Thursday, June 20, 2013

Something in The Water: A Saint Louis Rockumentary
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Something In The Water: A Saint Louis Rockumentary

Something in the Water: A Saint Louis Rockumentary takes a look at the electrifying classic rock scene in St. Louis in the late 1960s and 70s. From a unique St. Louis sound, to the origins of album-oriented rock radio, to R & B influenced musicians, to stadium concerts and festivals, Something in the Water examines a unique time in St. Louis history. Told entirely through interviews and rare archival footage and photos, Something in the Water is a fun look at the region's musical subculture, told in a style as free form as rock itself.

The contribution of Saint Louis to Rock and Roll is discussed in the documentary, Something in the Water. It features interviews with band members from Head East (adopted St. Louis band), Pavlov’s Dog, Mama’s Pride (who were readying for a world tour with Lynyrd Skynyrd the day before their airplane crash), and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils; former DJs from KSHE radio also discuss the importance of St. Louis radio on the evolution of rock and roll nationally. It also shows how stadium shows, such as the Mississippi River Festival, started in St. Louis long before big shows like the California Jam played. Irv Zuckerman promoted bands for big concerts. St. Louis's own Bob Heil wrote the book on sound. Quite a case is made for the influence of Saint Louis as the mecca for rock and roll's evolution. 

"Something in the water", the saying, denotes a reason for the success of a group of people from a certain region. Man, those Aussies sure put out some fine writers; must be something in the water. Get it? Good. Let's continue.

Steve Scorfina sums it up best, “St. Louis is ground zero for rock and roll.” 

Let's sse what he means by this.

St. Louis Radio is discussed as the tool for rock and roll's successful growth. Because many stations limited their songs to 3 and a half minutes, many of the indie bands never were played. When they were played, they only reached regional fame, but missed national success. FM radio began to play longer songs and more indie stuff, but the stability of the bands prevented them from more play. Once a band was recognized, if there wasn’t a follow-up record to play, the band’s success was temporary. But it’s a catch-22: without consistent play, how could the band afford a second lp. Very few bands found their way out of this vicious circle. KSHE radio helped break the Catch-22 by taking on AM radio.

KSHE Radio Logo

AM played top 40 hits. FM played requests and DJ favorites. FM discovered the art in rock and roll; even as AM hit leaders like the Beatles began to put out songs like I am the Walrus, which wasn’t played on AM, FM picked up these new radical songs. Whereas AM played Immigrant Song by Led Zep, FM played Since I’ve Been Loving You. 

When the tide turned and FM began to dominate and control the market, New Wave and Punk were the songs of choice. Prog Rock was ignored, called Dinosaur Rock by the new wave of 80s djs. So bands from the 70s, who never made it as AM hit makers, never gained the recognition on the new powerhouse FM radio. Many of the seventies bands still had the look of the hippies, so they were ignored in light of the new wave suits or punk leather and body piercing. Such bands as Ted Nugent, Sammy Hagar, REO Speedwagon, got KSHE play, so St Louis helped shape much of the new prog rock scene, playing bands like the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Head East, Mama's Pride, and Pavlov's Dog.

Mississippi River Festival

But it wasn't only radio that helped shape the growth of rock and roll in Saint Louis. The city was the first to host a stadium sized concert, setting the stage for other states to follow suit. The Mississippi River Festival hosted some of Rock's biggest bands: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, ELP, YES, and up and coming bands like the J. Geils Band, the Eagles, and the James Gang.

My favorite contribution featured in the documentary, aside from Steve Scorfina's interviews where he expands on questions he addressed in my interview with him, was the story of Bob Heil. 

Bob Heil

Bob Heil created the "big" sound for bands such as The Who and the Grateful Dead, and others. He is the only sound technician to be invited to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He created the Quadraphonic sound for The Who's Quadrophenia tour. Thus the rock and roll "big sound" is attributed to St. Louis's own Bob Heil.

There are many more stories that support Scorfina's claim that Saint Louis is ground zero for Rock and Roll. When one thinks of the origins of “Rock”, one conjures images of San Francisco (Acid Rock), Seattle (Grunge), Los Angeles (the Doors), New York (Glam Rock). This documentary supports Steve's claim with substance and fascinating stories, interviews and plenty of archival footage. Indeed, when one discusses Rock and Roll from now on, the city of Saint Louis must be mentioned in all earnest and respect. 

See the documentary here:


  1. kb2613@hotmail.comJune 27, 2013 at 9:02 PM

    Great article on an awesome Rockumentary about the music in St Louis that I grew up with and still LOVE! Sorry to correct you but it is IRV ZUCKERMAN concert promoter! Had the pleasure of meeting and working for him back in the day.

    1. Thank you for the correction. It now reads Irv Zuckerman.