More On Ema Rosenauer and Vintage Fort Worth Rock n’ Roll
This week’s feature story on LaVon “Ema” Rosenauer (“Godmother to Rock n’ Roll,” May 7, 2014) was a joy to research and write, but there wasn’t enough room for everything in the print edition.
Here are a few stories that got omitted, and some current photos of Ema that got edged out to make way for the vintage photos that accompanied the story.
Ema’s youngest son, Duane Lee Rosenauer, is publicist for Ema’s Enterprises, and plans to carry on the business when his mother retires, if she ever will. He watched her run the business for many years and considers her an ideal teacher, even if occasionally she’d get confused — such as the time a swinger’s group called and asked if she could provide entertainment for a party.
“Mom covered up the phone and said, ‘What’s a swinger’s group?’ ” he said.
Lee Roy Parnell played guitar in Lo Della, one of Ema’s exclusive bands in the 1970s, before he moved on to Nashville fame. Ema was surrogate mother to most of her musicians, but could also be surrogate butt-kicker when needed, Duane Lee said.
“Lee Roy told her if she hadn’t fussed at him so much back then, he wouldn’t be where he is today,” he recalled.
Former Savvy drummer Rick Miller also benefited from her influence during the year she helped booked his band in 1972 before they became the house band at a Fort Worth bar and no longer needed her services.
“She was a very good booking agent, very businesslike, professional, no nonsense when it came to business, yet her bands that she booked were her babies or her second family,” he said. “She treated them like gold. She did everything she could to keep you constantly working.”
Men dominated the rock scene during the 1970s and Ema received her share of snide jabs from chauvinistic booking agents and club managers. But the fact she was a woman might have been what made her such a good booking agent for the young men she managed, Miller said.
“You’d run across these old crusty guy agents that acted like they didn’t care or were just so busy they didn’t have time for you, but Ema always seemed to have an open door, always took time for you,” he said. “You got the feeling that Ema really cared about you. She considered what she did as important, and it wasn’t just a job for her.”
Another former Lo Della member, bassist John Laird, recalled how important her mother hen ways were to some of the musicians.
“We were all just kids then, teenagers or in our early 20s,” he said. “She laid down the law about the drugs and drinking. We couldn’t do any of that stuff and if you did and she heard about it, she wouldn’t book you anymore. She wanted you to look nice and act like professionals, even though we were just a bunch of kids in the 1970s. I have high regard for Ema.”
Keyboardist Rusty Boden was 16 when he began playing keyboard in Long Time Comin’ in early 1970s while attending Arlington Heights High School. He and drummer Danny Cochran and several other band members were playing a Saturday afternoon gig at the grand opening of an auto parts store in a strip shopping center when police responded to noise complaints.
“The cop came up and said, ‘Turn it down, we can hear your amplifiers five miles away.’ ”
The band turned down the amplifiers, but someone in the audience said, “You don’t have to do what he says.”
The police officer thought a band member had made the statement, and he ended up arresting the entire band for disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct.
Ema bailed out the band after they’d been in jail for about an hour. Later, she hired an attorney and accompanied the boys to court to battle their conviction.
The cop told the judge the amplifiers were “this big” while reaching his hand above his head. That was the extent of his testimony. The judge surveyed the defendants and said “case dismissed.”
“The entire courtroom burst into this spontaneous applause,” Boden said.
“She’s quite a lady,” he said of Ema.
Now, let’s not start electing Ema for sainthood yet. She had a temper and wasn’t afraid to show it. Mike Arnett worked with Ema for a few years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and recalls a feisty woman with a mouth that sometimes veered into sailor territory.
“She always wore this headset so she didn’t have to hold the phone,” he said. “She’d talk to rough to people if she had to, and she’d get mad and throw the headphones down on the table and say, ‘That’s one stupid son of a bitch.’ ”
He laughed about her feistiness, called her a “character,” and remembered how much he enjoyed watching her in action. Arnett called Fort Worth Weekly a few weeks ago and pitched the story idea about Ema.
They first met when a band Arnett was playing with auditioned to be part of Ema’s stable. The band didn’t make the cut.
“She said, ‘I like the way you look, but that’s about it — but I can book you if you do this, this, and this.’ She commanded respect. When it came to business she didn’t mess around.”
After he began working at Ema’s Enterprises, Arnett accompanied Ema to audition other bands.
“Bands would call her up and we’d go listen, and if you asked her opinion, boy she’d give it to you,” he said. “And she was right.”