KSHE: Entering a Second Half-Century of Music

We didn’t really have any money, but some of that was by design; money was our parents’ thing. We hitchhiked to a lot of the places we went and shared most of the little we had. We didn’t have a flag or a salute, but we had the peace symbol and we stole WWII’s two-fingered “Victory” gesture and made it our own. We didn’t desire a lot of toys; a Frisbee would keep us entertained and help us clean the seeds from our herb. We didn’t have a uniform but faded jeans and a t-shirt were pretty close and we recognized each other upon sight. We loved black lights and incense and we felt at home in head shops and wherever else KSHE radio was played.

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KSHE was, for those lucky enough to be in its listening radius, an emblem. It was an icon and a badge of honor to be among the hip that were hipped. Sweetmeat was our mascot and music was a sacrament, proof that someone else got it, felt it, knew that the world was changing.

Pop radio, which was AM radio at the time, made music the filler between commercials. It was a rotation of the Top 40, repeated endlessly all day, plus a lot of jingles, gimmicks, contests and DJ patter. It had provided a noisy but effective platform for music. But by the mid-1960s music was expanding, musicians were applying more art to their work and albums were becoming more than a collection of hits. The Beatles stopped concentrating on 3 minute singles, quit touring and focused on albums, many based on their experiences with drugs like LSD. Curtis Mayfield was making “People Get Ready” and “Superfly.” James Brown sang “Say It Loud, I’m Black and Proud.” That stuff’s not playing on AM. It’s just not. Sex, drugs and rock and roll were not censor-friendly.

Fidelity was important too, “headphone music” was on the rise and music was no longer necessarily suited for a 3 inch automobile or transistor radio speaker. Albums from the Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, the Who and many others challenged the limitations of AM. Bob Dylan both called it and dealt it. His 1965 single “Like a Rolling Stone” clocked in at six minutes, over twice the length of a standard single. The song reached number 2 on Billboard but it was clear that long, angry diatribes were going to be the exception, not the rule for AM radio.

Something different was needed and the owners at KSHE found it, captured the zeitgeist and made St. Louis one of the early American cities that got it.

KSHE Studio in Crestwood
The original KSHE studio in Crestwood, Mo.

KSHE actually started years earlier in 1960, literally in a basement. Ed Ceries, a 20-year veteran of radio and TV, invested his life savings and built the station in his Crestwood, Missouri home. Keying off the SHE in the call letters, Ceries called the station “the Lady of FM,” hired all female announcers and played a classical music format. The teletype used to gather the news was next to the washing machine. Mrs. Ceries did her ironing in the room that also stored the record library and was the administrative office.

It was obviously a small operation but the connection with the audience was strong and listeners were known to bring their own classical albums to the home/station to suggest they be played. However, after about a year, Ceries succumbed to advertiser hesitance about the all classical format and began to play almost all middle-of-the-road music and there was plenty of that already. In 1964, Ceries sold the station to Century Broadcasting, headed by General Manager Howard Grafman.

Ron Elz, a giant in this story and in radio in general, was working with KSHE in 1967 and had recently been to San Francisco to hear what was going on there on the left coast, especially on KMPX FM. Elz, who has been in radio since the ‘50s and has worked under the moniker “Johnny Rabbitt” since 1962, is a certified radio legend and is inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What Elz heard in California struck him as important. Disc jockeys were playing deep album cuts, had eschewed the banter, had ceased talking over intros, were playing 3 or 4 or even 5 songs in a row without comment and, in some cases, were creating themes within these groupings. It was a revolution.

Also, FM was capable of much higher fidelity and could even transmit in stereo.

Elz convinced Grafman and Century Broadcasting to convert the struggling station to this new style and a year later Howard asked his brother Shelley to stop selling life insurance, which probably wasn’t a very difficult decision, and come to manage the station. Shelley, who had absolutely no experience in radio, took him up on it and then proceeded to hire staff. It is here that the genius or madness prevailed. Shelley hired high school students, or the very recently graduated, also with zero experience.

It could have failed. It could have gone down in blazing flames.

But it didn’t.

The time was right. We wanted to hear about our music, our culture, ourselves. We didn’t require that “radio voice” or banter. We wanted to hear someone who sounded like us: young, engaged, affected by the music and, most of all, hip.

And just like that a bunch of kids, all under the age of 21, none with experience in radio or broadcasting, along with Grafman as their leader, brought Album Oriented Rock radio to St. Louis.

kshe original Dj's

The studios were tiny and were situated along the north wall of the “66 Park In Theater,” in Crestwood. The old tube transmitters took up most of the building’s space; they overheated and ditches had to be dug to drain water away from pooling at their base. The building was hidden but certainly was found by the faithful. Listeners learned that there was a window into the studio space, a very uncommon feature, and they came to talk, to request and actually steal records, especially the ill-placed “L” section that sat right beneath the window. Per DJ Mark Klose, “So someone would call up and go, ‘Hey, man, how about some Little Feat?’ No. ‘Led Zeppelin?’ No. ‘LRB?’ Do you get the idea? I got no ‘L’s, man. They stole all my ‘L’s!”

Sunday evenings from 7 pm to midnight brought us the Seventh Day, a programming concept that continues to this day, where the station featured seven albums from seven different artists played in their entirety.

Ruth Hutchinson
DeeJay Ruth Hutchinson

Even the news was different on KSHE as the on-air personalities tossed away the tear sheets from the AP wire service and delivered the news in their own way, often with musical lead in that pertained to the content. Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla” and the Lighthouse classic “One Fine Morning” led us into the news and other features. KSHE was cultish, not corporate.

Early successes brought KSHE to events promotion like the KSHE Birthday Party, kite flying, the Valentine’s Day Massacre, Super Jams, the Thanksgiving concerts, the Pig Roasts and many other activities. Plus the KSHE Schtuff!

Early advertisers were limited to record stores, stereo stores, waterbed stores, head shops and pizza. But as the number of listeners grew, so did the potential for other advertisements.

