Odds are you’ve heard Bob Rogers play music. You might have caught one his gigs around town but most likely you’ve heard the trombonist/elementary school teacher play as part of the blaring horn section on Aerosmith’s classic hit Dude Looks Like a Lady.
“When I was a kid I listened to Aerosmith,” Rogers told me as he sipped a lemonade at the Modern. “To get to play on that and meet them was pretty cool.”
Rogers has been a teacher in Revelstoke for nearly 20 years, first as the high school band instructor and lately as an elementary school teacher. Before that, he was a working musician in Vancouver, playing trombone with the likes of The Temptations, Natalie Cole, the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Opera and more.
Despite giving up the musician’s life, he still keeps playing and will be performing this Friday and Saturday as part of the summer music series in Grizzly Plaza.
Rogers grew up in Vancouver the son of two piano instructors. He started playing that instrument when he was five but when he was old enough to join the school band he decided to follow his own path and take up horn playing. He wanted to play trumpet but the store the school rented instruments from was out, so he ended up on the trombone.
He could have switched, but he found that he enjoyed playing the instrument so he kept it up.
He cited one teacher, Sharman King, as inspiring him to keep playing.
“He took me to some recording sessions when I was in high school,” said Rogers. “I thought, ‘These guys are getting paid to do this? That sounds like fun.’”
Rogers decided in grade 12 to pursue a musical career. He attended the Humber College music school in Toronto and then transferred to the University of British Columbia.
“I think it was more playing music that I enjoyed. I was fairly successful at playing the trombone,” he said. “I think I probably would have enjoyed playing another instrument just as much. It was what I played and I just kept at it. I think you have to like the sound of what you’re playing.
“And it’s challenging to play too.”
After university Rogers started freelancing around Vancouver. He played in a band called the Wildroot Orchestra, in jazz groups, brass bands, and as a session musician. He did a week of shows with legendary soul group The Temptations, and a gig as part of Natalie Cole’s band. He also played with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra and was a sub for the Vancouver Opera.
“I freelanced with as many different groups as I could,” he said. “It’s a tough way to make a living.”
The Aerosmith gig came about because he was friends with the man who wrote out the horn lines. Rogers was an Aerosmith fan growing up, but this was during the band’s low-period, when it had fallen out of the spotlight. The album he played on marked Aerosmith’s comeback and the two songs Rogers played on – Rag Doll and Dude Looks Like a Lady, both charted. He still gets royalty cheques for that work.
“It works out to a few cases of beer,” Rogers said.
After years of eking out a living as a freelance musician, Rogers did the math and decided it would be more lucrative – and more stable – to go into teaching. He spent a year in Pitt Meadows, B.C., before moving to Revelstoke to be the band teacher at RSS.
While here he met up with bassist Shannon Sternloff and drummer Travor Wallach and they started playing together.
“We had fun doing that so I kept playing with Shannon and Trevor pretty well from when I was first here,” Rogers said. “They’re great guys. They’re both great musicians. We have fun playing music together, which is the most important thing. If it wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t be doing it.”
For the upcoming gig in Grizzly Plaza, the trio will be joined by Salmon Arm saxophone player Sandy Cameron. Rogers said the show will consist of jazz standards as well as his own original compositions.
“Jazz standards are fun to play but they’ve been played so well by so many people,” he said. “I’m hoping I can keep writing original stuff so at gigs like this plaza gig I can do as much original material as possible.”
The Bob Rogers Quartet plays in Grizzly Plaza as part of the Summer Music Fest on Friday, Aug. 10, and Saturday, Aug. 11, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. each evening.