Confronting Life With an Iron Fist: Luke Warm

From the March 17th 1995 issue of City Magazine, we have Luke’s Obit. I don’t have a credit for the author of this piece (H.B. Ward?), perhaps Chuck or Pat could fill in the rest of the details.

Luke Warm

Luke Warm

IN MEMORIAM

Andrew L. Ogrodowski, a lifelong local rocker known mainly as Luke Warm to his friends (and a few enemies), died on Friday, March 17, in his bedroom in his mother’s home in Greece. It was a warm spring evening and he’d been listening to the radio. He was 35.

His sudden death forces us to press the details of his life into some sort of comprehensible whole. Two years ago, when he was he was 33, Luke laughed, saying, “I’m just a guy who was saved by glitter and glam rock in the ’70’s,” as he tended bar downtown at the Abyss. As Luke perceived his life and tried – as he often did, to understand what it meant – that was no exaggeration at all.

The guy just wasn’t made to be normal. He invented and adopted the name Luke Warm around 1972, as a 12-year-old boy, to complete the elaborate stage persona he had conceived for his first rock band. After an early introduction to NYC glam rockers like T Rex, Luke gradually became the premier collector of rare T Rex records and memorabilia in the US.

Early in life. Luke stopped trying to fit in. “I remember a Red Wings game in the ’70’s,” recalled Luke’s friend and fellow musician Pat Lowerey on the phone recently. “There’s Luke walking down the stairs of Silver Stadium in a cape and full New York Dolls makeup in broad daylight. To him it was normal.”

Luke’s sense of style gave his rebellious energy an outlet and helped him find an identity. But unlike so many fashion bags, he never confused style with basic human grace. Lowerey, once the drummer for Luke’s best-known band, SLT, recalls a defining moment in Luke’s life. At one of SLT’s club dates, a band of hard core, head-shaved punks had been slated to open for them. Listening to them as SLT waited to go on, Luke appreciated the opening band’s energy at first, but then noticed that their lyrics were full of Anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist slurs. “These guys are skinheads!” he said to Lowerey.

That made him mad. “You know how some bands are too cool, like, ‘Don’t approach me?'” said Lowery. “Well, Luke wasn’t like that at all. As soon as he got on stage he just ripped into that band: ‘I Love Jews! I love fags! I live with a black chick!’ He was pointing at the skinheads and yelling into the mike, ‘We got a bunch of fuckin’ Nazis opening our show?'”

Like no one else in Rochester, Luke loved and devoted himself to the local rock scene. In the ’80’s he worked as a DJ and bartender (notably at Scorgies). But a career at the perimeter of the slam pit just wasn’t involved enough for him. His consuming love of music led him to moonlight as the music editor of Downtown magazine. Luke’s prose was as inflamed and confrontational as the music he loved. In an excerpt from the opening of one of his concert reviews (of a local band called “The Bulus“) in 1983, Luke demonstrated his fierce allegiance to Rochester Rockers.

“In this day and age when words mean nothing and dance means everything, it’s nice to see there are bands around to confront this idiotic way of thinking with an iron fist and the Bulus are that type of band. There is nothing wrong with mindless pop, rather fun its dumb way, but there should always be an imaginative, agressive edge to rock and roll to keep it on its often wobbly feet.”

Luke played guitar back then, too, but not, as most remember it, very well. Then, sometime in the summer of ’90, Luke disappeared from Rochester’s nightclub world. For 18 months, he spent his free time practicing by playing along with his collection of blues records. When he re-emerged, in early ’92, he was ready to form SLT – a band whose combination of power, intelligence, and expertise came close to what Luke had been grasping at for most of his life.

The band lasted little more than a year. But SLT is now legendary among Rochester rockers and Luke’s vision, infectious energy, and confidence in the band (“We’re the best rock and roll band in the world,” he used to shout) had everything to do with the legacy SLT left in its wake. Lowerey put it simply: “He wanted to combine the passion of music with intelligent lyrics and play it with such force.”

Luke’s death on March 17 cast a sad and sentimental pall over a crowd of Rochesterians known for dispassionate cool. His wake packed the Miller Funeral Home on Monroe Avenue with hundreds of black-leather rock and roll rebels. The line of tattooed, pierced and crying mourners strung itself through four rooms, heads shaking.

Luke’s mother, Helen Ogrodowski, welcomed every downcast punk who’d knelt before his closed coffin with a warm, appreciative hug. The phrase “He was a sweet guy, wasn’t he” was repeated over and over.

“He was crazy,” said Lowerey. “You could just call him up and he would do anything. If I needed him to do cartwheels naked down Monroe Avenue because I didn’t feel good, he’d do it immediately.”

“He was a great friend.”


audio clip courtesy Simon Ribas of the Presstones, see comments for details

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  1. Jason L. Brown’s avatar

    I’d forgotten about that article. I am now choked up a bit.

    Reply

  2. ds’s avatar

    Famous quote thru the DJ sound system:

    “… and don’t forget to tip the bartenders!
    … they’re working their BUTT-tocks off to keep you drunk!”

    R.I.P. Luke.

    Reply

  3. Simon Ribas’s avatar

    Here’s a clip from a board tape I have. It’s in mono, but you can hear a song he used to play a lot, and then introduce the band.

    http://thepresstones.com/mp3/luke.mp3

    Reply

  4. Jason L. Brown’s avatar

    Thanks for that, Simon. How strange to hear his voice . . . and I well recall Luke’s varied exhortations to tip the bartenders, although I don’t remember whether I took his advice.

    I think I’ll go download “The Wanderer” now.

    Reply

  5. Stan the Man’s avatar

    Simon, I’ve embedded the clip for those who don’t read the comments; great find. I have a few relevant audio clips like that which I will post at some point.

    Reply

  6. Chuck Irving’s avatar

    Stan, I can’t remember who wrote the obit. I don’t recall if Chuck had taken over City’s RocknRoll beat by then or not. I asked Pat & he’s pretty sure it was HB he spoke w/. But like I said before, neither one of us is sure about much from that time.

    I have to say in passing that looking back on it today, HB (or Chuck) did a damned good job w/out laying in a bunch of jive-ass, facile moralizing.

    Reply

  7. Stan the Man’s avatar

    We’ve lost too many people in the fight against mediocre hypocrisy…

    Reply

  8. SNewcomb’s avatar

    Loved the reference about Luke at Silver Stadium w/cape and eye shadow.

    That captured the essence of Luke Warm.

    Reply

  9. Martin Edic’s avatar

    What a great obit- the writer totally captured Luke/Andy. I remember how shocked I was at how good he had gotten when SLT emerged. And the funeral…a real event- the first Scorgie’s Reunion.

    Reply

  10. Maat Monz’s avatar

    I was sad to see Lukes Obit. As a college student and local musician in the early 80’s i was familiar with Luke and his small band of official punk rockers. (Who was the girl with the mohawk and the Souxie and The Banshees leather coat?!). My last memory of Luke was when I was working “security” for the promoter at a St John Fisher College concert featuring the Gang Of Four. Luke got hassled by a group of preppies, whipped off his chain belt, and was swinging it around his head, fending off several advancing assholes. My memory does not go much farther however I dont think it went Lukes way that night. Rock-n-Roll!!!!
    Dah Huh
    Lunar Circus

    Reply

  11. TW’s avatar

    I still miss my friend… especially at this time of year.

    Reply

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