The station really found its groove in the early ‘70s. It just couldn’t have gotten much groovier. The jocks were the best and were encouraged to break new and local bands, playing more than just the hits everyone else was playing. Whole albums were featured by artists as diverse as the Who, Arlo Guthrie, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, the Firesign Theater and Iron Butterfly. Foreign bands like Germany’s Lake were featured, as were Midnight Oil from Australia and Split Enz from New Zealand. Local bands like Mama’s Pride, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Cheap Trick and Head East got play time that would have probably never happened elsewhere and their careers were off and running.

We spoke with Joe Turek, the bass player and vocalist of Mama’s Pride, about KSHE and how their steady airplay and concert promotions helped make the band successful.

JOE TUREK AT RUSTY SPRINGS
Mama’s Pride member Joe Turek

“I joined the band in August of 1974 after an audition which went very well. I was playing in a bar band and waiting for the next semester of college to start,” said Turek. “We started playing at the River Rat on the landing, which was the precursor for Mississippi Nights and the owner loved the band and booked us opening for national acts. We connected with an agent out of Louisville and, as the story goes, we kept playing on the road, writing songs, getting more exposure as we went. Eventually, we went to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record a demo of our original songs. The demo was a success and we were shopped to many recording labels including Atlantic Records who loved the band and signed our record deal in St. Louis in June of 1975.”

Shelley Grafman was one of our biggest fans,” Turek said, “and we had a close relationship with him. KSHE played our test press of the first LP even prior to its official release. Our song off our first LP, ”Blue Mist,” is KSHE’s #1 song and Mama’s Pride is in KSHE’s Hall of Fame.”

There was an ongoing rivalry between KSHE and KADI, just a few points down on the dial. Turek remembered a story involving his brother-in-law, Ross Gentile (pronounced Gentiley), who started working weekends at KSHE in 1973.

ROSS AND GEORGE HARRISON
George Harrison with Ross Gentile. Date unknown.

“As the story goes, KADI had a fire in the station with firefighters on scene and Ross rolled into the station for his shift and began playing every song with fire in the title. Richard Miller, the owner of KADI, who later became a good friend of Ross’s, started a heated exchange with Shelley Grafman that led to Ross getting suspended for a week. But with a little smile on Shelley’s face because he thought it was incredible. At that time, it was one of the most outrageous things anyone ever did on radio. Ross was a teetotaler!”

Many of the DJs went on to other successes after KSHE. Gentile was hired out of the station by A&M Records and had a very successful career earning gold and platinum albums working with Styx, Head East, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Captain and Tennille, Supertramp and Peter Frampton. Peter Maer, a 1970 graduate from SIUE, worked at KSHE and went on to become the Senate and White House correspondent for NBC and CBS news. “Radio” Rich Dalton, whose face appeared on a Rolling Stone cover, migrated from KSHE to Internet radio. John Ulett went on to also be the PA announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals. Some went on to other adventures but, for most, their love of radio and music became their life.

ROSS AND PETER FRAMPTON
Ross Gentile with Peter Frampton 1977

As it goes, not all good things can last. By 1973 the number of FM stations in the U.S. had tripled but the corporate world caught up with Album Oriented Rock (AOR) and true, free-form radio was for the most part over. But not KSHE.

KSHE remains true to its AOR and progressive roots to this day, more than 50 years down the road. It, in fact, is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Longest Running Radio Station with no change in format since 1967.

We love that we have such a piece of rock and roll history right here in our beautiful city and we would love for you to share your memories with us. Please share this article with your friends and share your comments about KSHE remembrances, the times, the music and the concerts.

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The Biltmore Club in Fenton: Gangsters, Gambling and Gin

“In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking.
But now, God knows,
Anything goes.”

“Anything Goes,” by Cole Porter

As previously reported in our article on Jelly Roll Hogan, St. Louis and its surrounding counties were notoriously mobbed-up during the 1920s and throughout that failed social experiment called Prohibition. Stories abound in regard to shady characters and their actions to cash in on the loopholes of the era, along with the rampant graft and corruption. However, some stories also exist about the places the infamous frequented for fun.

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The Biltmore Country Club opened its doors in 1929 as a casino for the well-heeled that needed a well-concealed place to spend the money they were bringing in. The club was built in Fenton on the border of Jefferson and St. Louis counties; in fact one of the lingering stories about the club is that, if it was raided by one of those counties, the patrons would be instructed to move to the other side of the building, out of the raiding jurisdiction.

Actually, a good deal of the early history is sketchy and difficult to put together since the whole thing was kind of on the hush-hush. The club was opened by Jimmy Miller, boss of the 4th precinct in the city and justice of the peace. Miller spared no expense in the construction of the club at a cost of $250,000 (over $3.5 million in current value) as he planned it to be a posh getaway for high-end clients, decked out in tuxedos, diamonds and furs.

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In 1933, the ownership was taken over by one Harry E. Belford, aka “Hickory Slim,” a bookie and close friend of Al Capone. Not much is found on the Internet about Mr. Slim as, I’ve mentioned before, a low profile was pretty much de rigueur for the bootleg entrepreneurs of the day. Though Prohibition ended in 1933, gambling was still very much against the law and so the new owner purportedly had club employees with machine guns in each of the towers at the front of the building to welcome unwelcome guests. Capone was rumored to be a frequent guest and had ties to St. Louis’ all-Sicilian Green Gang.

When Jimmy Miller died in 1946, the ownership passed to Red O’Donnell, a Chicago businessman who made a flashy exit from life in the form of a heart attack and the crashing of his pink Cadillac into the trees outside the front gate of the club.

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In 1951, Ed and Marie Campbell of High Ridge bought the club and announced that its gambling days were over, stating that “the only bones to roll will be chicken bones and T-bones!” The Campbells had moderate success and sold the club to Don Winter in 1972. Winter sought to bring in a younger crowd and made the venue into a live music and prom destination. During the ‘70s, the club, now dubbed a banquet center, hosted a great number of dances featuring St. Louis rock bands like Hot Shot and 96 Proof. Many of our readers might have memories, possibly somewhat hazy, of this era in the club’s history.

