Remembering Roger Troutman, Jr. in Minneapolis
Why is Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest and Lucy Pearl coming to First Avenue on Monday, May 19? Why is R.L. of Next making his debut at the club the same night? Why are R&B-funk legends Mint Condition resurfacing to headline the show? Why is half the Zapp & Roger clan joining the party, including Shirley Murdock of Zapp and gospel singer Rufus Troutman? Why isn't this concert happening anywhere else?
Well for starters: You know Roger Troutman, right? The vocoder voice behind the funk classics "Computer Love" and "More Bounce to the Ounce" (or for you tikes, 2Pac's "California Love")? His robotic leer was the trademark sound of a legendary Dayton, Ohio funk band, Zapp. When Roger died in 1999, shot by his brother Larry Troutman, who then turned the gun on himself, the shockwave was felt far and wide--check out this excellent tribute compilation on Thump, and this discussion page.
After that, the reigns of the Zapp Band were taken over by Roger's brother Lester, and by Roger's son, keyboardist "Lil" Roger Lynch Troutman, Jr., a founding member of Mint Condition and a longtime resident of St. Paul.
But the Troutman family faced yet another tragedy last year when "Lil" Roger was found unconscious on September 4, his head caved in (apparently as a result of an accident, though some friends said it was assault). Roger Lynch Troutman, Jr. died on January 22 of this year, at age 32, and his St. Paul funeral was attended by a cross-section of the local R&B scene. Like so many musicians, he didn't have insurance, and proceeds from the First Avenue show will help pay for his outstanding medical bills.
Mint Condition's new single, a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Joy Inside My Tears," is dedicated to Lil Roger, and should be reaching the airwaves of KMOJ-FM (89.9) today. A web site dedicated to the musician, lilroger.com, should also be up before the show. For those who haven't heard of the man before, though, here's local musician Craig Dion with some of the rest of the story:
"He kept a low pro here," says Dion. "He'd go out to the West Coast a lot--he played on Too $hort's new album [2002's What's My Favorite Word?]. But a lot of people didn't know he lived here."
Besides Mint Condition, Dion adds, Lil Roger played with Tamara & the Scene (onetime protégés of Jesse Johnson) and L.L. Cool J. "He was the funkiest guy I ever played with," says Dion. "He was so funny, too. You'd just think about that boy and you'd start cracking up."
For tickets ($15 in advance), call First Avenue; 612.338.8388.