By Allan McNaughton
This week, San Francisco and the world said goodbye to a good friend, a true gentleman, and a diehard rock and roll fan. Bruce Roehrs, columnist and reviewer for Maximumrocknroll magazine and a staple on the local punk rock scene, passed away peacefully at his home. The exact time and circumstances of his death have yet to be determined.
Roehrs was born in Philadelphia and spent his childhood in Fort Myers, Fla. His mother, Elizabeth, raised him and his younger brother, Ted, in a single-parent household. He was proud to cite her as the main influence on his life, and the many strengths of Roehrs’ character (his manners, work ethic, optimism, and loyalty) are a testament to her parenting. In the mid-1960s, he attended the University of Miami, where his interest in basic three-chord rock progressed into a passion for all forms of jazz, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll. After college, he spent time in Gainesville, Fla., and then Tucson, where he drove a Yellow Cab. Wherever he lived, he had to be close to a major city, where he could be sure to catch live music.
Roehrs moved to San Francisco in the early 1980s and soon became a fixture on the punk rock scene. His obvious passion for rock ‘n’ roll led to him being drafted by Maximumrocknroll founder Tim Yohannan to write for the magazine. His enthusiasm for the music he championed jumped off the page from his first reviews until the day he died.
In Roehrs’ most recent column for the magazine, the April issue, he froths at the mouth over the recent reunion of New York hardcore pioneers Agnostic Front while still devoting dozens of column inches to obscure punk, skinhead, and hardcore bands from Australia, Germany, and Boise, Idaho. His columns earned him thousands of fans all over the world. The massive outpouring of tributes that have appeared online since his passing give some idea of this love and respect. The stories his friends are sharing continue to give more insight on his unique personality, from the time Grand Funk Railroad gave him a bunch of acid to sell and he came back with $8 (he’d been giving it away to pretty girls), to his weekly grocery deliveries to a 90-year-old woman in his union. He always had a firm handshake for the fellas and a charming word for the ladies.
Roehrs’ many friends in San Francisco knew him as a fixture right in front of the stage whenever a great band was playing. He was a true music fan, from the latest just-out-of-the-garage projects of his drinking buddies to international stars like Motorhead, Cock Sparrer, and the U.K. Subs. He traveled extensively to pursue his passion, from flying to Texas or London to see his favorite bands, to driving through the South following his beloved AntiSeen.
While most of us find that our music tastes get mellower with age, Bruce joked that his tastes got harder, faster, and louder as he got older. He had less time for “wimpy shit” like the Undertones, although I know he always retained a soft spot for the Fall. He grabbed life by the neck the same way he would get you in an affectionate headlock if he saw you in the pit. He was also a longtime member of the Rumblers Car Club, was known to enjoy surfing and skiing, and could hold a reasoned conversation on pretty much any topic connected to history or current events. Still, nothing could top listening to loud, fast music over a couple of beers.
Roehrs will be sadly missed by his brothers Ted, Christopher, and Robert, his union brothers from San Francisco Carpenters Union Local 42, his brothers from the Rumblers CC, the staff and shitworkers of Maximumrocknroll, and his massive family of friends and fans on the international music scene. I’ll end this the way he would end his column: See you at the bar, you fucks!
For updates and memorial information, see www.maximumrocknroll.com