The Biltmore burned down in 1979 and it has been said that fire fighters saw oil or gas in the runoff water as they fought the blaze. Whether or not that is true, the fire was believed to be arson but no one was prosecuted. Mr. Winter chose to raze the building and sold the land instead of rebuilding. Today, the only vestige of the Biltmore Club is the name it gave to the office and shopping complex that now stands on the historic piece of land.

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Schlafly Bottleworks Hosts Three Stooges Nights

Why would a hip, bespoke brewery like Schlafly Bottleworks host a Three Stooges Night once a month? Because we love them, that’s why!

I realize that Three Stooges fandom is a much divided enterprise. You either love them or you hate them.  So, there’s a chance that you might already be not reading this. But, if you’ve not already tuned out, you might find there is much more to the story of the three knucklehead, slap stickers than you had thought. I promise intrigue, alcoholism, Nazis, brain damage, beating deaths, acid burns, brotherhood and nice Jewish boys who made a business of poking each other in the eyes.

The four main Three Stooges (I know that’s confusing, but we’ll sort it out) were born nice Jewish boys. Three were brothers: Samuel (Shemp), Moses (Moe) and Jerome (Curly) Horwitz. They were born in Brooklyn, New York in 1895, 1897 and 1903, respectively. The fourth, and with Moe the most consistent Stooge constituent, was born Louis Feinberg (Larry) in south Philadelphia in 1902.

In the later years the group also included Curly Joe DeRita and Joe Besser (born in St. Louis!!), but in general they are thought of as lesser Stooges by fans. Both were added to the group in the ‘50s to replace Curly, who by that time had been damaged by the constant beating he took from the not-as-fake-as-they-look blows to the head that was part of the Stooges’ trademark.

Shemp and Moe, having no love or money for college, entered trade school, Shemp for plumbing (no wonder there were so many plumbing skits!) and Moe to be an electrician. Neither found the trades very exciting because they had their eyes on performing and vaudeville.

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In 1916, at the ages of 21 and 19, Shemp and Moe first put together a stage act and changed their last name to Howard. They kept at it until 1922 when they met a former schoolmate and successful vaudevillian, Ted Healy. Owing to Healy’s bossy nature (and severe alcoholism, we’ll get to that later), the trio was not yet known as The Three Stooges, but was billed as Ted Healy and His Stooges.

Cut to Louis Feinberg, or as we know him, Larry. Larry was son of a jeweler and, at the age of four, he was bringing a bottle of acid, used to test gold content, to his lips, thinking it was a beverage. His father noticed it and knocked the bottle away, but the acid fell on the boy’s arm, burning through his muscles all the way to the bone. The arm was skin grafted but was left weakened. Doctors suggested he take up boxing and he did, but his parents weren’t keen on it and also got him to take up violin. He excelled at both. Larry made money as a lightweight boxer and did well for himself but his violin led to him play with the Philadelphia Philharmonic at age 9. There was talk of sending the young man to a European music conservatory, but those plans were preempted by World War I.

Larry, who had changed his last name to Fine, took to vaudeville and was the master of ceremonies at Chicago’s Rainbo Gardens when he met Ted Healy and Shemp Fine, touring in the Shubert Brothers’ “Night in Spain,” in March 1928. Shemp was set to leave the production for a while and Larry was asked to take his place until Shemp’s return in September. Healy liked what he saw and when he signed a contract to perform in the Shubert’s new revue, “A Night in Venice,” in early 1929, he brought Shemp, Moe and Larry together for the first time, billed as the Three Stooges. The revue ran through the spring of 1930 and then the quartet toured as Ted Healy and his Racketeers for a while, culminating that summer with a trip to Hollywood to film “Soup to Nuts” for Fox Studios.

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The movie was not a hit. Healy, who might have looked okay under stage lighting and from a distance, was not a prime candidate for the movies. Plus, his comedy relied largely on ad libs and improvisation and he wasn’t seen as “Hollywood material.” On the other hand, studio executives saw something in the other three and only they were offered contracts.

Healy exploded. He told the executives that Howard, Howard and Fine were his employees and that he already had them under contract. The offer was rescinded. The trio broke away from Healy after hearing of his actions and he forbade them from using any of the material, considering it copyrighted. Healy even threatened to bomb theaters that the Stooges might dare to play.

I did mention that Healy was a volatile drunk, didn’t I?

Amazingly, a couple of years later, in 1932, Healy managed to patch things up with the boys and they began working together once more. But it didn’t last. Shemp was a nervous sort and Healy’s penchant for violence and his turn-on-a-dime personality, both fueled by prodigious quantities of alcohol, sent Shemp off on a solo career. The oldest Howard brother was gone, but went on to have a solid career in movies and shorts.

Moe suggested that his baby brother Jerome be considered as Shemp’s replacement. Jerome showed up for his meeting with Healy with long, curly hair and a handlebar mustache and Healy immediately pronounced him “not funny,” probably having something to do with a weapons-grade hangover. It has been reported that neither Moe nor Larry really felt that Jerry had any comic talent either but, you know, he was family. Shemp, however, either felt differently or just really, really wanted out of the group so, at his suggestion, a freshly-shaved Jerry stuffed himself into a too-small bathing suit and, carrying a tiny pail of water, burst in on a Stooges act on stage. The result was hilarious and Curly was born.

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The Stooges with Ted Healy in 1934, three years before his murder.

Healy put together a one year contract with MGM and the group shot some shorts and a couple of full-length movies but, in 1934, the contract was not renewed and the men went their separate ways.

