Songs Dex Romweber Taught Us – The Rocket Morton Show

Dexter Romweber (left) a white man with greying, medium length, dark hair in dark overcoat and sunglasses, Rocket Morton (center) a white man smiling in a leather jacket with a crew cut, and Sara Romweber (right) a white woman with long hair in an overcoat and green sparkling scarf holding a beer and a water bottle.
Dex Romweber (left) and sister Sara Romweber with Rocket Morton

Chapel Hill-based rockabilly and blues guitarist Dexter Romweber passed away on February 16, 2024 at the age of 57. Romweber influenced, inspired, and touched the lives of many—including WRFI's own Rocket Morton. Part one of Rocket's tribute to Dex and his influences aired on Friday, February 23, 2024. Tune in on Friday, March 1, 2024 for hours and six and seven of Rocket's salute to this seventh son (at 7pm!).

Seven hours of the Rocket Morton Show dedicated to the music and influences of one obscure North Carolina artist? THAT'S RIGHT! "Seeing the Flat Duo Jets in the 80’s," says Rocket, "was such a revelation it restored my faith in music and life itself."

Rocket and Dex eventually became close friends; few know the story of his life and music to the degree that our own Rocket does. So join us for a heartfelt tribute to the music and influences of an unsung giant of the American underground. Hopelessly rare 45’s, obscure releases, crazy stories and selections from Rocket’s tape archive are all here for you to discover and enjoy.

From the desk of Rocket Morton:

It's been 24 hours now since my friend Pat Richardson told me about the death of Dex Romweber. I didn't sleep most of those hours and it's taken me all day and night to write down something even remotely coherent.

For anyone who has known me any length of time you find that Dex was incomprehensibly important to me. For the few who know my heart, my sense of humor and the existential depths of the darkness of both you know that I was convinced he was one of the few people on earth who really had found the meaning of life.

The secret that Dex discovered was that giving meaning to the lives of other people was in and of itself the meaning of his life. This was his truth. But this truth didn't mean that "having meaning" was equivalent to "having happiness". A life can be meaningless yet happy, and a life can be meaningful - that is, to have meaning - and be unhappy. It can of course be meaningful and happy or meaningless and unhappy. A square of opposites, so to speak. Finding life's meaning does not necessarily mean finding happiness. To accept that meaning and happiness are interchangeable with their opposites is both horrifying and strangely liberating. This is what attracted him to Gurdjieff and Baudelaire. Per Peale, "the Learner must be led always from familiar objects toward the unfamiliar, guided along, as it were, a chain of flowers into the mysteries of life." Obscure rockabilly to the Holy Ghost. Dex believed in heaven and hell.

What made Dex the heroic figure in this struggle was that he hung his life on his art. He sacrificed his personal life and comfort, both mentally and financially, to achieve something uncomfortably rewarding. He loved music, he loved a good time and he yearned for love. But like the restaurant sign says, you have three choices, make two. You get two but never three. Make your choice.

The Flat Duo Jets happened to me in 1988 at a time of unbearable personal pain and despair. Seeing them for the first time and, so many times later, was cathartic every time. I was a born again rock and roll believer. This was holiness to me.

No experience was like seeing them that first time. I've seen a whole lot of crazy shit in my life, everything from Hasil Adkins to the moon launch to people speaking in tongues and writhing on the floor. I've seen birth and death, UFO's, been bit by bats and struck by lightning. Been through hurricanes. But imagine an experience so visceral that it made your broken heart break on through to the other side. Escape velocity.

The Flat Duo Jets gave me hope and joy about rock and roll and LIVING at a time that I was certain both were over - or worse, devoid of meaning. I will always be indebted to Dex, Crow (wherever you are) and Tony Mayer.

But more than anyone you, Dex. I'm grateful we became such close friends over the years and miles. And tears. And LAUGHS. God, you could make me laugh. I will miss and love you always, Dex. And Sara, too. God bless and care for Monica Romweber (who has suffered through so, so much these last few years.