Sunday, January 12, 2003

Obituary


E. 'Buddy Roger' Rohs, 85, leader of big band

By Karen Andrew
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Edward H. "Buddy Roger" Rohs was a self-taught musician, band leader and music store owner.

The Springdale resident died of a heart attack Wednesday. He was 85.

Born in 1917 to Edward and Catherine Rohs of Cincinnati, he graduated from Norwood High School.

As a teen, he began learning the saxophone, clarinet and flute. His daughter, Pat Keith of Fairfield, said her father would go upstairs and close the door to practice for hours. As far as she knows, he never had formal music training.

Mr. Rohs joined the Navy in 1942 and played in the Great Lakes Naval Base band in Chicago. He never saw overseas action because the admiral loved the band too much to let the members go.

While in the Navy, Mr. Rohs met Mary Louanne Kearny of Chicago, who worked at the USO. They were married in July 1945. He was discharged that year, and they moved to Cincinnati.

Because another musician had the name Buddy Rohs, he adopted Buddy Roger as a stage name. Unfortunately, he was often confused with two prominent men with similar names: film star Buddy Rogers, who was married to Mary Pickford, and the wrestler Buddy "Nature Boy" Rogers.

Phone calls to the Rohs' home looking for Nature Boy provided family humor, Ms. Keith recalled.

He started his own band, the Buddy Roger Orchestra and played in a number of local shows and clubs - including the Lookout House, Coney Island's Moonlite Gardens and the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate, Ky. He and the band also played at a number of proms, including his sister's, and the Kenwood Country Club.

In the 1950s and '60s, they played on Ruth Lyons' 50-50 Club on WLW-TV (Channel 5). Bob Braun and Marian Spellman sang with the band. It was also a back-up band for celebrities entertaining in Cincinnati.

Recalling her father's popularity, Ms. Keith said, "We'd walk down the street, and people would ask for his autograph."

In 1956, Mr. Rohs opened his first Buddy Roger's Music store, in College Hill. That was followed by stores in Madeira (later moved to Kenwood), Western Hills, Beechmont, Florence, Ky., and Lawrenceburg, Ind. He sold musical instruments, sheet music and gave lessons. Several of his band members also taught in the stores.

When he purchased the Western Hills store, he formed a lasting partnership with violin player Jack Shallot, who was one of the previous owners. .

"His whole life was music, but he did some golfing," said Ms. Keith. "He wanted to make sure his family didn't suffer - he grew up in the Depression. He worked day and night."

When she was a teenager, she and her sister, Pam Willis of Springdale, made fun of her dad's big band music, especially the "corny" Tea for Two and Five Foot Two songs.

"He always told us those songs were `your bread and butter, kiddo.' "

Mr. Rohs retired from the stores when he was 70 and sold them. He continued to play with the Buddy Roger Orchestra summers on Fountain Square and created a new band, the Over-the-Hill band.

In addition to his two daughters, survivors include: his wife, Mary; five grandchildren; one great grandchild; and a sister, Mary Glenn of Aiken, S.C.

Visitation is 2 p.m. today at Schmidt-Dhonau Funeral Home, 10980 Reading Road, Sharonville. A memorial service will follow at 3 p.m.

Memorials: American Diabetes Association, 8899 Brookside Ave., West Chester, OH 45069.

E-mail kandrew@enquirer.com




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