After 30 years, Lennon still mourned

Frank Royster, at home with his 5-year-old son, McCartney Royster, has a Rickenbacker electric guitar like one that John Lennon played. A budding local musician, Frank Royster said his goals and dreams were heavily influenced by the Beatles.

John Lennon cut his musical teeth on recordings by Elvis and Buddy Holly.

Frank Royster's earliest musical influences were Elvis and Buck Owens.

While living in New York, John Lennon took time off from everything else to raise his new baby boy.

Frank Royster of West Ashley stepped away from his job at a local TV station to raise his new baby boy.

John Lennon named his son Sean.

Frank Royster named his son McCartney.

Yes, Paul emerged as Royster's favorite Beatle, but Royster said Tuesday that Lennon's life and death profoundly influenced his own life and dreams. Royster will be among many locals and millions worldwide who today will note the 30th anniversary of Lennon's murder.

A local musician who has recorded his original music in professional studios, Royster and his Sgt. Submarine Beatles Tribute Band will be part of a Lennon musical tribute beginning at 6 tonight at the Charleston County Main Library on Calhoun Street.

Many locals whose lives were shaped by various degrees by the Beatles said they either don't want to think about what happened on Dec. 8, 1980, or have opted to put it out of mind and concentrate on positive aspects of the John Lennon story.

"When I watch a documentary on Lennon's life, it's really, really tough for me when it gets to all that forboding crap about his death. I just can't watch it anymore," said John Gilmore of West Ashley, who teaches music in Goose Creek and North Charleston.

Gilmore said the Beatles are a major reason he studied music in college and grad school. "I feel it is an honor to study music. I feel like I am carrying on something that Lennon didn't have a chance to do."

Bill Shoemaker of John Island said Lennon's passing "was especially sad for me. He'd answered my fan mail the previous year," Shoemaker said. During Lennon's house-husband years away from the public and music, Shoemaker sent the former Beatle a note urging him to get back in the recording studio.

"To my surprise, I soon got a reply: 'Dear Bill, Thank you. Don't hold your breath, John Lennon.' Well, he finally came back, and almost immediately he was gone -- forever," Shoemaker lamented.

"Thinking about what happened on December 8 just makes me angry and sad," he added.

Royster, now 43, was just 13 when Lennon was slain. He said he had discovered Beatles recordings at age 8, and became "almost obsessed" by them, although the band had broken up six years before.

Royster had gone to bed early that night. "I didn't find out until the next day when I got up to go to school," he said. He said his mother treated him gingerly that morning at the breakfast table.

" 'I have some real bad news to tell you,' " he recalled her saying. "Then she told me John Lennon had been shot and that he died."

"Needless to say, I was blown away, shocked. I stayed home from school two days," he added.

Many years later, Royster would emulate Lennon and his choice to be a house-husband. Lennon literally hung his guitar on the wall and didn't work on his music until Sean was almost 5.

But Royster, whose son is now 5, said his house-husband years and his understanding wife, Sherry, have allowed him to pursue his musical goals in the evenings.

Lennon had just returned to recording when he was shot to death in front of his New York apartment building. Mark Chapman was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. He has been denied parole six times.