The former lead singer of The Mauds, who led the rock band from its suburban roots onto the national charts, has died.
James "Jimy" Rogers passed away on Saturday after a long battle with cancer. He was 63.
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"Jimy had this extraordinary gift that allowed him to convey so much emotion with his voice, that everyone was riveted," says Joan Gand, who played keyboard in a later reincarnation of The Mauds. "It was as if he was singing right into your heart."
The Mauds were one of many rock bands to form in Chicago's suburbs and get their start at places like The Cellar in Arlington Heights, including the Shadows of Knight, the New Colony Six and the Cryan' Shames.
What separated The Mauds, fans say, was their appeal as a soul band, rather than a British invasion band that was more common in the heyday of the Beatles.
"The Mauds claim they were the first all-white band to play at Chess Studios even before the Stones and they had a real knack for sweaty, soul rock," wrote radio host Bob Stroud in a series of stories on Chicago's rock history for the Chicago Reader. "Front man, Jimy Rogers, practically personified it."
Mr. Rogers grew up in Highland Park before his family moved to Buffalo Grove in the early 1960s. The move meant he transferred from Highland Park High School to Stevenson High School, but playing with his rock band continued.
Lucy Lampinen, of Arlington Heights, was only 13 when she first started following Mr. Rogers and The Mauds, accompanying her older sisters to concerts.
"He could just sing the heck out of a song," Lampinen says.
Gary Gand, who runs Gand Music in Northfield, and played guitar with Mr. Rogers in the more recent version of The Mauds, remembers seeing Mr. Rogers play at the club Head's Up, in Round Lake Beach, in the late 1960s.
"He was like Chicago's Mick Jagger," says Gand, who worked on lights for the shows. "He had all of this energy, that was just electric. He'd just explode on stage."
The Mauds had their biggest hit with "Hold On," written by Isaac Hayes in 1967, that reached No. 15 on WCFL and No. 11 on WLS. Later hits included "Knock on Wood" in 1967 and "Soul Drippin'" in 1968, which featured horn players from Chicago Transit Authority, the forerunner of the band Chicago.
But it was the success of "Hold On" that drew Mercury Records to sign them, and led Mr. Rogers to pursue his career in California. He returned to Buffalo Grove in the early 1980s to care for his ailing mother.
By 2000, after his mother's passing, The Mauds reunited and resumed playing and recording. They found large audiences wherever they went, including sold-out performances at Ravinia Festival and Park West.
In 2007, Mr. Rogers joined Gary and Joan Gand and others in forming Blue Road, which played at blues clubs, theaters and the Chicago Blues Festival. One of Mr. Rogers' last performances was in October at the Mount Prospect Blues Bar.
"Of stage, Jimy was soft-spoken, humble and always very kind," Joan Gand adds. "After every set, he'd jump down in the audience and talk to the fans."
The Gands and other friends in the music business are planning a memorial concert from 8:30 p.m. to midnight on Friday, Dec. 10, at Gabe's Backstage Lounge, 214 Green Bay Road in Highwood.
Donations will be accepted for the Jimy Rogers Memorial Medical Fund.