Let’s talk a minute about Ted Healy. Look, the guy was very successful. He influenced Bob Hope, Red Skelton and Milton Berle, by their admission. But he was the definition of his own worst enemy. Not only was he drunk most of the time (and violent and explosive and mean), he was also stupid. He insulted Lucky Luciano’s heritage. He tried to rob Al Capone’s safe as a gag. He had an affair with Pasquale DiCicco’s wife, Thelma Todd, and DiCicco was Luciano’s eyes-and-ears man in Hollywood.

Todd ended up very dead in 1935, ruled a suicide but always thought to be the work of hubby DiCicco. Healy thought maybe he ought to lay off the actresses and he married a UCLA student, surely many years his junior (it’s been going on forever, hasn’t it?). But he did not lay off the booze. Nor did he stop acting like an ass. A couple of years after Todd’s death Healy was out celebrating the birth of his first child, already knee-walking drunk, when he ran into Mr. DiCicco, along with a young Wallace Beery.

Did Healy behave himself?

No.

He started a fight with Beery and then suggested they “take it outside.” They did. Beery and DiCicco beat and kicked Healy with savagery. Healy fell into a coma and died the next day. An autopsy, no doubt supported by Mr. DiCicco, reported that Healy had died of acute alcoholism. While his organs surely would have been ravaged by his drinking, the report left out a lot about the trauma associated with being pummeled to a pulp in an alley. Healy’s wife, and a new mother, complained about the lack of investigation. She was fired from the MGM contract player job she had landed and never worked in Hollywood again. Wallace Beery took a three month vacation in Europe.

By this time, the Three Stooges had been under contract for three years with another Hollywood sociopath, Harry Cohn, of Columbia Studios. They had made a couple of dozen shorts and five features for Columbia and their shtick of pie fights and violence had formed and taken root. In a town as insular and gossipy as Hollywood, it’s possible, maybe even probable, that the trio knew what had really happened to their former partner but it would have been bad juju indeed to have let on or demand further inquiry.

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The Stooges made 190 shorts for Columbia in their 23 years there. Their two-reel shorts became so popular that Cohn used them as leverage against movie theaters. He would not send the Stooges shorts they desired unless they agreed to play them before a great number of their not-so-great B movie features. But Cohn successfully held this information from the boys, granting them only one year contracts throughout their time there, telling them the market was dying for their humor and only renegotiating at the last minute. Moe, the group’s business manager, didn’t learn of Cohn’s con until they stopped making the shorts in 1957, learning only then of the millions of dollars that had been left on the table.

The Stooges were required by Columbia to make up to eight shorts per year in a 40 week period. The remaining time could be spent on their own or, often, touring to promote their act. The years from 1934 to 1941 were considered their prime and the shorts left few premises unturned. “Hoi Polloi,” in 1935, had a Pygmalion theme (with the boys attempting education).  Also in 1935, “Three Little Beers” depicted the boys doing their worst to a golf course. In “Disorder in the Court” the trio was cast as witnesses to a murder trial. In one of their most famous works, in 1940, the group became plumbers and nearly demolished a socialite’s mansion in “A Plumbing We Will Go.”

Then, in 1940 and 1941, respectively, the Stooges starred in two shorts that are among the favorites of aficionados and the Stooges themselves: “You Natzy Spy!” and “I’ll Never Heil Again.” Mind you, these productions were made while America was still neutral in the conflict already going on in Europe.

In “I’ll Never Heil Again” Moe played Moe Hailstone, patterned on Adolf Hitler, Larry played an ambassador ala Joachim von Ribbentrop and Curly played a character very similar to Hermann Göring. Hitler was not impressed and he put them on his personal death list. So that’s fun.

All of this started months before Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator.”  (Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!)

The group produced a great many works during the war years, including one poking fun at Japan, “The Yoke’s On Me,” in 1944. But it seemed that, with a limited formula, the boys and their directors were trying to outdo themselves. Production costs rose, more scenes were shot on location and more violence was worked in. The productions became viewed as lesser works, especially after 1942, but the increased violence brought about a more ominous result.

Curly, the hulking man child, had an inherent innocence stuffed, like his body, into a too-tight suit. Audiences ate him up like theater candy. The formula for the Stooges’ comedy became heavily reliant on Curly, and on physical abuse directed at him. Curly was very conscious about his head being shaved, now an absolute requirement for his character, and he felt it kept women from liking him. He began to drink and eat heavily and his weight ballooned, starting in the ‘40s. The constant violence the act required, in addition to his hard living, took a toll.

Curly’s performances began to suffer. His hands shook; he had trouble delivering and remembering lines; his blood pressure soared and he suffered a series of cerebral hemorrhages. The 1945 short, “If a Body Meet a Body,” shows Curly visibly debilitated. Curly continued to make shorts through 1947 but he suffered a stroke during “Half-Wit’s Holiday” that ended his career. He did manage a part in 1949’s “Malice in the Palace” as a chef, the only short to feature all four Stooges.

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A much thinner, mustachioed Curly as a chef in “Malice in the Palace,” from 1949.

With Curly unable to continue, Moe turned to his older brother, Shemp, and asked him to rejoin the group. Shemp was hesitant, having built a nice career of his own, but he knew that refusal would probably mean the end for his brother’s act. At the time, they believed that Curly’s ailments were temporary and that Shemp’s reunion would only be until Curly could return.

Curly, however, did not improve and comedian Buddy Hackett was approached to join. Hackett refused and Shemp signed on for a longer term. In 1952, Curly passed away of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Shemp made 76 shorts and one feature with the Stooges after his return. Larry, often a background character during Curly’s heyday, became more featured, even becoming the focus on “Fuelin’ Around” and “He Cooked His Goose.”  I liked those a great deal.

Shemp

The “Shemp years” also held another distinction: the Stooges invaded television, appearing on shows by Milton Berle, Morey Amsterdam, Ed Wynn, Kate Smith, Frank Sinatra and Eddie Cantor. But, three years after Curly’s death, in 1955, Shemp passed away, at age 60, from a heart attack.

