Brothers In Zapp Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide
Police say Larry shot younger sibling Roger then turned
gun on himself.
Contributing Editor Brian Hiatt reports:
In an apparent murder-suicide that has
baffled family, friends and
investigators, Roger Troutman, leader of the funk band Zapp,
was shot to death Sunday morning by his brother and bandmate Larry Troutman, who then ended his own life, according
"Man, nobody really knows [why] -- all
we know is that two people that we really love are now dead," Zapp bandmate Bigg Robb
The brothers were found two blocks apart
Sunday in Dayton, Ohio, according to police spokesperson Det. Carol Thomas. Roger was still alive when police found
him around 7:30 a.m. behind a
recording studio he co-owned. He died later in surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital
and Health Center. He was 47.
Larry, meanwhile, was found dead in a
1998 Lincoln four-door sedan, with a gunshot
wound to his head that police believe was self-inflicted. He was 54.
Police are investigating Roger's death
as a homicide, but they are still trying to
determine whether Larry's death was a suicide, Thomas said.
"On initial investigation, though, it
does appear that Larry Troutman shot his brother,"
he said. Police are conducting tests to confirm that the same gun was
fired in both shootings.
Zapp included Roger, Larry, their
brothers Terry and Lester Troutman, and the group's M.C., Bigg Robb. The group was formed in 1978 and scored hits such
as "More Bounce to the Ounce" (1980) and "Dance
Floor" (1982) . Roger later had a successful solo
career, leading the band to change its name to Zapp & Roger.
Thomas, who called the deaths
"baffling," said police are questioning family members
to help determine a possible motive in the case.
But Bigg Robb said Monday (April 26) that friends and family were at a
loss to explain the tragedy.
Bigg Robb, who declined to give his birth name, said the group had just performed
last week in Charlotte, N.C., and Roger had given no indication of a
dispute with his brother Larry, who had retired from the band.
"This whole thing is such a shock; we
couldn't imagine this in a million years," he said.
Robb said Roger was proud when Zapp's
music was embraced by hip-hop artists, beginning with EPMD's 1988 song "You Gots to Chill," which sampled Zapp's "More..."
In 1996 Roger contributed his trademark, vocoderlike voicebox sound to
rapper Dr. Dre's duet with Tupac Shakur, "California Love," Robb said. It had originally been
intended as a Dr. Dre solo track, but when Death Row Records head Marion "Suge" Knight heard
it, he suggested it be used for a planned duet with Shakur, Robb said.
R&B legend Stevie Wonder originally inspired Troutman to sing through
the voicebox, a plastic device, also known as a golden throat or talkbox, which creates a robotlike
vocal sound, Robb said. "Roger
was influenced by Stevie Wonder -- he saw Stevie Wonder years ago playing the voicebox on television, and he took the thing and modernized it. Roger
was the undisputed master of
it," he explained.
Howie Klein, president of Reprise Records, which was Roger's label both
with Zapp and as a solo act, said he considered the frontman "a friend and a really great
According to Klein, Roger Troutman had
been working on a new album, which he planned to call
Zapp and Friends, and had recently recorded a cover of the '60s song "(I Am)
Superman," made famous by Athens, Ga., superstars R.E.M., for the soundtrack to the
now-aborted new "Superman"
Roger "was a great human being with an
incredibly creative mind -- someone who always had ideas
and was willing to work with other artists on those ideas. ... I think his sound
will really be what he's
remembered for; it was a totally unique sound that influenced a lot of people," Klein
Bigg Robb described Roger Troutman as "a loveable person," adding that
"he never did anything to hurt
"It's a bad ending to a great life," he
(Senior Writer Gil Kaufman contributed to this report.)