U.S.-born guitarist Danny Adler's Roogalator was one of the fixtures on the London pub rock scene of the mid-'70s, at the same time establishing themselves among the most un-pub-like bands on the circuit. Drawing deep from Adler's own experience on the Cincinnati club circuit of the late '60s, where he gigged alongside (and frequently jammed with members of) R&B legends Dyke & the Blazers and Bootsy Collins' Pacesetters, Roogalator offered an angular, minimalist funk sound which was utterly at odds with the country, blues, and early rock sounds normally heard on the scene. Even Kokomo, up to that point the most authentic attempt at a homegrown funk sound yet unveiled, trailed in Roogalator's slipstream. They, after all, simply followed the lead of the American masters. Roogalator prided themselves in escaping from it and in so doing, created the wholly distinctive blueprint for what would become the Britfunk explosion of the early '80s.
Adler had been resident in the U.K. since 1971, following a brief stint in New York City with Elephant's Memory. His first British band was Smooth Loser, formed with Chris Gibbons and fellow expatriate Jeff Pasternak to accompany Pasternak's brother DJ Emperor Rosco at road show events. The first incarnation of Roogalator formed following Smooth Loser's breakup in 1972 -- that same year, Adler also recorded demos with 10cc's Graham Gouldman at Strawberry Studios.
Roogalator Mach I broke up and Adler relocated to Paris to study jazz theory. He returned to London in 1974, where he formed a new Roogalator with keyboard player Nick Plytas. Several lineup changes followed in the months before the band played its first live shows in September, 1975 -- the membership finally settled to include Adler, Plytas, drummer Dave Solomon, and former Chilli Willie & the Red Hot Peppers bassist Paul Riley.
Lauded by the local press, Roogalator gigged through the end of the year, their apparently miraculous rise climaxing when they were invited to support Dr. Feelgood at the Hammersmith Odeon. The prestigious show was a disaster, however, and marked the end of the classic Roogalator lineup. Within weeks, both Riley and Solomon had departed, to be replaced (again after several short-lived changes) by drummer Justin Hildreth and bassist Julian Scott, brother of band manager Robin Scott.
Roogalator made their recorded debut in April, 1976, with the Stiff Records classic "Cincinnati Fatback"; their influence on that label's own roster, meanwhile, was swiftly made apparent with the emergence of Elvis Costello -- visually a dead ringer for Adler and no slouch when it came to fractured funk himself. Despite such applause, another year elapsed before Roogalator issued a follow-up, when Virgin released Plytas' "Love and the Single Girl." The group then shifted to manager Scott's own newly formed Do It label for their debut album, Play It by Ear, in mid-1977.
Essentially little more than an opportunity to preserve the band's repertoire on vinyl before unleashing a crop of new material, the album was well-received but sold poorly. The departure of Plytas added to the group's woes; opting not to replace him, Roogalator continued gigging through early 1978 as a trio, cutting one more single, "Zero Hero," and demoing a second album. But when further lineup changes shook the group that summer, Adler realized the band had reached the end of the line. Roogalator officially disbanded in July, 1978, with many of the songs scheduled for their second album promptly being reworked for Adler's own solo debut, The Danny Adler Story. He has continued recording and gigging regularly ever since. Roogalator's own repertoire has since resurfaced on the Cincinnati Fatback compilation; the title track, meanwhile, is a regular inclusion on Stiff label anthologies. ~ Dave Thompson