Folk musician, family man
Roger Perkins died of a heart attack on January 11, 2009 while out for a stroll with his great-granddaughter. His brother, Bill Perkins, described the circumstance of his brother’s death as heartbreaking but meaningful— Roger was absolutely smitten with this little girl in his life.
Arriving in Claremont from Arcadia as a sophomore in high school, Roger graduated from Claremont High School in 1959. His mother was a teacher and administrator in Claremont schools. In his youth and teenage years, Roger was a talented musician and athlete. Roger sang as a featured soloist in the much-heralded Pasadena Boys Choir. “I remember him singing Ave Maria at like 13-years-old,” said his younger brother. Roger’s early talent in music progressed to his establishment as a folk music fixture in the 60s. As a youngster in Claremont, he had enjoyed open mic evenings and jam sessions—“hootenannies,” said Bill—at the Baez home: at the time, Joan Baez’s sister was living in Claremont. Following high school, he enrolled in Cal Poly Pomona’s music program, but “got swept away in the San Francisco folk music scene,” said Bill.
During his San Francisco heyday, Roger performed with Janis Joplin, Larry Hanks, Mimi Farina and many other musicians. He is credited with playing backup for Janis Joplin in her first San Francisco coffee house performance. Additionally, blues and folk guitarist Jorma KauKonen of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna credits Roger with teaching him his signature song, “The Good Shepard,”. Roger’s family further noted that he was credited by David Freiberg of Quicksilver Messenger Service for teaching him the “Bears” song that was recorded on their 1968 album release.
Roger also played music in numerous jazz and folk festivals around California, including those in Monterey and San Diego. After a number of years steeped in the music scene, he returned to southern California and settled in La Verne. It was here that he met his future wife, Karen, and made an “overwhelming and total flip from what he had been doing and became a totally responsible person,” said his brother.
Married for 33 years at the time of his death, Roger was completely devoted to his wife and her children. He left the craziness of the music scene behind to dedicate his time and energy to family. “I always held this place for him where I held onto this hope that there could be a little breakthrough so that he could do his music publicly, but frankly, the reason he withdrew is that he didn’t see a way he could do that and still take care of his family,” said Bill, emphasizing that this was an “honorable” choice.
“He’s a little like my dad,” Bill continued. “He was like this ultimate Boy Scout, doing everything for everybody. He didn’t do a lot of things for himself because he spent time doing things for others. It was kind of a hobby. He was kind of the guy in the community who helped people out. He was a very giving person.”
Roger’s professional life beyond his time as a folk performer was comprised of many years working for several large and small moving companies as a supervisor/dispatcher. Working in this field in San Francisco meant many challenges and the acquisition of specialized skills, such as moving pianos down many narrow and winding stair cases typical of the Bay Area city’s homes. He also worked in the moving business in southern California, most recently working for a large moving company in the Santa Cruz area.
Bill noted that his brother was one of the few people he has known that did not have a “single enemy on earth.” “In the simplest of terms, he was a very gentle soul; really a sweet, sweet person,” he said. “Of course, that came out in his music. You could feel it as he sang.”
Roger is survived by his wife of 33 years, Karen Perkins of Claremont; his stepsons, Alex Palomar of Santa Cruz, Michael Palomar of San Francisco and Aaron Palomar of San Diego; his granddaughter, Rickey; his great-granddaughter Lilian; his brothers and sisters-in-law, Bill and Linda Perkins of Bend, Oregon and Chuck and Marilyn Perkins of Banning; his sister, Marcie Wright of Sacramento; his sister and brother-in-law, Janette and Brian Jagoe of Florence, Oregon; his aunt, cousins and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, February 21, 2009 at Christian Life Ministries in Corning, where Roger most recently resided.
Bill is designing a tribute website of his brother’s music and photos and would appreciate the submission of old recordings and photos of Roger Perkins that could be digitized for the website. Please contact Bill Perkins at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help.
Extracted from the Claremont COURIER