Dexter L. Roush was a father, a son, a brother. To many of the musicians around town and others, he was a friend. It seemed that just as quickly as he came into our lives, he was gone. It is truly amazing how in a short period of time a man can touch so many lives. I did not know Dexter for many years, and in fact, I can count the times I had met him on one hand. But those times were extremely gratifying for me as a musician and as a human being. With that being said here are a few thoughts and stories from some local musicians and other people who knew him better than I.
Henry Becker (Rubber Knife Gang)
Dexter and I hung out a lot at the last Whispering Beard Music Festival. We jammed at Zippy’s Edge. We had a special jam with him, me, Dave Clemmons, Bob Kotz, Chris Goins, Johnny Castetter, and Papa Pierce from Rabbit Hash. Teresa Davis also joined us as we sat creekside and played songs that afternoon.
At the end of the Festival, as I said goodbye to Dex, he got misty eyed and I asked him if everything was ok. He told me he was so happy but a little sad to have joined such a great community of music so late in life. I told him there would be many more years to come, and we hugged and shook hands, and packed to get back to town.
Soon after, Dexter came to hear Rubber Knife Gang, something Dexter hadn’t been able to do since we had broken up. It was a great show and Dexter bought both of our CDs and insisted we sign them. We happily obliged. It was so great to see him grinning ear to ear simply because he made it to the show and got the CDs.
I miss him every time I walk into a place carrying a guitar or banjo. I am still in disbelief that he is gone.
I have hundreds of Dex stories….about gigs and playing and all that, but, what made Dexter who he was, was his generosity and his caring for those in need. We played a Christmas fundraiser in 2013 and the tickets were $20. The organizer came up to me looking for Dexter and asked, “Did Dexter tell you what he did?” The organizer of the fundraiser was looking for Dex to thank him, because Dexter had bought 20 tickets and donated them to people that couldn’t afford to attend.
That’s just Dex being Dex. If the guy wouldn’t have told me about it, well, I would have never known. Humble and generous….that’s ole’ Dex.
James Funk (Red Beard’s Revenge)
Dexter and I met at an open mic I hosted at Knotty Pine in White Oak. He was a nice man, and had a lot of questions about myself, other musicians, other venues with open mic’s , and various related information. I noticed immediately that he was a nice gentleman, respectful, and he seemed to be a genuine good man. Dex would continue to come weekly to my open mic. He would play his harmonica’s with various musicians. Most of all, he was having the time of his life. I saw it, the other musician’s saw this, and his happiness made our night’s much better.
Eventually, I would see him at various venues around town. Every time I walked into a place, Dex would see me and announce to everyone, “Red Beard Himself Is Here!”
Nate (Wunderbar in Covington, Kentucky)
I can’t say that I have a particular memory that stands out over the rest, but I can say that whenever Dexter wasn’t playing the harp or eating with us he’d be showing all the little kiddos how to keep time. On the djembe drums, or helping them strum a guitar, they all wanted to be around him especially Becca Hayward (and Aaron Hedrick's) two sons. Sometimes he’d have ‘em two at a time just sitting there listening to music, and the whole time he’d have a big smile on his face. That smile was contagious too, it’d pretty much set the mood of the whole night. Gunna miss that guy…
Tony Hall (Blue Caboose)
Dex was…not your average man. Oh sure, he looked very average on the surface, but there was just something about him that is not found in most men. I knew that he lived in Sayler Park, my own hometown, and wondered if we had ever crossed paths unwittingly when I was a child. I knew that he had problems with his hands that stopped him from playing the guitar, so he started to learn the harmonica instead, and that he learned very quickly, and he was always happy to have an opportunity to join anyone who would give him a space on a stage. I know that one day, out of the blue I got a message on Facebook from some random guy named Dexter L. Roush and this is what it said, “Hearing great things about you young man! If I ever get over this cold I’m gonna get back out there with everybody! Have a great weekend! Dex.”
Michael Martin (who plays accordion and keys in Blue Caboose) and his sister were organizing a benefit to raise funds to help cancer patients in their father’s name, who had recently passed away of cancer. I offered to take up a collection of albums from local musicians to raffle off, so what does Dex do? He gives me a blue Rogue guitar and says, “Here, have Blue Caboose sign this and raffle this off.” Sometime before this I had put a post on Facebook asking if anyone knew of a cheap guitar to get so my son could start learning to play. The next time I saw Dex he had a black Rogue guitar for me to give to my son. Okay so, wait a minute here, does he just have a whole warehouse full of these things to just randomly give away whenever he feels like it? Turns out that is pretty much the case. After Dex passed I believe it was said that the family found 50 of them at his house. Along with a whole armory of harmonicas which he basically just kept around in order to give them to people who might benefit from having a guitar, or harp.
As I said at the first memorial at Wunderbar, I was not best friends with Dexter. I didn’t go over to his house, I don’t think I ever did him any favors, nothing worth mentioning, or even remembering at least. I didn’t know much about his life either. He never spoke of his dreams or fears with me, but when we were together you would never have guessed that. He greeted me as if we were old friends. He hugged passionately, and smiled incessantly. His eyes were alight with joy. He never complained, he never asked for anything, he never bragged, or even mentioned when he did something nice.
To me, Dex was not just a friend, he was a source of support and encouragement, a reason to smile, and in death he lives on as a teacher. A guide or better yet, The Great Buddhisatva of Sayler Park, and he will live on as his way of living. His way of treating others that he came into contact with, and affects them to behave similarly.
