Rocks park with Ginny

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  4. Just found this site today...and it's great. It took me till I was an oldies jock in 1980 to find a copy of "The Cheater," but I got "The Teaser" in one of those old box lots sold in the late '60s..."15 hit 45s for $1.00"...and it almost immediately became one of my favorite records. Glad to know Bob is still at it...and I need to head to St. Louis again (haven't been there since 1975) to see if I can still catch a set by one of my favorite bandleaders!

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  5. Wow, just found your blog. As a 1967 McCluer graduate myself, reading your memories of growing up in Ferguson is exactly as I remember those wonderful years. Jackson Park was amazing every week as well as all the other church and other sponsored dances my friends and I attended regularly. You and I must have lived just a street away from each other because I also read your blog about walking to downtown Ferguson thru Jeske Park, the medical building, library, Sonderager's bakery (I knew their daughter, Penny) to check out the downtown stores. I walked up the hill from Moundale (my street) to Lee Hamilton for school everyday. Ferguson was a great little town to grow up in. I'm so sad and upset at what is happening to it, I don't think it will ever recover from all this violence. Very sad.

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