Friends and colleagues are searching for a motive in the apparent murder-suicide that claimed the lives of Roger and Larry Troutman, two of the siblings that comprised the seminal funk outfit Zapp.| No one has stepped forward as a witness to the incident, which unfolded early Sunday morning at a Dayton recording studio operated by Roger Troutman, Zapp's leader, and a solo star in his own right.
Paramedics summoned by neighbors who heard gunshots arrived to find Roger bleeding from several gunshot wounds. While he was clinging to life when found, the forty-seven-year-old singer (dubbed "the master of the vocorder" within the music industry) died in surgery hours later. His fifty-four-year-old brother was found in his car, several blocks away, felled by a single gunshot wound -- which police describe as "apparently self-inflicted" -- to the head.
Business associates of the brothers, who had not worked together professionally in more than a decade, aren't commenting on the matter, although a source close to the elder Troutman (who was active in real estate management in the Dayton area) indicated that relations between the pair were strained in recent times.
Zapp -- which initially included brothers Lester and Terry Troutman as well -- emerged from a fertile Ohio funk scene in 1978, stringing together such hits as "More Bounce to the Ounce" and "Dance Floor," which actually topped the charts at the tail end of the disco era. Roger, as the acknowledged leader of the act, tested the solo waters beginning in the early Eighties, racking up solo hits with songs like "I Want to be Your Man" and a reworking of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine."
Although acknowledged as an inspiration by artists as varied as the former Prince and East Coast hardcore rap group EPMD, commercial success eluded Roger and Zapp for much of the past decade -- until Tupac Shakur called on his talents for "California Love" in 1996. More recently, Troutman also turned in appearances on recordings by Kool Keith and Gerald Levert.
A Dayton police spokesman says that an investigation is ongoing, with ballistics and toxicology reports due later in the week.