Moe was devastated and wanted to disband the group but, ever the supportive boss, Cohn reminded him that the studio was owed four more Shemp shorts. Using recycled footage and a Shemp “look-alike,” Joe Palma (filmed only from behind), the group completed the final four owed under that contract, all released in 1956.

BesserA third Stooge was once again needed and Columbia insisted on someone they already had under contract. Joe Besser (our St. Louis boy!) made 16 shorts with the group from 1956 through 1958, the group’s final work under contract with Columbia.

In 1958, Columbia refused to renew the contract and things ended with a whimper. Moe went to the studio at one point to say some goodbyes, but since he didn’t have a current pass, was not allowed entry.  Without a contract, the Stooges thought they would try to make a go of personal appearances but Joe Besser’s wife became ill and he declined the notion of travel.

Moe and Larry were again searching for a third Stooge. Former burlesque performer Joe DeRita was chosen.

But a bit of a windfall was coming. The burgeoning television market was ripe for time-filling shorts and the Stooges work seemed perfect to fit the bill. In January 1958, Screen Gems, the Columbia television subsidiary, offered stations 78 Stooges shorts, most from the Curly era. They were a hit, so 40 more were released. By 1959, all 190 Columbia-produced Three Stooges shorts were available for broadcast.

Suddenly the boys were back in demand. It was suggested that DeRita shave his head in order to look more like Curly from their prime era and he became Curly-Joe. The lineup, billed as  Larry, Moe and Curly-Joe enjoyed a bit of a Renaissance, appearing in six full-feature films from ’59 to ’65 and they became one of the most popular and highest-paid live acts in the country. In addition to appearing on numerous television shows in the ‘60s, they filmed 41 short comedy pieces for “The New Stooges,” an animated series with 156 cartoons, in 1965.

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In 1969-70, the group was working on a series that would depict the Stooges as retired and traveling the world. During production of the pilot episode, Larry Fine suffered a stroke and was paralyzed, ending plans for the series. DeRita made an attempt at forming “The New Three Stooges” but the results were not good and he quietly retired.

Larry suffered more strokes and passed away in January 1975. Moe was diagnosed with lung cancer and also passed away that year.

Seventy years after their prime season, the Three Stooges are still popular. It seems they are still constantly delighting older fans and always managing to draw new ones. They have been a presence on television consistently since 1958. Theaters hold festivals of their work. While they may not have had the sophistication of Charlie Chaplin, or the subtlety of Buster Keaton, they did, as Steve Allen once said, “succeed in accomplishing what they always intended to do: they made people laugh.”

Schlafly Bottleworks, 7260 Southwest Avenue, in Maplewood, hosts “Three Stooges Night” the second Monday of each month from 7-9 pm.  The series is set to continue well into 2018.

Long live the Stooges!

Jelly Roll Hogan: Eureka’s Most Notorious Gangster

Italian gangs, more specifically the Mafia, get all the underworld glory. So do the cities of New York and Chicago. Who hasn’t heard of Don Vito Corleone, or Al Capone? Of the Gambinos or the rat-a-tat-tat of a machine gun shot from a car hurtling down, fittingly, Wacker Drive? Or the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?

But did you know that the famous massacre on Cupid’s day was, purportedly the Italian response to territory encroachment in Chicago by the St. Louis-based Egan’s Rats? Did you know that St. Louis had a ferocious history in gang violence, rivaling that of cities much larger? And did you know that one of those gangsters not only had a home in the city, but built a mansion near Eureka?

The Irish Mob is the oldest organized gang in U.S. history, reaching back a hundred years or more before they had any real competition from Italian or Jewish gangs formed in the late 1800s. Remember “The Gangs of New York” and Leonardo DiCaprio’s dodgy Irish accent? (Sure, and he was a right eejit, as useless as a chocolate tea kettle, he was!)

Well, St. Louis was a hotbed of organized gang activity, especially during that failed moral experiment called Prohibition. And a key character was one Edward J. Hogan, Jr., or Jelly Roll Hogan, though I wouldn’t go calling him that because he didn’t like the moniker and was a persnickety type that once beat up a man on the Missouri Capitol steps in broad daylight. Why was Jelly Roll Hogan on the Missouri Capitol steps in broad daylight? Well, he was a multi-term Missouri State Representative and Senator as well!

Cool.

Jellyroll Hogan 1

Mr. Hogan (hey, I ain’t calling him that other name…I mean, he’s dead, but why take chances?), the son of a St. Louis police chief, went into saloon keeping, as you do if you’re the son of a police chief. But, with the passage of the 18th Amendment and only 1,500 nationwide agents to enforce it, well, what is a poor boy to do? Hogan and some of his ne’er-do-well buddies started running beer and liquor. And they found, as did like-minded peers in most major cities, the passage of something called an “Amendment to the Constitution” did little to quench the thirst of the people and so their scale of bootlegging increased mightily.

Hogan, born in 1886, was involved early in St. Louis city politics and was elected to the state legislature, as a Representative, in 1916. He left that post in the spring of 1920, taking the Prohibition years off for escapades slightly more profitable and slightly more illegal. Running his gang and enterprises from his headquarters at Jefferson and Cass Streets in the city, Hogan got himself named as Deputy Inspector for the State Beverage Department of Missouri, also in 1920. In that capacity, Hogan’s duty was to be sure that all beverages produced in Missouri were of the non-alcoholic variety and were produced safely and legally.

Uh huh.

So, just hypothetically, if someone was making soda pop in St. Louis, and that someone had a bit of cash to slip under the table and Mr. Hogan was, hypothetically, on the other side of that table, then inspections of said soda pop factory might be delayed. Who knows what might have been bottled during the delay? (We all do.)

All well and good, right?

Nope.

Gangsters are greedy. You’ve seen the movies!

Hogan, though identified as an Irish gangster, was ahead of his time in that he embraced thugs from many ethnicities. (Well, I’m not sure he embraced them, you know, per se, because, enlightened as he was, that kind of thing was frowned upon.) Hogan’s Gang included Humbert Costello, Charles Mercurio, Leo Casey, Abe Goldfeder, John “Kink” Connell, and Patrick Scanlon.

