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R.I.P., Dex Romweber: Former Frontman for Flat Duo Jets and Rock 'n' Roll Force of Nature, Dead at 57

He was also part of the Dex Romweber Duo with his late sister, Sara Romweber, onetime member of Let's Active.

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Source: Stacy Watson

Dex Romweber, former member of Flat Duo Jets, in a promo shot from his 2023 album, "Good Thing Goin'"

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Dex Romweber, former lead singer of the Athens, Georgia band Flat Duo Jets and a solo artist in his own right, has died at the age of 57. His death at home by cardiac arrest was discovered by his sister Monica and was announced by his family in a post on social media on Friday evening.

Born in Batesville, Indiana on June 18, 1966, John Michael Dexter Romweber spent a portion of his youth in Florida, but it was after his family’s move to Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1977 that he began to pursue his interest in music to a significant degree.

Indeed, it’s easily argued that Dex's arrival in Chapel Hill had a major impact on the city’s music scene as well: in a 1985 article from The Daily Tar Heel about the Romweber siblings (Dex, Joe, and Sara), it’s said that Dex “might be single-handedly responsible for the creation of the generation of punks that inhabit Franklin Street.”

Their musician origins are cited within the article as well:

“Although they have seldom played together, Joe, Sara, and Dexter all learned to play around the same time. Dexter, the youngest, was the catalyst. Almost ten years ago, when he was into KISS, he and his friend Hunter Landon, formerly of The Bad Checks, were jamming in the Romweber’s cellar. They decided they needed a drummer, so they pulled some pots and pans down from the kitchen and taught Sara to play. At that moment, the three formed their first band. Dexter was 10; Sara was 12.”

[Joe, for the record, asked Dex to teach him how to play guitar and went on to join his first band, Gary and the Resistors, in 1980.]

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Source: Bloodshot Records

The cover art for Dex Romweber's 2016 album, 'Carrboro.'

Romweber’s first band of note, Flat Duo Jets, was formed in Carrboro, North Carolina, with Romweber on guitar and his friend since fifth grade, Chris “Crow” Smith, on drums.

Although they forged a fanbase in North Carolina, releasing their debut EP, In Stereo, in 1985 and securing an appearance on MTV’s The Cutting Edge, it was the band’s move to Athens, Georgia that helped them find fame on a larger scale, thanks in part to their appearance in the 1986 documentary Athens, GA: Inside/Out, and the inclusion of their songs “Crazy Hazy Kisses” and “Jet Tone Boogie” on the film’s soundtrack.

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It took awhile for the band’s self-titled debut LP to see release, but its 1990 arrival on record store shelves helped secure them the opportunity to open for the Cramps on a national tour as well as an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. In 1992, they released their sophomore LP, Go Go Harlem Baby, an album which arguably found its greatest fame when Jack White played one of its tracks – a cover of the standard “Froggie Went A-Courtin’” – for Jimmy Page and The Edge in the documentary It Might Get Loud.

White paid tribute to Romweber on social media, offering not only his thoughts about Dex the man but also as a heartfelt reminiscence about his personal history with Dex the artist:

"A brick crashed through my window last night. Cat Power had wrote to me; John Michael Dexter Romweber had passed away, passed on, bill past due. He wasn’t a Rock N’ Roll musician, he WAS Rock N’ Roll inside and out, without even having to try, he couldn’t help himself. People toss that around a lot, but in Dex’s case it was actually true. To call him Punk would be like calling the Great Pyramid a sand castle. He was the type that don’t get 3 course dinners, awards, gold records and statues made of them because they are too real, too much, too strange, too good.

"Dex was a true tortured romantic, unfairly treated and broken hearted at all times but still hopeful. He was an electrical outlet, an old soul, a vampire, a cave man in a modern age, a WWI trench soldier, a different kind of American, out of luck living on the outskirts of town, lonely even when in a room of thousands. He ate dinner with Van Gogh, loaned your friend his last ten dollars, and exuded innocent love and naivety. He stared at the moon, communicated with Gene Vincent from another plane, while reading George Gurdjieff by thrift store lamp and all out of cigarettes at 3 a.m. He was forever getting the short end of the deal but anyone who spoke with him could only want him to live in peace and love with no way to know how to truly help him get there.

"He was one of my favorite people I’ve ever known and one of my most cherished influences. He once finished the last chord of a song during a concert, threw his guitar down, jumped off the stage at St. Andrews Hall in Detroit, and ran straight up to me in a theater of ten people at the back of the room and immediately started talking to me. I had never met him before that. I was 18. Over time he passed on secrets I’ll never tell, and brought tears to my eyes when he told me how proud of me he was. But I was proud of him first, and always will be. He was an uncle that I would ride my bike across town to see. They don’t make them like Dex anymore, not till we get our act together as humans. I know your pain is over now Dex and you are living in true romantic bliss. You deserve it more than any of us."

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The Flat Duo Jets continued to record and release indie albums throughout the 1990s, but not long after a belated shot at major-label success in 1998 with the distinctly different-sounding Lucky Eye failed to take off, the band ultimately called it a day.

A few years later, Romweber kicked off his solo career in earnest with 2001’s Chased by Martians, but he began to intersperse those releases with efforts as the Dex Romweber Duo, a.k.a. Dex and his sister Sara, who’d been busy forging her own career first as a member of Let’s Active and then as a founding member of Snatches of Pink.

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After Sara’s death in 2019 from a brain tumor, Dex returned exclusively to his solo career, releasing his most recent solo album, Good Thing Goin’, in 2023. The LP – his first in seven years - featured the song “Saturday Morning,” an homage to Sara, and led Romweber to hit the road for a series of dates, and he was already booked to play a show this March.

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