Funk innovator from Hamilton killed 22 years ago in one of the region’s most shocking murders

It’s been 22 years since Roger Troutman, one of Dayton’s most gifted and well-known musicians, tragically died.

Troutman, an R&B recording artist who pioneered the famed funky “Dayton sound,” was shot several times in the alley behind his music studio on Salem Avenue on April 25, 1999.

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He died at Good Samaritan Hospital.

The gunman, the musician’s older brother Larry, was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot in the driver’s seat of a black Lincoln on Harvard Boulevard.

The shocking incident stunned music lovers around the world. Troutman and his family, originally from Hamilton, had formed the Zapp band in 1978, propelling millions to the dance floor with hits like “More Bounce To The Ounce,” “I Can Make You Dance” and “Computer Love.”

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In a 1988 interview with the Dayton Daily News, Roger Troutman recalled his start in the music business and the lesson his father, Rufus, taught him.

As a 13-year-old, Troutman was a budding musician setting up gigs at sock hops and community functions. He asked his father for a guitar but was told he had to learn to play one first. He did, learning his father’s favorite songs. Rufus Troutman made the same request whenever his son asked for another instrument.

Troutman recalled his father later told him, “I did that so you would understand that instruments are merely a vehicle to express what’s inside you. If you had just picked up one instrument, it would have limited you.”

Troutman’s musical ability was never constrained. He was the multi-instrumentalist singer and arranger for Zapp and was known for his versatility using a vocoder “talk box” to create computerized vocals.

Troutman later went onto a solo career performing under the name “Roger,” and had a No. 1 hit in 1987 with “I Want to be Your Man.” In 1996, he collaborated with Dr. Dre on Tupac Shakur’s Grammy-nominated song “California Love.”

The funeral for Roger and Larry Troutman drew an estimated 3,000 people to the Solid Rock Church in Monroe.

Relatives, fans and colleagues including the Gap Band, Bootsie Collins, Shirley Murdock and members of funk bands The Ohio Players and Lakeside, paid tribute to the music innovators.

Warner Brothers records, Roger’s longtime recording label, sent a pair of red, guitar-shaped floral displays and Rufus Troutman III, a nephew of the brothers who had performed with Zapp, played a variation of “Amazing Grace,” using Roger’s trademark “talk box.”

Roger Troutman and Zapp’s musical legacy lives on. A sculpture honoring him was dedicated in 2012 on the former site of the Troutman Recording Studio near Salem Avenue and Catalpa Drive.

The sound sculpture, created by Dayton artist and musician Michael Bashaw, incorporates clock chimes and is named for and tuned to Troutman’s hit “I Can Make You Dance” with Zapp & Roger.

Credit: Jim Witmer

Credit: Jim Witmer

In 2002, Lester and Terry Troutman released “Zapp VI: Back By Popular Demand” and the band continues to perform across the country. Last fall, Zapp celebrated the release of a tribute album, “Zapp VII: Roger & Friends,” at the Schuster Center in Dayton.

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“I thought we would never, ever play again,” Lester Troutman said in 2018 in an episode of the “What Had Happened Was” podcast with Dayton Daily News columnist Amelia Robinson.

 

“I would be lying to you and the fans if I said ‘well, we never had problems’ or ‘we never tried to do other things.’ But the bond is what kept us together,” he said. “I can’t even imagine life without doing this.”

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Credit: WALLY NELSON

Credit: WALLY NELSON

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