Whenever I am angry, sad, annoyed, or even overly proud I remember Dex and perspective comes sweeping in. I am able to level myself out, and a smile returns to my face. Who is Dexter L. Roush to me? He is inspiration to be a better man, plain and simple, he was the greatest role model I could have ever encountered. May his guiding light lead all of us to a happier and more helpful community.
Aaron Hedrick (Strange Twang, Working Class Villain)
Dexter was more than a friend, he was like an uncle to my little boys. He never failed to ask how the boys were doing and pay a compliment to Logan (my girlfriend, Becca’s son and fellow musician). Anytime I see pictures of Wunderbar I can easily find some snapshots of Dex holding my boys. We were from the same town, Greendale, Indiana. I felt a closeness and kinship to Dex soon after meeting him. Kindness and honesty always shines thru, and Dexter was among the most kind and honest folks I have ever met. I miss him, but his passing has brought much self-evaluation to many folks… myself included. We all should be a little more like Dexter Roush.
Arienne Manies (A good friend of Dexter’s)
Dexter Roush came into my life as quickly and unexpectedly as he left it. He and I met, like so many of my friends these days, through our amazing local music scene. I can’t pinpoint the exact date (although I’m SURE there is picture documentation) but I know it was on a Tuesday at the Knotty Pine. Before then, we just conversed on Facebook. Him telling me he liked to live vicariously through my pictures for events he couldn’t attend. From then on, it was a fast and lasting friendship that was cut entirely too short. Although I only knew him a little over a year, he became one of my most trusted and dearest friends. Not old enough to be a father-figure, he was a big brother, confidant, and an overwhelming supportive force in my world. The entire time I knew Dex my life was in a state of major upheaval. He was always there for a caring ear, a supportive shoulder, and a quick laugh. He shared with me that he too had suffered through hard times and said one of the best things he found to get him through was music.
He had only been playing his harps for a short while, but MAN, what an impact he had on folks through his passion for music, as well as, life. That was why, in the fall of last year, he implored me to, “Get off the sidelines and into the game!” He said that playing an instrument, in addition to just being an avid fan of the scene, would help with the depression that was trying to consume me. He MADE me choose between a guitar and a mandolin (I chose the mando) and then kept encouraging me to get on it!! I failed to do this because I was so wrapped up in all the B.S. that life was throwing my way. Then, in March of this year, he paid for me to attend the Mandolin Workshop in Metamora, Indiana as a birthday present and a reason to kick start my learning to play. I honestly haven’t touched it since, but just recently set up a time to do just that with another good friend, Justin Todhunter from the Rattlesnakin’ Daddies, Dex’s favorite local band.
The way I choose to honor my sweet friend is to at least give it a go and hopefully be able to jam a bit at Zippy’s Edge at the Whispering Beard Folk Festival this August, per Dex’s request. Got to keep on keeping on like a bird that flew….
Dexter’s story doesn’t end with just these memories. I’d like to believe that it is merely beginning. A man who’s purpose, as it seems, was to enjoy life the best he could. To simply live the best way you can because tomorrow is not promised to anybody, so why not make the best of it while you have the time? On a cool Saturday evening in April as he played his harmonica with his pals the Rattlesnakin’ Daddies at the Crow’s Nest, Dexter walked to the patio of the bar, took a seat at a picnic table outside, and was pronounced dead a little while later that evening. A man who touched more lives than probably any one of us could truly know was taken from us, but not without leaving his stamp and his story and his smile. I, along with many other people I know, will not forget him. I had a conversation with Dexter a couple months before he passed. I was at The Crow’s Nest on the other end of the bar and I saw him come in, it felt like ages since I had seen him. He shook a few hands, gave a few hugs, and he came over to my end of the bar gave me a hug and said “How’s the music goin'?” I said sort of sheepishly “it’s goin' alright.” Dexter smiled and said “Just play. Just play your songs.” We talked some more, but I will always remember the words of encouragement, and it wasn’t what he said it was more in the way he said it that gave, and has given me, the confidence to simply play. I won’t forget that conversation. Me, excited about having songs to play and him just smiling and sayin’ “Well play them!”
Courtney Bolender Phenicie (Editor-in-Chief / Writer at CincyMusic.com)
I never met Dexter in person. However I would get messages from him often on Facebook with encouraging words about stories I had written for CincyMusic.com. At first, I would shrug them off with short thank you's...as I wasn't sure who this guy was. But after about half a dozen messages, I started replying to Dexter with more than a few words. We had quite a few conversations about how much he admired our music community. Even just through chatting with him, it was evident he considered his music family to be an extension of his own family. He was proud of our music community. I will miss our conversations full of his insight and enthusiasm.
Dexter L. Roush played life just like his harmonica, beautiful, confident and loving every minute of it. He will be sorely missed, but his memory will live on in the lives that he touched. I believe that he will also live on to those lives he didn't touch though his family and friends. Thank you Dex for all that you have given to us. Dexter L. Roush was truly a man who smiled all the way home.
Dexter L. Roush
January 7, 1959 – April 13, 2014
Here is a poem that I like to think Dexter would recite:
Miss Me but let Me go!
(written by Edgar A. Guest)
When I come to the end of the road and the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in a gloomed filled room;
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little, but not too long and not with your head low.
Remember the love that we once shared.
Miss me but let me go.
For this is a journey that we all must take and each must go alone.
It is all a part of the Master’s plan,
A step in the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick of heart,
Go to the friends we know,
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
But let me go.