Diversity!

 

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But his gang did most decidedly not include William Egan. In fact, Egan’s Rats, from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre mentioned before, were his bitter enemies. Not content on dividing up the riches of St. Louis and surrounding counties, Hogan and Egan entered into one of the most deadly, bloody turf wars of the Roaring Twenties right here on the streets of our fair city.

The Hogan-Egan war reached its peak during the years 1921-23 and seemed to be started by an Egan employee, Max Greenberg, who took umbrage at being the target of an Egan assassination attempt over a stolen whiskey shipment. Greenberg joined the Hogan gang and paid three members of his new gang $10,000 each to kill Willie Egan in front of his saloon, located at Fourteenth and Franklin on Halloween night, 1921. Egan’s buddy, “Dint” Colbeck, reached Egan’s side just in time to see the action and fingered the three assassins as James Hogan (brother), Luke Kennedy and John Doyle.

Well, that did it.

For the next two years, both sides took every opportunity to hurl bullets (and cars and who knows what else) at each other, not caring much for where said bullets were hurled, or whom might be standing around, all innocent like. Accounts too numerous for this article abound and, for further research and jaw dropping, I recommend the book “The Gangs of St. Louis: Men of Respect,” by Daniel Waugh. However, here are a few just to whet your appetite.

On December 30, 1921, a carload of Egan shooters opened fire on several Hogan men as they left the police station in downtown St. Louis. Luke Kennedy was severely wounded in the leg and Hogan Gang attorney, Jacob Mackler, had his derby removed via shotgun blast, though he was, miraculously not hurt. A week later, in the dawn of 1922, one of Willie Egan’s fingered killers, John Doyle, was shot and killed in a high-speed chase with St. Louis police. In April of that year, Kennedy, still nursing his leg, was cornered and, according to a witness, taunted and then killed by Egan gunmen.

Retaliation came from Hogan by shooting up Dint Colbeck’s plumbing store. Egan gunmen countered the next day with a drive-by shooting of the Boss Hogan’s home at 3035 Cass Avenue, where Hogan’s parents were staying and they spent some time diving for cover. The open gang war was disturbing some, including Monsignor Timothy Dempsey, who met with the gang members individually and persuaded a truce. Of sorts.

Max Greenberg, one of the catalysts of the war, was placed on a train to New York. But the treaty left the Egan Gang with the lion’s share of power and they were not ones to be good winners. The dominant gang antagonized at every opportunity.

It has not been mentioned that, in addition to bootlegging and basically having a license to print money, the greedy gangs also dabbled in bank robbing.  After an Egan bank job, Egan gangster Chippy Robinson called the police to pin the robbery on the Hogan Gang. Hogan himself, and some of his men, were arrested for the deed but the charges failed to stick.

On September 2, 1922, Dint Colbeck (he sure got around), and three of his men, ran across Hogan men Abe Goldfeder and Max Gordon and chased them down Locust Street in a hail of gunfire, Gordon losing an eye in the exchange. But it wasn’t until February 1923 that the war again reached a fever pitch.

Jacob Mackler, he of shot-off derby fame, was shot and killed by Colbeck and his men in Old North St. Louis on February 21 and the city erupted once again. Hogan’s Cass Avenue home was again shot up in March and after that Hogan and an associate traded shots with a carload of Egans while traveling at a high rate of speed up North Grand, Egan’s car eventually striking and critically injuring a 12 year old boy.

The city had enough and Monsignor Timothy Dempsey, along with police officials and the press, sought a truce once and for all. Both Colbeck and Hogan wrote letters to the city stating that the Egan-Hogan war was over and that peace would reign.

After all of this, after the charges for bank robbery, after the known bootlegging, after the violence and infamous notoriety in a city caught in a web of terror, Edward Hogan returned to the legislature. Hogan served as a Missouri state representative from 1934-1940 and then as a Missouri state senator from 1944-1956.

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If someone wants to make an observation about the parallel of Hogan’s two lives, here would be the place.

Hogan, in his quieter years, built a mansion on 140 acres of land in Jefferson County, on the outskirts of Eureka. That home and its barn, currently being converted into a rentable party space and owned by Brookdale Farms, was built in 1933 and served as a place of refuge for Hogan. This home, shown in accompanying photographs, stands in stark contrast to a time and a place not as gentle and quiet.

Edward “Jelly Roll” Hogan was given a gift not extended to his peers, like Al Capone and Bugs Malone and Willie Egan: he lived past his wild days. And he was an example contrary to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s assertion that “There are no second acts in American lives.”

Zombie Road – Hauntings on the Meramec

As fall comes to our land and temperatures drop and leaves unmask their true colors, previously hidden by that green bully chlorophyll; as thoughts turn to hayrides and pumpkins; as fire becomes a warming friend; as we bring in our bountiful harvest; as we crack out the flannel and those undergarments that have a purpose; as we cool down from summer’s fever, there is but one burning issue on our collective minds.

Terror.

Frightening, paralyzing, debilitating terror.

It’s fun!

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Take the kids out to a haunted house so they can wet themselves!

Dress them up as specters in the night!

Accrue thousands of dollars of future psychiatric needs!

But whatever you do, don’t go to Zombie Road.

Or do. We at STLCountyArts aren’t judgy about stuff like that. Just be warned.

Here’s the skinny: Zombie Road might be that place where the guy with the hook for a hand scrapes it across the top of your car while you’re, as Chuck Berry used to say, trying to unfasten that “safety belt.”

Zombie Road might feature an old lady screaming at you from the porch of her dilapidated house. (Though, it is Missouri and that could happen almost anywhere.)

Zombie Road might hold the ghost of a man killed by a train, or Confederate soldier hauntings, or the ectoplasmic residuals of a person who committed suicide from a bridge there. But, curiously, there appear to be no Zombies. Or maybe there are but they just have a poor press agent.

