Detail from book cover

Composer Frank Loesser once explained that a great song is like a train: A locomotive starts it off, a caboose completes it, and different colors fill in the cars in the middle.

But for a lot of music lovers, after the middle of the 20th century, the train had jumped the track, and the era of the great American songbook was over. In his new book, “The B-Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song,” Ben Yagoda explores why and how popular music changed after World War II.

STAGES St. Louis opens its 29th season with its 100th production, the musical revue “Smokey Joe’s Café.” The show features songs from the legendary rock and roll songwriting team, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stroller.

“Smokey Joe’s Café” debuted in November 1994 at the Doolittle Theatre in Los Angeles and quickly became a Broadway staple in 1995 after opening at the Virginia Theatre. The production ran on Broadway for 2,036 performances. It has been nominated for seven Tony Awards and in 1996, the original cast won a Grammy for the “Best Musical Show Album.”

Kim Massie Live at The Beale on Broadway, Nov. 19, 2014
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis is a music town. Luminaries like Chuck Berry and Tina Turner honed their craft here before hitting international stages. For music to thrive it needs a home, it needs live venues. This month, local venue the Gramophone announced it was closing as a concert space and reopening this spring as a bar. Although they’ll still occasionally have live acts, the venue’s shift is away from high-energy music and toward a relaxed food and drink emphasis.

(Courtesy Fox Theatre)

The Broadway tour of "Chicago: The Musical" opens tonight at the Fox Theatre for a three-day run starring John O'Hurley as Billy Flynn and Paige Davis as Roxie Hart.

O'Hurley returns to St. Louis after performing in the role of King Arthur in the Muny's production of "Spamalot" in June. He played the role of J. Peterman on "Seinfeld" and was on the first season of "Dancing with the Stars."

Here's what O'Hurley had to say on a few topics:

On starting out his career in soap operas