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The brothers grew up in Alberttown, Georgetown, in a family that was always near to music. Their father was the Sacristan at St George's Cathedral, and their mother supported their musical interests.
Despite bleak economic times, music was an important part of life in British Guiana, and because of World War I, military music was dominant. By 1922, Hubert had joined the British Guiana Militia Band as an apprentice, where he received his musical training.
In 1924, he travelled as a clarinettist with the band to the United Kingdom for the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley.
In 1925, Edward joined the band as an apprentice. This employment would prepare the brothers for leadership in military, concert, and popular music in Guyana for most of the 20th century.
Eddie Rogers receiving his M.B.E. from Governor Luyt
Harvey and Duke did not join the band but are remembered as outstanding dancers. They migrated to St Lucia where they spent the rest of their lives.
In the BG Militia Band, Hubert developed legendary expertise on the alto saxophone, and Edward was known as an outstanding clarinettist.
When the brothers joined the band, the bandmaster was Lieutenant A Fawcett, and the sergeant-major was E A Carter. Other members of the band included Clarence Burnett, Allan Briggs, C H King, Harry Mayers, Clement Nichols, and Ucil Peter Primo.
The brothers also served under Major S W Henwood. They were members of a band that was considered one of the best military bands in the world, and they climbed to the pinnacle of military music in British Guiana.
When Harry Mayers retired from the British Guiana Militia Band in 1956, he was invited to create the Ceremonial Brass Band at McKenzie. The creation of the band was another step aimed at improving the quality of life in the bauxite mining town. When Mayers proceeded to Canada on leave, Hubert Rogers was appointed acting bandmaster in 1957. When Mayers died, Hubert Arthur Rogers became bandmaster. According to his son, Jeffery, he retired from that position circa 1968.
Bert Rogers is remembered as a "great performer." According to Charles Knights, he had tremendous influence on younger members of the B G Militia Band.
"He was a great sight-reader, a bandsman that could transpose any part to the saxophone. He was dexterous and had great musicianship," said Knights.
Major S W Henwood resigned as bandmaster when the British Guiana Militia Band became the British Guiana Police Force Band in 1957. So, leadership of the B G Police Force Band went to Vincent DeAbreu, LRSM, ARCM. His second-in-command was Ucil Peter Primo.
Unfortunately, DeAbreu died in 1960, and Primo, who had turned 55 around the same time, had to proceed into retirement as was required by government regulations. As a result, the senior sergeant, Edward Oscar Frederick Rogers became bandmaster in 1960. His son Mike remembers his father's rapid promotions from sergeant to senior superintendent in one month.
Eddie Rogers inherited a band that had been depleted by resignations and retirements of experienced band members. Among them were C H King (drums), 'Soccer' Barclay (tuba), Clarence Burnett (cornet), Bert Rogers (alto saxophone), Victor Hart (French horn), Cyril Smith (tenor saxophone), Allan Briggs (E-flat clarinet), Alfred Price (coronet), De Mora (trombone) and Bertie Hope (bass).
Eddie Rogers had to rebuild the band. He did so with musicians who had started as members of the junior band that was trained by Clem Nichols and conducted by Harry Mayers. Among them were Elton Briggs (flute), Rudolph Bumbury (flute), Rupert Hunte (clarinet), Ian Davis (E-flat bass euphonium), Frank Innis (flute), Cletus Jones (drums), Charles Knights (clarinet), Winston Smith (clarinet), George Thomas (tenor sax), Pascal Vieira (coronet), and Tedzie Waddell (Trombone).
In 1964, Eddie Rogers was appointed director of music and became the first Guyanese director of music of the British Guiana Police Force Band. In 1965 he was awarded the MBE for his contributions to music in Guyana.
In accordance with government regulations, he too was required to retire at the age of 55 in 1966, and he was succeeded by Barney Small.
As bandmaster and director of music, Eddie Rogers is remembered for expanding the band's repertoire. According to James 'Jimmy' Weeks, who was the band's librarian during this time, Eddie Rogers changed the tone and direction of music in the band by making it lighter, less classical, and more big-band.
