Chilly fall temperatures are bringing many al fresco activities to an end – including the outdoor guitar-playing season. This means you will no longer see Rickey Schnurstein strumming and singing outside his apartment at Hannah and Filmore. Rickey is a Forest Park lifer whose family has deep roots in town. He’s also a homegrown musician who likes to croon to people passing by his front door.
Rickey was 12 years old when he started jamming with his middle school friends. They would go to the drummer’s house after school and try to learn Nirvana songs. Rickey taught himself acoustic and electric guitar, as well as piano, bass and drums. He joined a series of bands; his guitar-hero highlight being a gig at the Metro nightclub.
Like many semi-pro musicians, though, Rickey wasn’t going to have rock star printed on his business card. He manages an Italian restaurant to make ends meet and plays music in his spare time. Rickey likes to try out new material on his sidewalk stage. He also plays other outdoor venues in Forest Park, including the beer garden at Mugsy’s.
Rickey prides himself on his varied catalogue, which includes hip-hop, jazz and blues. He’s learned about 500 songs but is yet to pen an original. For Rickey, writing lyrics is next to impossible and when he does get words down on paper he finds them unsingable.
Nevertheless, you can catch Rickey performing covers at Forest Park open mic nights. He plays at Molly Malone’s on Sundays, the Pioneer on Wednesdays and Murphy’s on Thursdays. He prefers playing songs with lyrics that make you think, like the poetry of hip-hop.
Even when he’s not playing, Rickey has a jukebox going inside his head. His musical influences include Pink Floyd and Phish and he considers jamming to be the highest form of musical expression. Rickey’s goal is to learn a new song every day and he’ll try out fresh tunes for any stranger who cares to listen. He said he gets nothing but positive responses from neighbors and bystanders.
Rickey’s surname should be familiar, the Schnursteins being among the oldest families in town. Elmer Schnurstein was the longtime chief of the Forest Park police and Rickey’s grandfather, Earl, still works as a mechanic for the park district. In addition to his German heritage, Rickey’s great-grandmother was an Italian who moved to Forest Park from Taylor Street. Rickey’s son, Arthur, represents the sixth generation and his dad reports that the 18-month-old is already going for the guitar.
So, in a nutshell, Rickey is a dyed in the wool townie, still hanging out with his childhood friends and working a day job to finance his musical fix. Rickey also has zero stage fright, playing “Just the Way You Are” to anyone lucky enough to stroll past.