A drummer who spent time in two of Minneapolis’s best-loved rock bands, the Jayhawks and Cows, Norm Rogers died on Monday a few months after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Rogers, 61, was also well-known as a longtime manager at Brit’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis, where a farewell party was held with him in attendance last month. He died in Sioux Falls, S.D., where he had moved two years ago to successfully achieve sobriety and be nearer to family.
Friends put together a GoFundMe campaign to help cover some of Rogers’ medical expenses in early January, raising almost twice the stated goal of $4,000 in just a few weeks.
A gadfly of sorts in the 1980s and ’90s Twin Cities music scene who also played in the Neglecters and numerous other bands, Rogers performed in the earliest days of the Jayhawks and appears on the pioneering alt-twangers’ self-titled 1986 debut LP, later reissued as the cult-loved “Bunkhouse Tapes.”
He also helped form the much wilder and noisier Cows in the mid-’80s and wound up back in the band in the early-’90s to play on their best-known record, the 1992 Amphetamine Reptile LP “Cunning Stunts.”
“I loved his playing on those albums,” fellow drummer and record seller Erik Mathison said on Facebook, calling them “two of the greatest albums ever to come out of Minneapolis.”
In a tribute to Rogers for the Southwest Journal, music journalist and musician Jim Walsh said his longtime friend was “sharp as a tack and clear-eyed with memories” during a visit last month, where Rogers described his time served in the U.S. Navy as “the worst excuse for a sailor the Navy has ever seen.”
“Norm doled out his wisdom matter-of-factly but seriously,” Walsh wrote. “Everything he said, everything we talked about, between the lines he was telling us, ‘Let me be a lesson to you, and for God’s sake be grateful for this gift of life.’ ”
Mary Lucia of 89.3 the Current also wrote, “The loss of charming Norman and how he chose to face death (as much as anyone can have a say in dying) is truly inspiring.”
Brit’s general manager Shane Higgins said the recent gathering there with Rogers was “sad, but still a nice thing for everyone.”
“We all knew it would probably be the last time we saw him, but you could tell it was good for him to see all the people again and make peace with everyone,” said Higgins, who said Rogers “was more like everybody’s friend than he was a manager” during his two decades at the bar.
As he did at the Brit’s gathering, Rogers got to say farewell with a note posted on the GoFundMe page in his honor.
“Not gonna lie, it sucked to take it in, but I’ve got my head around it now,” he wrote.
“I’ve had a full life. I’ve traveled the world [and] met the most amazing people ever. My heart is full and I thank so many people for that! Don’t feel bad for me. I’m surrounded by a loving family, and I’ve had a helluva life for a lad from small-town Western Minnesota.”
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658