Four decades ago, a young Bob Reuter walked into the T&D Lounge, a south St. Louis dive bar, just as the country band on stage announced the end of its run at the club. Reuter, then in his mid-20s, walked up to the bar and talked the bar manager into offering him the performance slot. But there was just one problem. He didn’t have a band.
So Reuter reached out to three friends and formed the Dinosaurs, which he claimed was the city’s first punk band. It wasn’t, but over the next three months, the band played a weekly four-hour gig at the bar, combining covers with original tunes that sounded too punk for rock ‘n’ roll and too rock for punk.
Big Muddy Records has refocused attention on the late guitar player, singer and DJ with its release of the band’s first self-titled album. That early music established the brash Reuter as an enduring force in St. Louis’ underground music scene.
The Dinosaurs released only one recording, the 45 rpm single “Rock and Roll Moron,” which is coveted by diehard fans. But the band made a handful of recordings that never saw the light of day.
Big Muddy Records founder Chris Baricevic returned to those early tracks to make the band’s first full-length album. The music provides a window into the music and personality of Reuter, who died in 2013 from a fall down an elevator shaft, said Baricevic, who played guitar in the singer’s later bands.
“The freedom to express yourself, the freedom to have pain and be proud of that pain, and to own that pain, and to own being an outsider, to own being a misfit, and to encourage others to be themselves no matter what — that was always the kind of message I got from Bob,” Baricevic said.
The band consisted of friends who met through the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the burgeoning south St. Louis music scene. Influenced by rock bands from the 1960s, like the Stooges and the Velvet Underground, The Dinosaurs stood out at a time when the music scene was focused on groups like Fleetwood Mac and stadium shows, or disco clubs.
Early on, they began to attract some of the city’s other misfits — people interested in hearing a rowdy, loud band in a cramped space. The group was eventually asked to leave the bar because there were too many fights associated with their shows.
The Dinosaurs didn’t last, but the band laid the foundation for the growing Bob Reuter myth. His lyrics often paired rock 'n' roll swagger with vulnerability.
In his journals, Reuter wrote that he felt kinship with the “identifiable outsiders,” people on the margins of society, according to Baricevic.
“The kind of phoniness that he felt was being put on him by society was that you have to hide your expression and you have to have a stiff upper lip and stick to the grindstone and hold it together,” Baricevic said. “But Bob didn’t like to hold it together, he liked to just throw it all out there.”
Later in life, Reuter helped define that ethos in his memoir “Tales of a Talking Dog,” published in 2012.
“Sunshine or fresh air have nothing to do with the music I play,” he wrote. “Rock 'n' roll is meant to involve loud volumes and small sweaty rooms. It’s sex, danger, joy, pain and repetition mixed with a certain amount of danger and mystery.”
Reuter went on to play in local acts Kamikaze Cowboy and Alley Ghost. He held down the long-running KDHX radio show “Bob’s Scratchy Records,” playing his favorite records, talking over them and switching between songs on a whim.
Later, he began to distinguish himself as a photographer, documenting the venues, bars, and musicians around town that he loved.
Reuter's brutal honesty and his tumultuous approach to life is just as compelling in 2017 as it was in 1978, Baricevic said.
“The reason that he’s important and why it’s still relevant today,” Baricevic said, “is that he carried with him that idea of expressiveness and that idea of ‘different is good. Different is a mark of honor.’”
The Dinosaurs album is available online and in local record shops.
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