Zapp and Roger

Zapp and Roger

    Another of the great groups that arguably made Ohio the funk capital of the US in the 80s, Zapp was one of the most popular bands of the 80s and also launched a notable solo career for its leader, Roger Troutman.

    Formed in the late 70s in Dayton by brothers Roger, Lester, Larry and Tony Troutman, Zapp exploded out of the box with their 1980 self-titled debut album, which featured the #1 hit "More Bounce to the Ounce."  Produced by funk legend Bootsy Collins, the song featured Roger Troutman's lead channeled through a "talk box," which twisted the vocals into a mechanized, computerized sound.  It became a Zapp trademark sound, and was the vocal basis for a string of danceable hits that took the 70s Parliament/Bootsy sound to an even more aloof, futuristic level.  Roger Troutman - simply labeled as "Roger" - released his solo debut, The Many Facets of Roger, the following year and topped the singles chart with a twisted cover of Marvin Gaye's "Heard it Through The Grapevine."

    Troutman was back in the fold in 1982 for the hit "Dance Floor" and the group's sophomore album, Zapp II.  Even better was the follow-up single, "Do Wah Ditty," a funked up dance song that was perhaps the group's most accessible track to date. 

    Both Zapp and Roger continued to chart with their next albums, but some of the initial enthusiasm around the act had waned.  But both rebounded with big hits, as Zapp scored in 1985 with "Computer Love," the group's biggest crossover hit to date, and Roger hit even higher with "I Want to Be Your Man."

    By the time the 90s arrived, Zapp had lost much of its momentum, though a couple greatest hits collections kept the group charting.  Roger turned more to producing, working with such artists as Eric Benet and Dr. Dre.  He also focused on community development in some of the poorest sections of Dayton.  Tragically, after an argument in 1999, Roger Troutman was murdered outside a recording studio in Dayton.  The evidence indicated that brother Larry Troutman had shot him following an argument and then committed suicide.  By that date, a new generation of artists, including many of hip-hop's leaders, had come to realize the foundational work of Zapp, and the bridge it provided from 70s funk to 90s rap.

    A version of the group, including some original members and some new members, continues to tour to this day.

    By Chris Rizik