Russ David, 89; Career of Bandleader, Pianist Spanned 7 Decades

From Staff and Wire Reports

Russ David, 89, a St. Louis bandleader and pianist who played everything from bawdy riverboats in the late 1920s to performances for U.S. presidents, died Tuesday at a nursing home in St. Louis. The cause of death was complications from two recent strokes.

David, whose career spanned seven decades, performed for high society St. Louis and for Presidents Eisenhower, Johnson, Ford and George H.W. Bush.

His following also included legions of St. Louis women who thronged to his “Pevely Playhouse Party,” a two-hour live radio show that aired in St. Louis from 1953 to 1979.


His last gig was Oct. 26: a performance at the St. Louis University Club.

David began playing piano at age 15 on a riverboat for a black bandleader -- an exposure that spawned a love for jazz artists such as Art Tatum and Duke Ellington.

Decades later, David would produce the country’s first integrated dance show, “St. Louis Hop,” a local version of “American Bandstand” that featured black as well as white musicians and dancers.