By Tom Warner (Baltimore City Paper, 1986)
He thrived on a sort of nervous energy, changing moods as habitually as he puffed away on his ever-presents. People around him were never quite sure when he was being serious and when he was putting them on. And so when Roger Anderson dropped to the floor or the Marble Bar last Thursday afternoon, his wife Leslee thought at first that he was just clowning round.
“I thought he was playing with me because that’s the way he was, always unpredictable,” she recalled. “But then I looked at him and thought, ‘Oh God, he’s not playing; there’s something wrong.’ The “something” was a heart attack that ended Anderson’s life April 6. He was 37.
The Andersons started managing the Marble Bar, located in the basement of the Congress Hotel at 306 W. Franklin St., in I978. Over the years it earned a reputation as a haven for alternative music, as well as a venue for local bands playing original songs. Major acts like Squeeze, Iggy Pop, A Flock of Seagulls, the Psychedelic Furs and the Ventures also played there. What effect Anderson’s death will have on the Marble is uncertain. According to his widow, “Things are up in the air right now.”
Leslee Anderson stayed away from Sunday’s funeral services at a Frederick Ave. funeral home on the western edge of the City. “Roger and I never went in for all that stuff,” she explained. “He never wanted it that way, so why should we start now?” Over the weekend she was visited by a host of local musicians who wished to pay their respects to the man who’d given their music a chance to be heard. Anderson’s death came just as he was about to go public with his own band. A guitarist with a love for blues and r&b, Roger Anderson had spent the weeks prior to his heart attack practicing with his new house band, The Radicals.
“He was really happy,” Leslee Anderson recalled. “He was always into doing his own thing, like with Clean, his first original band. No one had originals bands (at that time) and most bands had to learn covers, and he hated that.” Leslee Anderson maintained that her late husband was not as eccentric as he pretended to be. “He was so heavy,” she recalled. “No one knows that. People looked at him like ‘where’s he coming from?’ because he’s eccentric and off-the-wall. But I did understand him completely.”
Leslee Anderson also noted that Roger was “bitter about about a lot of things, and just felt like he had no control over them,” reserving most of his anger for the local press and the City Paper in particular for its “lack of support,” as she put it.
As a couple, the Andersons cut a colorful figure. Their public spats at the Marble were legendary. “We locked horns a lot when we first met,” Leslee recalled. “He couldn’t handle me, and I couldn’t handle him. He’d say, ‘I can’t believe the nerve in you. No one has enough nerve to get that far into my face and yell at me.’
“I’ll tell you how bad our tempers were,” she added. “We planned this big wedding. There were seven people in the bridal party and we went through the furniture thing and all that. We get about a month away from the wedding and it’s the day before we put the final deposits on everything and he calls me. We have this big argument and we both claim we’re not getting married. So I tell my father and he says, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me, girl. All this money and all these people, you’ve just got to get married.’ So what did I have to do?” she continued. “I had to get 300 cancellations written up to send out. The next day we made up,” she explained, but by then her father was leery about going through with such a potentially expensive mistake again. “So we ran away and got married two weeks later,” she said. “I went front a $400 wedding gown to a $15 dress from Pratt St.” To make amends with their families, Roger and Lesleee Anderson were planning on holding a “remarriage” to celebrate their I5th wedding anniversary. It was to have been held this May.