Eddie Rogers is also remembered for his skills as a conductor. He is considered by some of his former colleagues as "one of the best conductors we had ever seen." His style attracted loyal audiences. He also conducted military bands in Trinidad, Barbados and the United Kingdom, including the band at the Royal Military School of Music (RMSM), Kneller Hall.
"He did not hammer his musicians with the baton. He was smooth. He made his musicians comfortable," said Charles Knights
As director of music, Eddie Rogers also worked very closely with the radio stations - Radio Demerara and the Guyana Broadcasting Service to make recordings of the band's performances. One hopes that these recordings still exist, as they are an important part of Guyana's aural history.
In the first part of this feature, Dr Cambridge looked at the contribution of Hubert Rogers to music in general, as well as Eddie Rogers' work in the Police Force Band, and his skills as a conductor. He continues today with the other aspects of their musical personalities.
But there was more to the musical life of the Rogers brothers than military music.
Bert and Eddie Rogers also had careers in classical music.
Bert was an important concert artist from the mid-1920s through the 1940s. He played both the clarinet and the alto saxophone. He was best known for performing interludes with pianist Oscar Dummett. His interludes during the concerts of Steve Bobb-Semple (tenor) and Wordsworth Irving (baritone) are still remembered by persons who attended those concerts.
Eddie Rogers was a clarinetist in both the Georgetown Philharmonic Orchestra and the Princessville Philharmonic Orchestra. "Eddie was one of the founder members of the Georgetown Philharmonic Orchestra and was clearly the best clarinetist in the orchestra," said Ernest Alstrom, who was one of the violinists in the Georgetown Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Rogers brothers also dominated dance music in Guyana for more than three decades. When Bert Rogers returned to British Guiana after the militia band's successful tour in England, he introduced a new instrument - the E-flat alto saxophone. He became an 'overnight celebrity.'
In the early 1930s, Bert Rogers started a number of dance bands. Among them were the Bert Rogers Orchestra and Bert Rogers' Sunny Siders Orchestra. It was the big band, Bert Rogers and His Aristocrats, however, that became the toast of the town.
According to Bert's wife Doris (nee Chin), he chose the name 'Aristocrats' because he was convinced that the musicians in his band were the best in British Guiana. His brother Eddie played tenor saxophone.
Doris also pointed out that competition for the band to play at 'high society' parties, especially Old Year's Night parties, was fierce. Some institutions, such as the Assembly Rooms, Park Hotel, and the Tower Hotel would book the orchestra months ahead.
In addition to playing music at dances, Bert Rogers also pioneered dance music on the air. As early as 1931, Bert Rogers was performing saxophone solos on VRY, probably the first experimental radio station in British Guiana.
According to The Daily Argosy (July 22, 1939), Bert Rogers had for four years been the conductor of the Bookers Drug Store Orchestra on the VP3BG show, The Bookers Drug Stores Saturday Broadcasts. The show was popular and had audiences in "various West Indian Islands."
Bert Rogers assembled a constellation of outstanding musicians for the fourth anniversary concert - Ingham Goring, Julius Grant, Phillips Waddell, Ferdinand Eversley, and Randolph Proffit. Other performers on the anniversary show included Mrs Iris Grimes, Misses Serena Callender, Olga Lopes, Thelma Rego, and Gwen Kellman. Ulric Gouveia was the announcer.
What Bert Rogers did with the big band, his younger brother Eddie did with a smaller band - The Eddie Rogers Quintet. The quintet's theme song was Robin's Nest and its repertoire included jazz, calypso and Latin music. Like his older brother, Eddie was able to attract outstanding musicians.
Eddie demonstrated his versatility with woodwind instruments, playing the tenor sax in this band. The other members of the quintet were Chubby Price - bass, Clement Thomas on drums and vocals, and Barney Small on trumpet. The quintet's last pianist was Edison Athlen Bell. Other pianists included Gervy Russell and Mikey McKenzie.
Like his brother, Eddie also performed on radio. He was a member of the Harry Mayers' band, which was the 'house band' on Vivian Lee's Ovaltine Show during the early 1950s.
The dance band careers of the Rogers brothers ended when the British Guiana Militia Band was absorbed by the British Guiana Police Force. Police regulations prohibited such activities.