We don’t know!

Here’s what we do know: Zombie Road, or Lawler Ford Road, is about two miles long, winding through a dense valley of oak-wooded hills. It ends near the Meramec River in the Glencoe area where it meets St. Louis County’s decidedly non-haunted (so they say) Al Foster Memorial Trail.

The Rue de Zombie has a long history, starting as a Native American path through the area. As civilization encroached, the path became a road, and was picketed by St. Louis militia supporting the Union as Confederate forces tried to sneak through. Though accurate records fail us, we are told death came to many! Also bringing death: the railroad that pressed through the area, the quarries that drove the necessity of the railroad, and the Meramec River itself!

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Spooky!

Death!

Ghosts!

The road has garnered national attention from paranormal investigators and phantom chasers of all types and is regarded as one of the spookiest places in Missouri , impressive as we also have the Lemp Mansion, Pythian Castle and the hipster hauntings of Cherokee Street! But, aside from haints sporting mustache wax, Zombie Road is listed as one of the “Top 10 Most Haunted Places in Missouri” and has been featured in the paranormal documentary “Children of the Grave.”

Against her vigorous protests, we sent Valerie Tichacek to take photos of the area for your viewing pleasure. From her room at the local “rest home” and the comfort of her arm-strapping garment, she has assured us that “it wasn’t that spooky.” At least that’s what we think she said as it’s very difficult to talk with that “Silence of the Lambs” face mask thing on.

This is normally the part where we tell you how to get there, but our crack law team at Dewey, Cheatem and Howe have advised toward discretion. Look for Glencoe (wink) and Al Foster Trailhead (wink wink) and if you get wet, you’ve gone too far.

Disclaimer: the only presence we know for sure you will encounter is police and park rangers, especially if you venture out past closing time, which is 30 minutes after sunset.

Boo!

Photos by Valerie Tichacek

St. Louis Scottish Games and Cultural Festival

You’ve just got to love a festival where the scotch tasting begins at 9:30 am. Maybe that’s just me. But if you too like a full-day of whisky and log throwing, we have the place for you.

bagpipesThe Scottish Games and Cultural Festival will be held again in Chesterfield, close to the Spirit of St. Louis Airport, on September 29 and 30. The festival kicks off Friday at 4 p.m. and there’s a rush to get into the thick of things with a sheepdog demonstration at 4:15 p.m.! Dusk brings the Torchlight Ceremony and the calling of the clans; I looked at the represented clans for 2016 and did not find a listing or tartan for Edwards, but I’ll fall in with Clan Murray of Athole, just on principle.

oxHonestly, I’m in the dark about many of the activities but will list them here in case your knowledge of Scottish games and fun surpasses mine.

Friday – Sept. 29, 2017

  • 4pm: Gates Open to the Public
  • 4:15pm: Sheepdog Demonstration (Not sure what they’re demonstrating, but it’s at least possible that it’s cooking utensils)
  • 4-5:30pm: Athletics Demonstrations (Somebody’s going to throw a huge log, you can bet.)
  • 5:40pm: Opening Ceremonies Begin
  • 5:45pm: Folk Concert with Jil Chambless, Scooter Muse & John Taylor
  • Dusk: Torchlight Ceremony
  • 8pm: Laphroaig Celtic Rock Concert
  • ~10pm: Friday events end

athletics

Saturday – Sept. 30, 2017

Throughout Saturday

  • Scottish athletic competitions including the world-famous caber toss (Oh yeah!)
  • Highland dancing demonstrations
  • Scotch tasting
  • Piping, drumming and massed pipebands
  • Folk music
  • Celtic rock music
  • Sheep herding demonstrations
  • Scottish and American food and beverages (No word from the Haggis Tent thus far)
  • Children’s Activities (Does NOT include scotch)

I just don’t see how this day can be missed! It has everything!

If you agree, the tickets are available online at Scottish Festival Tickets or at the gate. For more information visit www.stlouis-scottishgames.com.

Photos courtesy of Mark Sutherland.

Music and Craft Beer Festival Comes to Historic Jefferson Barracks

We know what you’re thinking: where can I find that combination of military history, gravestones, tame deer, music, craft beer and hipsters that mid-August just cries out for? Well, the St. Louis Arts Blog has got you covered!

To say that Jefferson Barracks has history is a gross understatement. Started as a military post in 1826, it was named after one Thomas Jefferson, the ginger US President and Louisiana Purchaser who had just died the year before. The location on the banks of the Mississippi River had supreme geographic importance at a time when St. Louis was truly a gateway to westward expansion. The post was the army’s first permanent post west of the Mississippi and, by the 1840s, it became the largest military post in the country.

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During the Civil War, the post became a training ground for Union forces and featured a hospital for its sick and wounded. The Civil War also posed a new issue for the country: what to do with the vast number of corpses the unimaginably brutal war was creating. In 1862, Congress established a bill authorizing the President “to purchase cemetery grounds, and cause them to be securely enclosed, to be used as a national cemetery for the soldiers who shall have died in the service of the country.” Jefferson Barracks was established as such in 1866.

Gravestones? Jefferson Barracks has plenty. The old cemetery has over 20,000, including over 1,000 Confederate dead and Union soldiers who are arranged, as best could be determined, by the State of their regiments. Today, the Barracks covers 331 acres and holds over 188,000 graves.

IMG_9534While no interments could surpass the fame and honor we should bestow on our nation’s veterans, including two Medal of Honor recipients and three Revolutionary War veterans, there are some noteworthy individuals buried in Jefferson Barracks too, including, somewhat oddly, several musicians. Individuals of note include: sports announcer extraordinaire Jack Buck, nine-decade-recording artist and bluesman Henry Townsend, opera singer Robert McFerrin Sr. and legendary pianist and Chuck Berry cohort Johnnie Johnson.

So where are we? Ah, yes, music!

