Joseph Dennis Roman, a former CL music editor and one of the seminal figures on the Atlanta rock scene, died Mon., Oct. 9, in Baltimore of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
"It's by no means an exaggeration to say that without Joe, Atlanta never would have become the music center that it is today," says guitarist Glenn Phillips, a member of the fabled Hampton Grease Band that performed in Piedmont Park in 1969 with the likes of the Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead. "Any musician who's been lucky enough to call this city their home owes Joe an incalculable debt of gratitude."
Roman managed one of the city's first rock clubs, the 12th Gate, which was located on the bottom floor of a Victorian house at 10th and Spring streets. Though it held just 150 people, the 12th Gate served as an important venue for such local groups as Hampton Grease when there were few other places to perform in Atlanta. Roman's club, which he co-managed with Robin Feld and later Ursula Andrews, also hosted national acts: Little Feat, Elvin Jones, Weather Report and John Hammond Jr. all made their Atlanta debuts at the 12th Gate.
"Roland Kirk played there and I remember one song, he was playing the flute and he led the crowd out the door and walked them up Spring Street and then back down West Peachtree," says Mike Holbrook, who played bass for Hampton Grease. "Those were just magical times. I took it for granted then and now I don't... that kind of thing just doesn't exist anymore."
Roman, 61 at the time of his death, was born and raised in Louisville, Ky. He was drafted in 1966 and went to Vietnam, where he served in an entertainment unit and wrote stories for Stars and Stripes. "He toured with Bob Hope and was in the cast of The Soldier's Play," his former wife, Paula Roman, told the Baltimore Sun. Roman was discharged in 1968 and became a contributing editor for Rolling Stone before he moved to Atlanta in 1970 and helped convert an old coffeehouse into the 12th Gate.
"It was the place to go to hear original, creative music," says Bryan Cole, who played drums for the band Mose Jones and later became a producer, most notably of Francine Reed. "It was a cozy place, bands would set up in the living room. It was definitely one of the parents of Atlanta's rock scene."
When newer and larger music clubs began to open in the mid-'70s, the 12th Gate closed its doors and Roman returned to journalism. He had already written for the underground newspaper the Great Speckled Bird and he began to cover music for the Atlanta Gazette before he joined Creative Loafing in 1978 as the music editor. Roman was known for his freewheeling weekly column that intelligently discussed both national acts coming to Atlanta and local groups that he thought deserved a listen. Roman presided over the paper's music section during what was a golden age for the local rock scene when such legendary clubs as the Great Southeast Music Hall and the Agora Ballroom were in full flower.
"He promoted and supported the careers of dozens of local musicians," says Gina Webb, CL's music editor from 1995 to 1998. "Everyone knew him, and everyone was indebted to him for some help he'd given them along the way. I also owe Joe, and knew him as a generous host and a guy who was deeply involved with music."
Roman moved to Baltimore in the 1990s, and worked as a salesman. He also performed in community theater. When he learned the Hampton Grease Band was staging a reunion concert in June at the Variety Playhouse, Roman called the group. "He said he was going to come down and wanted to introduce the band," Holbrook says. "We thought that was great, but then we didn't hear from him again."
His former wife told the Baltimore Sun that Roman was being treated for depression. He took his life in Baltimore's Wyman Park.
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…