Whenever someone dies in Amesbury, Paul Rogers is usually the one standing at the door of his funeral home greeting the deceased’s family and friends.
Wearing a well-tailored suit and striking an appropriate balance between friendliness and sympathy, most who visit likely wouldn’t guess that when he’s not at work he spends much of his time in his basement studio surrounded by electric guitars playing rock ‘n’ roll music.
Rogers owns close to 25 guitars, including many custom and vintage pieces, and has been performing in various rock bands around the area for decades. While perhaps not a hobby one would associate with an undertaker, Rogers said music has been a major influence on his life and serves as a release from his occasionally depressing work.
“Most certainly, I think most musicians will say that it’s a good release,” Rogers said. “Sometimes you can sit down with your instrument and it takes you away from everything that’s going on around you.”
Rogers and his family have operated the Rogers Family Funeral Home in Amesbury for generations, and today he helps oversee four homes in total, the others being in Newburyport, Haverhill and Merrimac. His two sons, Cyrus and Joshua, work with him and are the fourth generation of the family to operate the business.
The Amesbury business opened in 1850 and came to be operated by Rogers’ grandfather. When Rogers was growing up in the 1950s, there were two constant presences in his life: the funeral home business and music.
“I was always interested in music,” Rogers said. “My mother was a pianist, and she played at church and was a choir director and sang. We went to Sunday school from the time we could remember, and my father was a fan of big bands.”
Rogers first started playing music in elementary school, when he and all the other kids were taught how to play the flutophone, a precursor to the recorder. In high school he moved up to clarinet and drums, and over time, he started playing guitar, which became a passion, driven by his love of rock ‘n’ roll and Elvis Presley.