MojoFinal_1000_01The Mojo Craft Beer and Music Festival, featuring and initiated by local music heroes, Story of the Year, will make its debut this August 19th at the Jefferson Barracks Park. In addition to Story of the Year, other acts include P.O.D., Unwritten Law, The Orwells, Lucky Boys Confusion and Joe Dirt and the Dirt Boys Band. That last group seems quite apropos.

The all-day event will feature over 80 craft beers on tap, including a special, one-day-only concoction by 4 Hands called, rather cleverly, Story of the Beer. Tickets for the festival range from $40 to $199 and can be found by visiting the festival’s Facebook page.

So we have military history, gravestones, music and craft beer, which just leaves us wanting the tame deer and hipsters. But, as the photos show, the tame deer will find you and, with all the other components in place, we believe the hipsters will too.

You’re welcome!

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The Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery is located at 2900 Sheridan Road in St. Louis and is adjacent to the Jefferson Barracks Park, located at 345 North Road. The Park includes the Old Ordnance Museum, the Powder Magazine Museum, the Laborer’s House and Ordnance Stable, the Missouri Civil War Museum, the Jefferson Barracks Telephone Museum and a Visitors Center.

Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park

Frank Lloyd Wright was an American visionary. He was an architect but also an interior designer, writer and educator. Wright, who designed more than 1,000 structures in his 7-decade career, created structures and living spaces that were in harmony with the surrounding environment and with the humanity that would inhabit the spaces. He was instrumental in creating whole new movements in architecture and his designs were for spaces as varied as churches, office buildings, museums, skyscrapers and homes. He was a phenomenally busy man.

Russell William Morland Kraus was also a very busy and driven man. Kraus, who was trained at Washington University and the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, had worked in a supervisory capacity for WPA art projects in the 1930s. Kraus had also served with the Army Engineers Map Office during World War II, and, after the war, he began to search for a large suburban site where he could build a new house and enjoy the St. Louis countryside.

IMG_9283Kraus read about a house Wright had built for a middle-income client near Washington D.C. and decided to contact the architect, whom he greatly admired, with a proposal that he design a home in the Usonian style for him. Wright was, at the time, working on his late-life masterpiece, the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and was, in addition to being considered extremely eccentric, quite famous and busy trying to complete the many ideas and projects he was attempting to finish in the time he had left. Perhaps Wright’s eccentricity, and his desire to bring his design concepts to a wider audience, worked to Kraus’ advantage.

IMG_9284Though Wright had designed and built homes for the fabulously well-to-do, including Fallingwater in Pennsylvania and the Robie House in Chicago’s Hyde Park, he had developed a design theme he called the Usonian home back in the 1930s. The Usonian home was modest in size but, as with all of Wright’s designs, built in harmony with nature. It also incorporated well-planned “work areas” for kitchen, laundry and other chores, a highly accessible dining area and a living space that sometimes comprised up to half of the home’s floor space.  He was also very interested in these living spaces having uniquely American stylings, departing from the high-ceilinged boxes of Victorian or other European designs.

Wright’s designs, for public spaces, Prairie style homes and Usonian homes were guided by sharp angles and low profiles, the use of natural wood and stone and, in the case of Fallingwater, the incorporation of a waterfall into the house itself. Angled bricks and corners that met at 60 and 120 degree angles confounded many contractors but, once completed, gave a Wright-designed home a look that is instantly recognizable. Often, in order to achieve the total immersion of design he wanted, Wright would design not only the house but the furniture and glass work and carpeting; he would even hand pick the vases and artwork that would be allowed in the home.

IMG_9280Wright asked for and received a “wish list” from Russell and Ruth Goetz Kraus, detailing what they did and did not want in their home. The phenomenally busy, but also phenomenally productive, Wright returned a design built on the idea of intersecting parallelograms which are used throughout the house, furniture and even flooring.

The wood that Wright chose for the home was also a problem.  Tidewater red cypress was extremely difficult to find and was available from only a very few suppliers in a couple of southern states. So difficult was the wood to find that the initiation of building was delayed and then stopped later until new supplies could be found.

IMG_9306The construction took over four years and the cost was far over what was expected.  Problems with bricks, copper and wood were encountered, and adjacent properties needed to be purchased to prevent the construction of other buildings that would have, to the Kraus point of view, detracted from the masterpiece of living style they were creating.

The ordeal of building the home often was nearly too much, but the home was finished, even after Wright’s death in 1959, and was the home for the couple for 32 years. Ruth passed away in 1992 and Russell sought to sell the home. After three decades of living, the home needed work, however, and a buyer seemed elusive. The home was certainly worth saving and to that end a conservancy was created. Over the next several years the board worked to raise the money, over $2 million, to buy and restore the home and surrounding property.

IMG_9285In 2001, the group had completed its work and opened the Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park. The property is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is open year-round for guided tours by appointment. The home is located at 120 North Ballas Road and tours can be arranged by calling 314-822-8359 or by visiting www.ebsworthpark.org.

The St. Louis Carousel: A Treasure Saved

Carousels have been a part of history for more than a thousand years and certainly since the Middle Ages when knights used them for training purposes. The name itself is derived from the Spanish word “carosella,” or “little battle.” Objects, like the proverbial brass ring, were placed outside the carousel and were to be grabbed or skewered by the knight’s sword. Jousting practice was also part of the carousel’s history until a member of the Medici family was killed. Rich people spoil it for everyone, heh?

Continue reading “The St. Louis Carousel: A Treasure Saved”

The Black Madonna Shrine, a Life’s Work

Before we tell you the story of our local Black Madonna Shrine, we should give a little background about the original.

There are legends surrounding the origin of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, a revered icon of the Jasna Góra monastery in Poland. Some say that St. Luke painted the image on a tabletop in the home of the Holy Family over 2,000 years ago. Art and history scholars disagree and say the original painting was probably a Byzantine icon created in the sixth or ninth century and that it was brought to the monastery by Prince Ladislaus of Opole in the 14th century.

Continue reading “The Black Madonna Shrine, a Life’s Work”