Born Sooliman Ernest Rogie, 1926, Freetown, Sierra Leone, d. 1994, England. At the age of seven Rogie found himself abandoned, 100 miles from his home village. That experience bred a sense of self-determination which has remained with him ever since, through his numerous musical travels. He began by putting himself through school apprenticeships in shoemaking and carpentry. However, he was working as a tailor when he first discovered the beauty of music. "Palm wine" was the name given to the music of the nearby clubs and bars which conveyed the struggles of everyday people - a gentle, resigned sound, in keeping with the melancholy moods associated with the drink, a milky white liquid tapped from the palm tree. Rogie began to learn guitar and adopted what he heard from the clubs, but also modelled himself on Jimmie Rodgers, the "Yodelling Cowboy". By his mid-20s he had developed a unique style, adding electric guitar to the basic palm wine construction. His records began to sell across the border in Liberia and Guinea, and "My Lovely Elizabeth" even made headway on European radio. It eventually earned a release on EMI Records. Rogie finally left Africa to move to America in 1973. After a stopover in Philadelphia he found himself in San Francisco during the hippie boom, but he developed a taste instead for the blues of BornBorn King and John Lee Hooker. After touring and releasing an album (African Lady), he revived the African Folk And Cultural Show, a school educational programme he had first started in Sierra Leone. It brought him a congressional award in 1984. He was then invited to the UK in 1988 by peripatetic disc jockey Andy Kershaw. Rogie enjoyed the country's atmosphere, so much so that he soon purchased a house in Finchley. His first UK album followed for Cooking Vinyl Records (a reissue of his Sixties Sounds collection, which in itself compiled many of his early African releases such as "Lovely Elizabeth" and "Twist With The Morningstars") receiving excellent reviews from an audience primed for world music through the efforts of Kershaw and others. In the 90s he was ensconced at Real World Records, for whom a new album, Dead Men Don't Smoke, emerged in 1994. Again, it saw him celebrated as the returning hero of African guitar music. Rogie was happy to oblige, stating his unabashed affection for his new home and fans: "England is the place for me. I call England hallowed ground, because that's where I make the most money." He died just weeks after its release, robbing African music of one of its greats.
African Lady (Rogiephone 1975)****, The Sixties Sounds Of S.E. Rogie (Rogiephone 1986)***, Palm Wine Guitar Music (Cooking Vinyl 1988)***, Dead Men Don't Smoke Marijuana (Real World 1994)****.
Palm Wine Guitar Music: The 60s Sound (Cook 2002)****.
The Rolling Stone Story, Robert Draper.
Source: Encyclopedia of Popular Music