Monday, March 27, 2023

Bob Kuban and the In-men, Our Local Band


The St. Louis area spawned many famous musicians, most notably Chuck Berry, Ike and Tina Turner and more recently Michael McDonald, who graduated from McClure High School, in Florissant, Mo. I had already graduated from McClure before he entered 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 and 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 and 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 and the In-Men were playing at Jackson Park, we tried not to miss it. It was 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 in common with the earlier rhythm and blues bands of Ike Turner, Wilson Picket and James Brown. In an interview, Kuban states that Ike Turner was a big influence on him and his formation of the band. As a footnote, 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 and roll song.

Bob Kuban had an eight-piece band with horns, drums and keyboard, which was played by Greg Hoeltzel, who lived in my neighborhood. The lead singer was Walter Scott, who had a great voice for that 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 Chicago, originally called (Chicago Transit Authority) 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 repertoire, he 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 murderers 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.

I don’t know if Bob Kuban still has his band. He would be in his 80s today. I read that not too long ago, the Bob Kuban Brass 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. I live out west and haven't been back to St. Louis since 2002. But I still have memories of those hot summer evenings in the '60s at Jackson Park, listening to our local band that made the big-time.

Here's a link to The Cheater

(131) The Cheater (Remastered) - YouTube


1 comment:

  1. there is an interview with Kuban who said that his band was blocked from international travel by the threat of being drafted. He attributes that, in part, to their demise. Greg Hoetzel wrote the McCluer School song. You are correct, they were huge.