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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The 100 Greatest St. Louis Songs

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2014 at 4:06 AM

Page 7 of 10

40. Bob Kuban and the In-Men - "The Cheater" (1966)

Local singles don't get much bigger than this slice of horn-fueled blue-eyed soul. Bob Kuban led his In-Men from behind his drum kit, and this song of romantic philandering and karmic comeuppance would rise to No. 12 on the pop charts. Years later the song would earn Kuban a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame...in the one-hit wonder exhibit. The In-Men had a few more moderately successful singles before splintering into different groups, though Kuban still leads his eponymous band to this day. Kuban's marquee song would remain on local oldies stations for decades to come, though the epitaph to "The Cheater" is equal parts tragedy and irony: Singer Walter Scott was found murdered in 1983 at the hands of James Williams, his wife's lover; for her part, Scott's wife JoAnn was found guilty of hindering the prosecution, giving a harrowing ring of truth to her former husband's big hit. -CS

39. MU330 - "Hoosier Love" (1994)

Dissertations have been written on the many definitions and ramifications of the term "hoosier," but, as Justice Potter Stewart said of pornography, St. Louisans know hoosier-dom when we see it. Thankfully, third-wave ska band MU330 boiled down some of the key components -- El Caminos, Mötley Crüe tapes, Busch Light in cans and all the low-rent joys that south-side living affords. The kinetic, pogo-worthy song was the leadoff to the band's 1994 debut Press and has remained MU330's signature song even twenty years later. Founding members of the band -- Dan Potthast, Ted Moll, Rob Bell and Chris Diebold -- still rep their hoosier roots at the band's occasional shows, and there's a good chance that ska kids coast to coast only know St. Louis through this little portrait; we're not in any hurry to correct their perceptions. -CS

38. Count Basie and His Orchestra - "St. Louis Boogie" (1947)

This list (and the weight of history) has canonized W. C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues," but the blues were hardly the only music to be molded and shaped by our town. Count Basie's instrumental "St. Louis Boogie" is emblematic of other boogie-woogie tunes of its day -- dig his hopping left hand and Emmett Berry's trumpet blasts -- but the song's swing shows some sophistication befitting its namesake town. Listen to the way Basie and the band take it down from a whomp to a whisper in its final movement; you can practically hear him caressing those piano keys as they tinkle out the final filigreed moments of the song. -CS

37. Albert King - "Lovejoy, ILL." (1971)

Like other legends of the St. Louis blues, Albert King was not born here. But his name is synonymous, or at least should be, with the town where he established his career. The Mississippi native scored his first hits with St. Louis' Bobbin label in the '50s. Though he made some masterpieces in Memphis for Stax, including the essential collection Born Under a Bad Sign, on his 1971 album Lovejoy he paid tribute to his home on the east side of the river, the town of Brooklyn, Illinois, known to residents as Lovejoy (after the abolitionist Elijah P. Lovejoy), where King perfected his southpaw style and his massively influential tone. -RK

36. Timothy Cooper - "East St. Louis Rock" (1959)

A half-century before Boxing Clever and FarFetched started promoting St. Louis-area artists with their compilations, father and son Fred and Bill Stevens established Stevens Records in East St. Louis in the hope of shining a national light on local blues and R&B talent. East-side bluesman Timothy Cooper recorded several songs for Stevens in 1959 backed by Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm (Turner was credited under the pseudonym "Icky Renrut" due to an ongoing contract with Sun Records), including the rollicking twelve-bar blues "East St. Louis Rock." The good-time party tune with a catchy chorus even name drops the Mambo Key Club, one of the city's most popular joints at the time. -NH

35. Charlie Creath's Jazz-O-Maniacs - "Market Street Stomp" (1925)

By the mid-1920s New York and Chicago had already superseded New Orleans as the hubs of the dynamic, improvisational style known as "jazz," but "Market Street Stomp" -- written by trumpeter Charlie Creath and East St. Louis clarinetist Horace Eubank and recorded during a late-1925 recording session for the Okeh label -- served to remind the nation that St. Louis possessed a vibrant, productive jazz scene of its own. Named for the bustling downtown street where Creath's office was located (in addition to being a successful bandleader and one of the city's best trumpet players, Creath is remembered as the first African-American booking agent in the town), the song's effervescent swing and frenetic collective improvisation are an aural insight into urban life in the early 20th century. -NH

34. Murphy Lee - "St. Louis Niggaz" (2009)

Along with modern-day superstar and long-time accomplice Nelly, Murphy Lee formed St. Lunatics in '93. The crew spawned a regional hit that put St. Louis on the map with their song "Gimme What U Got," but it's gems like "St. Louis Niggaz" from Lee's career as a solo rapper that spell out St. Louis pride in bold letters. The track appears on Lee's 2009 album, You See Me, and comes complete with a music video outlining the best lyrics and lines -- a veritable smorgasbord featuring the Lou's culinary rap sheet, all set to a deceptively catchy rhythm. The video touches on Lee's favorite neighborhoods, sports teams, storefronts and snacks to give listeners a firsthand taste of the city -- St. Paul sandwich, anyone? -MS

33. Eddie Fisher & the Next One Hundred Years - "East St. Louis Blues" (1971)

Recorded and engineered at St. Louis' own Archway Studios by Oliver Sain, guitarist Eddie Fisher's 1970 release Eddie Fisher & the Next Hundred Years was the second of two classic albums for the Cadet label which launched an enduring solo career for the St. Louis-based guitarist, previously a little-known sideman for Albert King and Solomon Burke. The album's closer, "East St. Louis Blues," is a sweaty, swampy funk number that captures the feel of a muggy late-summer afternoon on the East Side, thanks to Fisher's sticky, psychedelia-tinged improvisations and the laid-back, thumping grooves of his rhythm section. -NH

32. The Rolling Stones - "Route 66" (1964)

The very first song on the very first Rolling Stones album was a cover of "Route 66." Bobby Troup wrote "Route 66" in the late '40s, and subsequent covers have made it a pop standard -- meaning that bands all across the world have namechecked "St. Louie" for the past 60-odd years. According to historian Kevin Belford, Troup wrote the song based on a 1946 roadtrip to see Louis Armstrong at the St. Louis Club Plantation, now known as the Palladium, a historic and endangered cultural landmark near the corner of Grand and Delmar boulevards. The journey led him through the heart of St. Louis. The Stones likely recorded the cover because Chuck Berry had played it, too. Berry was a hero of the Stones, and his tune "Carol" was also featured on the band's first album. The song helped to popularize our city as a must-see destination for all of those taking a trip on "the Mother Road." -JL

31. The Natural Bridge Bunch - "Pig Snoots Pt. 1" (1968)

The Natural Bridge Bunch was a short-lived collaboration between St. Louis music kingpin Oliver Sain and the Southern-fried blues and funk singer Andre Williams. Their sole single was this well-marbled slab of greasy funk, which is introduced by the Bunch's proclamation that "cued pork sho' is good pork." The song doesn't get much deeper than that claim, though Williams expounds on the joys of barbecued snout. (His love of swine was well-known; one of his biggest singles was 1957's "Bacon Fat.") Pig Snoots may be little more than a broad-stroke novelty record, but its percolating organ chords and fuzz-bombed guitar lead set an in-the-pocket groove with a touch of modern rock. If you're a crate digger, hold out for the Norman Records version, which clocks in at a minute longer than its ATCO pressing. Gotta get all the snoot you can for your dollar. -CS

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