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From Day 227, one family passes the beat across generations

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 1, 2013 - The year Roger Humphries Jr. was born, his father was performing in Paris with Ray Charles. Roger Humphries was there for his son's birth, and he made it home when he could, but life as a drummer meant tour buses and hotels and long stretches away from his family.

A few years later, Humphries Jr., his mother and sister met up with his father. Maybe it was in D.C., maybe his dad had come home. Humphries Jr. can’t quite remember, but it was a turning point for his dad.

“He said that we treated him like a stranger.”

So the drummer decided to get off the road and live in Pittsburgh with his family. A few years later, he bought his son his first kit.

Growing up, Humphries Jr. played in his elementary school, and would hang around his dad’s bar and nightclub on weekend mornings. He remembers one morning when he stepped inside to find organist Don Patterson asleep on the couch. Max Roach, Art Blakley and Freddie Hubbard were common names around his home.

Humphries Jr. grew up watching his father play and playing himself. And as an adult, he’s still watching his father behind those drums and, now, sometimes, his own children, too.

You can see that in day 227 of Cbabi Bayoc’s project 365 Days with Dad, where Bayoc has spent all of last year and a little of this one documenting black fatherhood.

Humphries Jr. first found Bayoc’s art after moving to St. Louis from Pittsburgh and happening upon Bayoc’s wife’s restaurant, SweetArt. (Reine Bayoc has those cupcakes down, Humphries Jr. says. His favorite is yellow batter, chocolate icing.)

Humphries Jr. found the work by Bayoc multi-dimensional and thinks the artist has achieved that with this project, bringing people and their emotions to life on canvas. So, in addition to a few other pieces he has, Humphries Jr. ordered a piece from 365 Days with Dad. 

It hasn’t arrived, yet, but Humphries Jr. has seen it on Facebook. The image is a composite of sorts of Humphries Jr., his father and son, taken from his facebook profile picture that shows the three Humphries men at three drum sets playing together.

The only face missing is Humphries Jr.’s daughter, Jaz. She and her brother, Roger III, both play, and their grandfather thinks they should keep it up.

Sometimes, when they’re back in Pittsburgh for a visit, Humphries Jr. and his father sit upstairs visiting. But they're also listening to the next generation down in the basement, in front of the drums, carrying on the beat.