Zapp unleashes funky, high-energy music with a contagious groove built for dancing, loving and good times. Made up of masterful musicians who have been getting down together since the late 1970s, the group’s sizzling chemistry can be attributed to the fact that it has always been a joyful family affair.
The band started with Lil Roger and Lil Lester in 1962, which became Lil Roger and the Vels, grew into Roger and the Human Body from 1974-1978, then became a full-fledged movement as Zapp. Now bandleader Lester Troutman, Sr. (drums), Terry “Zapp” Troutman (talkbox/keyboards/bass), Bart Thomas (talkbox/vocals/keyboards/bass), Dale DeGroat (musical direction/keyboards/vocals), Thomas Troutman (keyboards/vocals), Riccardo Bray (guitar) and Anthony Arrington (sax) join to carry on the legacy of a tight-knit group of expert players and funk, soul and party band pioneers. Vibrating with moog bass, electrifying guitar riffs and fresh, clever lyrics, the tight-knit group’s songs demonstrate a wicked sense of humor and an unmatched ability to tell colorful stories and write solid, memorable hooks. Zapp members’ layered recordings and boisterous, Las Vegas-style live shows have always established them as trailblazers in both songwriting and showmanship. In the tradition of stylish masters such as James Brown, George Clinton, Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone, Zapp continues to both inspire and draw inspiration from hot acts like Daft Punk, The Black Eyed Peas and Justin Timberlake.
Since Zapp’s beginnings, its heartbeat has always been the vibrant imagination of the three Troutman Brothers – older brother Larry and two younger brothers Roger and Lester – who jammed together before becoming a quartet called Roger and the Human Body. This early quartet included the duo of Roger and Lester, Ralph Shepard and Chris Croom, whose premiere recording experience was with Capitol Records in 1975-1976, when they worked on Sun’s debut album as well as the debut of Roger and the Human Body. Hired as studio musicians, Roger and Lester were fundamental to both projects and had already been experimenting with the talkbox just as it was first gaining fame thanks to mega stars like Stevie Wonder, Peter Frampton and Earth, Wind & Fire.
In 1978, Roger, Larry, Lester and Terry went into the studio with renowned bassist, singer and songwriter Bootsy Collins to record an album and were discovered by PFunk’s legendary leader George Clinton, who encouraged them to name themselves “Zapp” in honor of Terry’s snappy nickname. In 1980, the four original Zapp members released their self-titled debut, co-produced by Collins, on Warner Bros Records. Released that summer, Zapp became a platinum success, peaking at the Top 20 of the Billboard Top 200 thanks to the hip-shaking hit single, “More Bounce to the Ounce,” written by Roger. This triumph led to a major tour with the Commodores. Zapp’s dazzling rise persisted, piloted by Roger, who was the band’s producer, chief writer, arranger and composer and invented brand-new ways to use the talkbox that distinguished recordings. Within five years, the band scored a number of top-ten R&B hits: “Doo Wa Ditty”, “I Can Make You Dance”, “Heartbreaker”, ballads “Computer Love” and a cover of The Miracles’ “Ooo Baby Baby”. 1982’s “Dance Floor, Part 1” hit #1 on the R&B chart, with Roger’s solo numbers, “I Want to Be Your Man” and a cover of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” also scoring big. By 1985, the group had amassed more than four gold records and was drawing huge audiences worldwide. In 1983, Zapp’s star was still bright, and Roger was introduced to the R&B legend Shirley Murdock, who auditioned for him and was instantly welcomed into the group in 1984. She toured with the band throughout 1985, the same year, Roger, Lester and the rest of their production crew commandeered Shirley’s debut album, which made her an instant platinum sensation.
Over the course of the past 30 years, Zapp’s and Roger’s music has been sampled hundreds of times by artists around the globe, which has kept the band’s buzz going strong. Zapp’s music has had a profound effect on west coast hip-hop, featured in songs by Jay Z, Lil’ Kim, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, Ice Cube and many others. In 1995, Roger collaborated with 2Pac and Dr. Dre on the smash hit “California Love.” It became 2Pac’s best-known song and his most successful, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and nominated for a posthumous Grammy Award as Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group (with Roger and Dr. Dre) in 1997. For over 30 years, Zapp has played in small clubs, venues and huge stadiums alongside massive legends such as Rick James, Cameo, The Time, Prince and mentor George Clinton.
Though Roger sadly passed away in 1999, the thrilling Zapp legacy lives on, fueled by his original creative spirit, with the hard-working, fearless current lineup still cooking up crafty new material and playing to throngs of jumping fans.
In October 2018, the funkateers will be back with a new album titled “Zapp VII: Roger & Friends” (on the Leopard label), which celebrates the 40-year legacy of the band while paying homage to the creative genius of Roger Troutman. The album also features Mr Talkbox, Tuxedo, Bootsy Collins, Snoop Dogg and Kurupt.