Reprinted from the "Oshkosh Northwestern", 11-25-2004, p. 2, in the "Now" Section (insert).
It's difficult to think about the Thanksgiving holiday without fondly
recalling the life of
Jeff "JR" Roberts.
For many Roberts was a fixture on the local music and social scene.
Wearing his trademark bib overalls, sipping on a diet Mountain Dew with a chaser of Ol Grand Dad, Roberts greeted everyonelongtime friend or new acquaintancewith a big smile, a hearty laugh, and a handshake.
Although heralded by his peers as an outstanding musician, Roberts wasn't one to boast.
It was months and many conversations after meeting JR that I first learned of his harmonious talents. Even when I breached the subject with him, he was more concerned about the "scene" and the "players" than garnering himself even the slightest share of the spotlight.
I'd ask him about his music and within moments he'd be telling a story about his time with Reverend Raven or a trip to some small gig in the Northwoods, but rarely a mention of his own work.
Conversations about music always lead to perceptions of the local scene.
While Oshkosh is blessed with dedicated musicians, Roberts knew the city has also been cursed with patrons not willing to pay a two-dollar cover charge, but more than willing to spend $50 on beer that night.
Roberts would just shake his head and make a half-joking comment about loving the music more than making a living before once again changing the subject to his other great lovefood.
With his childhood friend, Pete Preston aka Klondike Pete, Roberts was a competitive cook on the Kansas City Barbeque Society circuit.
Whether talking about food or music, there was a glow that surrounded Roberts.
Roberts died on Oct. 15 at the age of 49.
On Sunday his life and contributions to the Oshkosh music scene will be remembered at one of Roberts' favorite taverns -- Peabody's Ale House in downtown Oshkosh.
While his contributions to the music scene can't be measured in commercial success, one look at the performers giving their time for the memorial concert shows that Roberts influence on people stretches beyond music and food.
Christopher the magician will emcee the event, which includes giving away door prizes and free pitchers of beer throughout the afternoon. Musical entertainment starts at 2 p.m. with Chad & Paul , followed by Wayne Neumann , and the Brenda Theabo Group. At 3:30 p.m. Dave Jahnke will sings a special song for JR, followed by a set of jazz by Janet Planet, Tom Theabo, and Tom Washatka. Copper Box takes the stage at 3:30 p.m., followed by the Reverend Raven & the Chain Smokin' Alter Boys, the Friends Reunion Band, Andy's Automatics and Bobby Evans & the Alimony Blues Band at 7:30 p.m. The Sunday night tradition known at the Jazz Orgy wraps up the night at 9 p.m. Admission is $10.
While Roberts probably would have blushed at all the attention, this is the perfect way to say thanks to the countless musicians who struggle and sacrifice so that we can enjoy their gifts.
Thanks JR. You'll be missed, but not forgotten.
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