- Swamp poet
Daytona Beach News Journal---August 2, 2010
Florida musician 'working guy's tenor'
DEBARY -- Rog Lee is in his element. He's on break at a
weathered picnic table behind the Happy Snapper Tiki Bar in DeBary, watching the
St. Johns River, smoking a $2 cigar and sipping beer from a plastic cup.
Behind him, the outdoor bar has an OK crowd for a Sunday afternoon. Temperatures
are inching toward the high end of the 90s and it's hard to tell if the misting
system by the bar helps or just makes things damper. It's too late for the lunch
trade; too early for the evening crowd. About a dozen people.
But there's steady boat traffic, and, sometimes, he sings over the sound of
outboards or pauses for a beat to say hi to boaters he knows.
The Happy Snapper is Lee's regular Sunday gig, which seems right for a guy who
sings about life on the St. Johns and the beach.
In an age where you're never far from recorded music, Lee is a rarity, a local
musician without a day job. This is what he does for a living. And he's never
far from water, working a circuit of a half-dozen places.
Lee is -- how to say this? not a glamorous singer. He's parked on a stool under
an umbrella and sweating like he's under the spotlights. A solid guy solidly in
his 50s, wearing baggy cargo shorts and an orange T-shirt he got for free when
playing at the Florida Folk Festival. His beard has a way of wandering around
his face at different stages of growth.
His voice is a working guy's tenor you can hear from the parking lot, well
before you reach the sign that reads "motorcycles only."
It's a voice that proclaims his love for this place. Pushing out on Lake Monroe
"when the sun goes down behind the power plant." Rolling down U.S. 1 with the
windows open. ("This road was the station wagon promised land.") Getting to the
beach early " 'cause the sun goes behind the condos around 2." Worrying about
the theme-parkization of the place. ("You can still see Florida in a lifelike
state.") And even St. Johns' hydrology. ("Drinking the River Dry.")
Another regular gig is farther down the river at the Gator's Riverside Grille,
Sanford, on Tuesdays. He's been playing there more than two years.
"Oh, they love him here," says Gators manager Tammy White. "He's real laid
He also sells his CDs during break or at his website, www.roglee.com. "I've sold
tens of CDs," he says.
Lee won first place in songwriting at the 2008 Will McLean Music Festival, for
his "City of Jacksonville," an evocation of the days when steamboats ran on this
stretch of river.
A lost time and place he also visited in "St. Johns Lullaby," a song with a
compact local history of Southwest Volusia:
"Taylor founded Enterprise, in the days of the paddlewheel
They built a big resort up on the hill.
Started shipping oranges out and milling live oak trees
and haulin' tourists in from Jacksonville.
They built this place on cattle and orange groves
And the people just keep coming down in droves. ''
"I'm kind of fascinated by that time. I wish I could have lived back then," he
But he arrived in 1978 not 1878. Coming down after a bad winter in Michigan.
"When you gotta put a lighter to the key to open the car, you gotta go," he
The plan was to head for the Keys, but somehow he never around to it. The
fishing was good here and he stuck around. He met his wife, Coleen, "Coe" for
short, in 1982. They'll be married 30 years in October. ("Coleen, Coleen, my
Coleen./ She's sweet as honey, but you push her and she'll get mean," he sings.)
Of course, the bar crowd is not necessarily interested in his story, the Florida
thing or the history of the river. So there's a lot classic rock between
originals."I kinda slide it in," he says of his songs.
The Jimmy Buffett, Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zandt numbers get a smattering of
applause from the group. And he seamlessly keeps up the song, taking a half beat
to thank customers who pause at the galvanized metal tips bucket. ("In Case of
Rapture Can I Have Your Car?" says the sticker, the title of another of his
songs, above the hand-lettered "thank you" sign .
It's not an easy way to make a living, and you need to keep things simple to do
it full time, "but I should have done this years before I did ... This is the
first fun job I've had."
Daytona Beach News Journal---August 21, 2009
Review by Rick DeYampert
Rog Lee- Florida Happens
VITAL STATS: DeBary resident Rog Lee says his day job is "back
porch songwriter and acoustic guitar player" Lee's song "City of Jacksonville"
won first place in the Will McLean Foundation's 2008 Best New Florida Song
THE MUSIC: On his previous CD, Lee unleashed his jester's
heart and Twainish wit upon developers, tourist hustlers and other types who
turned a blind eye on Florida's natural beauty.
"Florida Happens," his new folky 12-song
CD, finds Lee in more carefree and wistful moods. Or, more precisely, Lee comes
accross like some Zen poet-troubadour of Old Florida--- one who's wizened enough
to know the Florida panther is doomed to be buried under a shopping mall's
concrete, but one who's wise enough to know that's even more reason to chill out
an enjoy the vanishing wonders of our fair state.
On the title track, Lee sings about ignoring the
sun-blocking condos, the hurricanes and the unsavory folks drawn to our fair
state, then he makes up his mind to enjoy the charms of his adopted paradise.
On "Beach Road Ramble" he sings, "As I drive down
these abandoned old roads, I see old Florida dying in the rear view mirror."
YOU'LL LIKE THIS IF YOU LIKE: Gamble Rogers, Gordon Lightfoot,
Daytona Beach News Journal---July 25, 2008
VITAL STATS: Rog Lee is a DeBary resident who says he has a
“master’s degree from the University of Mean Streets Busking in East Lansing,
Mich.” He lists his day job as “back porch songwriter and acoustic guitar
Lee’s song “City of Jacksonville” won first place in the Will McLean
Foundation’s 2008 Best New Florida Song competition, while his song “Beach Road
Ramble” came in fifth place.
THE MUSIC: If Jimmy Buffett is Florida’s unofficial
poet-troubadour, then Rog Lee is old Florida’s unofficial bard. Lee combines
down-home guitar picking, a grizzled and soulful voice, a sly sense of humor and
a strong environmentalist consciousness to create his folk songs.
Such songs as “Nighttime on Lake Monroe,” "St. Johns Lullaby” and the gritty,
satirical “Developer’s Stomp” reflect Lee’s love of his adopted home state.
Sometimes Lee’s songs evoke smiles, sometimes a melancholy sigh — sometimes both
at the same time, as with “(You Can Still See) Florida.”
But Lee isn’t just a Florida bard, as evidenced on “She’s Gone (But That’s
Good”)” and “In Case of Rapture (Can I Have Your Car?).”
SAMPLE LYRIC: “You can still see Florida in a lifelike
state, ’cause they have reproduced it for ya, just $60 at the gate. They’ve got
robot gators there, they got some robot manatee. But I’m just afraid that sooner
or later, they’re gonna have a facsimile of me.”
YOU’LL LIKE THIS IF YOU LIKE: Jimmy Buffett, Gamble Rogers.
AVAILABLE AT: At live gigs and Steve’s Downtown Music, 108
S. Woodland Blvd., DeLand, $10. Also online at roglee.com, $15 (includes postage