Rochester rock stars from the early days
From covering songs heard on the radio to playing gigs around town, Rochester had an early rock 'n' roll scene.
Greg Brown remembers how Rochester garage bands of the 1960s learned to sing and play all the hit songs they heard on the radio.
“We’d go down to Osco Drug on Broadway, get a 45 (record), take it home and put it on the record player,” Brown said recently. “We’d listen to a sentence of the vocals, write the lyrics down, and then put the needle down again. Scott (Mason) would figure out the chords. We took it seriously.”
That serious approach helped the Rogues, the band Brown and Mason played in, get gigs around town at a time when there was plenty of competition on the local scene.
For the past 25 years, Brown has brought together members of those bands – the Rogues, the Mustangs, Thee Apostles, Therica, the Judd Group and others – for occasional jam sessions. It was always a time to share music and memories.
Brown had scheduled another jam session for Sept. 2 at the Eagles Club. But the sudden death last month of Dean Loftus, the original Rogues drummer, caused him to cancel it. “I remain hopeful that another opportunity will present itself for us to share the stage and some fond memories,” Brown wrote in an email to other musicians.
The ranks of men who were high school kids when they started playing music together have been thinned due to age and illness. Just a little over two years ago, Brown’s good friend and Rogues keyboard player Scott Mason, died.
“If you had thought you’d be playing rock ‘n’ roll in your 70s, you’d say you were crazy,” Brown said.
On the other hand, Mick Jagger is still at it. And Paul McCartney is performing concerts at age 80. Those were two of the artists who influenced a generation of local bands starting in the mid-1960s.
The Rogues first played for an audience at a house party on Memorial Parkway in Rochester, Brown recalled. Their first official gig was in 1965 at Lourdes High School.
“The first song, I was nervous,” Brown said. “The second song, I felt better. By the third song, I felt like a rock star.”
Soon, the Rogues were playing alongside other local bands at dances at the armory and in school gyms.
“The Mustangs were up and going before we were,” Brown said. “They won a state fair talent contest. Then the Pagans came along. They were the first band that did more like the Rolling Stones-Beatles look. They had the image and a great sound.”
To keep up with such competition, Brown and Mason quit their high school sports teams to concentrate on music. “We practiced three nights a week, from 7 to 9,” Brown said. The band’s lineup consisted of Brown on bass, Loftus on drums, Mason on keyboards and Dave Marsh on guitar.
By 1968, though, with high school years winding down, and the military and marriage calling, the Rogues left the stage to upcoming bands, such as Therica. “They were late-’60s, early ‘70s,” Brown said.
Several years later, Brown organized a show by the 1960s bands for a Rochester high school reunion. It was the first of several musical get-togethers over the coming years.
“I started calling the guys, and they were all on board,” Brown said of that first reunion. “We thought we’d do it one time and walk away.”
But, as he should have known, you don’t walk away from rock ‘n’ roll.
Thomas Weber is a former Post Bulletin reporter who enjoys writing about local history.