The Rogers brothers did not accept retirement and Bert Rogers got involved in training young musicians. There is evidence that he trained musicians in the Guyana National Service Band and the National Youth Band. He died on August 15, 1980. His funeral service was held at St George's Cathedral with the Massed Bands of the Guyana Disciplined Services in attendance. This was in recognition of his influence on military music in Guyana for almost six decades. He was eulogized by Basil Hinds and Harry Whittaker performed a saxophone solo, no doubt as a recognition of his contributions to jazz music in Guyana. Other performers at his funeral service included Guy Bumbury (piano), Randolph Spence (tenor solo), and Randolph Bumbury (violin solo), no doubt in remembrance of his contributions to classical music in Guyana. The Guyana Police Force Band performed the Funeral March. His wife Doris recalls that his funeral procession was led by one of the youth bands that he had trained.
After his retirement, Eddie Rogers started a career in insurance sales; however, music remained on his radar. Col Cecil Martindale, (retd), noted that after retirement, Eddie Rogers "was recruited to help the fledgling GDF [Guyana Defense Force] band along."
In 1979, Eddie migrated to Canada to join his daughter Pam. Here he continued to participate in music, this time as a teacher. Between 1986 and 1989 he taught saxophone and trumpet in Oakville, Canada.
Eddie was recognized by the Guyanese Musicians and Entertainers Association of America in 1984.
According to Winston Smith, the founder of the association, "Eddie Rogers considered his award from the association to have been a very high honour, as it was from his peers." Eddie Rogers died in 1991.
The wives and families
The Rogers brothers are remembered fondly by their families. During a recent conversation with Bert's wife Doris, she remembers her husband as a man that lived for his music, and she is particularly proud of his expertise as a saxophonist. She is also proud of the work he did training young Guyanese musicians after his retirement from McKenzie's Ceremonial Brass Band. His four children (Eleanor, Andrea, Trevor, and Jeffrey), and grandchildren are also very proud of Bert. Bert and Doris Rogers were married in 1938.
Eddie Rogers and Olive Elaine Glasgow got married on December 30, 1936. Eddie and Olive became the parents of Pam, Joy and Mike. The children remember him as a loving father who encouraged them to strive for excellence. According to Joy, he was strict with the girls. His son-in-law, Lance Gibbs, remembers him as a generous man. Lance still recalls the moment when Eddie had Olive ask Lance, "What were his intentions." Lance married Joy. Pam is married to Dudley Chase.
Doris and Olive contributed to the success of the Rogers brothers. They had to cope with their husbands' travels and the playing out. Doris and Olive held the families together and gave the brothers the peace of mind that ensured they could command the musical heights.
The musical career of the Rogers brothers is a story about tenacity, service, and generosity. It is a story of seizing the moment and rising to great heights. It is a heroic story. The Rogers brothers were musical giants, and they are Guyanese cultural heroes.
The musical legacy of the Rogers brothers lives on with Bert's son Trevor, an organist and saxophonist. His father trained him on the saxophone. Trevor's first band was CFN (Can't find a name). Members of that Section 'K' Campbellville band included Keith Agard (guitar) and Roger Simon (drums).
E-mail from Mike Roger, July 1, 2003
E-mail from Bobby Hunter, February 14, 2004
E-mail from Tony Phillips, February 14, 2004.
E-mail from Steve Xavier, February 14, 2004
E-mail from Rupert Westmaas, February 14, 2004
E-mail from Ernest Alstrom, February 16, 2004.
E-mail from Cecil Martindale, February 20, 2004.
Telephone interview with Mike Rogers, July 1, 2003
Telephone interview with Pamela Chase, February 15, 2004
Telephone interview with Joy Gibbs, February 15, 2004
Telephone interview with Lance Gibbs, February 15, 2004
Telephone interview with Jeff Rogers, February 15, 2004
Telephone interview with Doris Rogers, February 15, 2004
Telephone interview with Winston Smith, February 22, 2004
Telephone interview with Ernest Alstrom, February 22, 2004
Telephone interview with Charles Knights, February 25, 2004
A Brief History of Linden. Available on-line at http://www.guymine.com/history.htm Accessed on February 14, 2004.