Atlanta music scene loses two beloved guitarists

Wednesday May 21, 2003 12:04 am EDT

The second weekend of May ended with a double tragedy in which the Atlanta music scene lost two of its most beloved, high-profile musicians: the Penetrators' lead guitarist Scott Rogers, who performed under the stage name "Rip Thrillby," and Woggles guitarist George Holton III, better known as "Montague."

Rogers, 36, died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident early Sunday morning, May 11. After attending Saturday shows at the Echo Lounge and the Star Bar, and while headed for a late-night jam session at the home of another musician, Rogers was a passenger in a 1963 Ford Galaxie that left the road and crashed, throwing him from the vehicle. The cause of the accident is still unclear, and Rogers apparently passed away at the scene.

Less than 48 hours later, 31-year-old Holton died in his sleep from an accidental overdose of prescription medicine. Holton, who suffered from diabetes and related health problems, arrived home early Monday morning from an emergency-room visit. He spent a few hours chatting on the phone with friends and family members before managing to get to sleep. Paramedics believe his heart stopped around 3 p.m.

The two musicians were friends whose bands often performed together. The Penetrators specialized in instrumental surf and "spy-fi" music, as featured on their albums Kings of the High-Speed Weekend and Locked & Loaded. Rogers was also active in the local film community, and was a principal force behind events such as the annual "Drive-Invasion" and the "Mondo Movie Night" series at the Starlight Six Drive-In, for which he also created the colorful artwork featured on posters and T-shirts. An award-winning Web designer, he founded the Internet discussion groups Reverborama and Atomoculture, and designed CD covers for groups such as the Neanderthals and the Moto-Litas.

Holton's group, the Woggles, played retro-'60s style garage rock on albums such as Fractured, Live at the Star Bar, and the recently completed Ragged But Right. During their incendiary live performances, bandmates would often perch atop Holton's shoulders and ride him through the audience. He enjoyed an unusually long tenure in the Woggles, joining in January '93 and taking only one break, through most of '95, for health-related reasons. The group previously endured so many lineup changes that an Athens cartoonist created a series of mock trading cards, depicting its varied membership. Holton's card included a flipside notation describing him as "a mountain of a man who brings his whole frame to bear on the rhythms of life — in all its pursuits."

The Woggles and the Penetrators shared a significant fanbase crossover, and had even appeared together on a Dick Dale tribute album. At Rogers' Alabama funeral, his brother Brian opened his eulogy with the observation that many fans in the church would also be attending Holton's Tennessee service the next day. "I guess the Penetrators," he quipped, "will always be the opening act for the Woggles."

Both Holton and Rogers were vintage car enthusiasts, although Holton enjoyed far better luck with his treasured Thunderbird than Rogers did with his notoriously ill-fated Pontiac GTO. Rogers satirized his dream-car's chronic engine problems in the Drive-Invasion 2000 promo art, which depicted the GTO clutched in the hands of a 50-foot giant, while smoke poured from under its hood.

At his mother's request, Holton's T-Bird was present at his funeral, and he was laid to rest wearing a Woggles T-shirt with his white "W" guitar strap on his chest.

Rogers, a veteran of the first Gulf War (where he served in the 18th Airborne as a soldier and photo-journalist) was buried with full military honors in a flag-draped casket, with an Army color guard. At one point in the services, those gathered at his graveside discovered that the house across the street belonged to yet another car collector. Parked in its front yard was a gleaming red vintage GTO, serendipitously stationed to keep watch on Rogers' final resting place.


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