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.