St. Louis Podcaster Celebrates His Mom With Music

click to enlarge Shane Presley is the host of Rock Paper Podcast.


Shane Presley is the host of Rock Paper Podcast.

A lifelong music fanatic and hometown loyalist, Presley is the St. Louis music scene’s best buddy. The founder and amiable host of Rock Paper Podcast, Presley has crossed the nine-year and 1,000-episode marks of a show that features interviews and live performances with a dizzying range of St. Louis musicians.

The podcast has never been a big moneymaker, but Rock Paper Podcast is his labor of love.

“I have gotten to meet a lot of really cool people, who are now friends, and help get the word out about St. Louis music and have had a really killer time doing it,” Presley says.

The visibility of the podcast has also allowed Presley to stage Debbstock, a multi-artist benefit concert in honor of his mother, Debbie Mannahan, who passed away in 2019 from brain cancer. Debbstock, now in its third incarnation, will take place at Old Rock House on the afternoon of Sunday, May 14.

That Presley has decided to honor his mother in this way is especially poignant because it was her influence that engendered his lifelong love of music. He remembers his parents playing artists like BB King, Eric Clapton and Bo Diddley around the house and in the car.

They also encouraged him as he began his first forays into the music scene life as a student at Timberline High School in Wentzville, where he still lives with his wife, Stacie. He’d begun by frequenting clubs like Pop’s in Sauget to watch his friends play on the local modern rock scene. To help promote those bands, Presley started his own online blog, writing album and concert reviews, his first taste of music journalism.

Around the same time, Presley started posting to Facebook a daily list of the area’s live music offerings, a service he has kept up for more than a decade.

“I started out with maybe three or four shows a night that I knew of, and now on a Friday or Saturday, I’ll typically have 50 or 60 shows on the list,” he says. Legions of St. Louis music fans now count on these lists every night as an essential one-stop-shop for local concert options.

Eventually, Presley’s online music presence led to podcasting.

“Podcasting had just started to become a thing,” Presley says. “It made sense to move into an audio format because I wanted people to hear the music.”

Rock Paper Podcast was born in May 2014, and the show was unique for its time. “The first few episodes were with friends from high school,” Presley says. “But by episode five, we had Steve Ewing [from the Urge] on, so that solidified what we were doing.”

Shane, with his distinctive look — glasses, beard, no mustache — became a familiar sight at music venues and comedy clubs, where he’d introduce himself to musicians, scoring interviews and increasing his audience by “networking like crazy.” He also had to learn the technical aspects of podcasting on the fly, gradually upgrading his gear as he recorded as many as three or four new episodes each week.

In 2017, Presley started promoting singer-songwriter showcases once a month at Naked Vine in Chesterfield, sets that Presley would record and make available on Rock Paper Podcast and YouTube, which also helped spread the word.

“[The growth] was really just word of mouth,” Presley says. “It grew pretty quick because we were out there supporting local music, and there weren’t a lot of opportunities for local artists to do interviews. So for some of them, Rock Paper Podcast was their very first interview, which was exciting for me.”

Presley prefers to conduct interviews in person, which has taken him backstage at clubs, to band practices, to musicians’ homes and mall food courts. These days, he does not have to work as hard to book guests and is typically flooded with emails from people hoping to be on the show.

Despite the number of requests, Presley isn’t shy about having repeat appearances, and says that drummer Drew Lance (One Way Traffic, Hillary Fitz Band) currently holds the record.

But the one guest he wishes he could have on the show more? His mom.

“She was such a big part of me getting into music,” he says. “She took me to my very first concert in 1997 — Matchbox 20 at Enterprise Center — and after she retired in 2016, we started going to concerts all the time together. Music was a big part of our lives. She really loved going to see my friends play, so she became a fan and friend of all of them, too.”

Although Mannahan sat in on one podcast, an interview with one of her favorite musicians, Al Holliday, Presley says, “One of my regrets is that I wish I had recorded more of my conversations with my mother.”

In mid-2019, she was diagnosed with stage IV glioblastoma brain cancer. After surgery and rounds of treatment, the aggressive cancer returned, leaving her mostly nonverbal by late summer.

“It was ruthless, man,” Presley says. “It was just brutal watching this eat her up. But eventually I figured, if this was it and things are coming to an end, then let’s throw one last big ol’ party.”

Knowing how much Mannahan loved music, Presley organized a benefit show — the first Debbstock — at Old Rock House in September 2019 featuring some of her favorite singers, including Holliday, Big Mike Aguirre, Jackson Stokes and Joe Bizelli. “I didn’t know if she would even make it to the show, but she did, and we filled the whole room full of love,” Presley says.

Debbie Mannahan died seven weeks later on December 3, 2019.

After the pandemic restrictions eased, a second Debbstock was held in her memory in November 2021, featuring Nick Gusman, One Way Traffic and the Screechin’ Halts, with the money raised going to the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

This year, Presley decided to move the event to May — Brain Cancer Awareness month — and throw the party on Mother’s Day. With the friendly enthusiasm he brings to the podcast, Shane sings the praises of this year’s lineup — featuring sets by Russo & Co, Emily Wallace, Ryan Cheney and comedian Meredith Hopping — and the unique talent each of the artists will bring to the stage.

With Debbstock, Presley not only aims to remember his mom but her influence, which has set him on the path of promoting the endless list of St. Louis musicians who deserve attention.

“I’m just as committed as ever to raising awareness of St. Louis music,” he says. “We have something really special here, and I want people to know about it.”

Debbstock begins at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 14, at the Old Rock House (1200 South Seventh Street, 314-588-0505, Tickets are $15 or $20 at the door.

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