In order to fully understand how high Johnny Rogan hopes to go, you must first comprehend how low he has already been.
Rogan, known by the name "Johnny Rogue" in the music business, has packed a lot of living in his 25 years. It hasn't all been rainbows and unicorns. Rogan, a 2011 graduate of Solanco High School, dropped out of college. He has been broke and hooked on drugs and alcohol. He has endured the disappointment of not being able to reenlist in the Marine Corps. He even considered taking his own life.
Yet he has risen from the depths of despair to a state of unbridled optimism.
Rogan has a burgeoning music career. He has gone back to college. Most significantly, he and girlfriend Bethanie Wilson are expecting a son in June they plan to name Patrick Cian Rogan. Rogan and Wilson first met while they were both stationed in San Diego, Rogan in the Marines and Wilson in the Navy.
There were no signs of problems during his time at Solanco High. Rogan was involved with the Interact Club in his junior and senior years and interned within the special education classrooms his senior year.
A standout soccer player, Rogan served as a manager for the girls soccer team and also played basketball as a freshman and wrestled as a senior.
Surrounded by positive influences, Rogan flourished. Mrs. Gabow, Mrs. McRobbie, Mrs. Shumaker, Mr. Girvin, Mr. Lenker and a lot more truly made an impact on me," Rogan said. "Solanco has always had an incredible staff."
Solanco soccer coaches Larry Benedict and Peter Shellenberger also had a tremendous positive impact on Rogan as did family friend Tammy Chew.
Rogan's struggles started when he left the Southern End to attend the University of Pittsburgh. He says his problems were caused by his own immaturity. "I finally got away from my normal routine and home life, so I took full advantage of my independence," Rogan said. "My struggle with alcohol definitely began while I was in Pittsburgh. I started to get homesick and alcohol definitely helped me to numb that feeling of emptiness. I was lucky enough to have a great group of people by my side throughout my years at Solanco; I never had to deal with peer pressure leading to those problems. There is no doubt other people struggled and still do struggle with things like this in the community. I guess I just got lucky."
Rogan wasn't as fortunate at Pittsburgh. His grades suffered to the point he received an academic warning and he decided to drop out to join the military.
"After realizing I was not fully ready to take on the task of college, I decided the next step was the Marine Corps," Rogan said. "My younger brother (Jeff) always talked about joining but due to injury was never afforded the opportunity, so I guess I just took his spot. The Marine Corps was my last resort and turned into my greatest accomplishment so far. The structure was exactly what I needed in my life. It taught me that nothing in life comes easy and you really need to work for your spot in this world."
Rogan was stationed in Okinawa for two years and traveled extensively across Asia, visiting over 15 countries. "Okinawa was two of the best years of my entire life," he said. "I experienced so many different cultures. The island is extremely small so there were beaches within walking distance at any point on the island. It was paradise. I met a lot of people I now look at as family, being so far from home brought us all closer together, having that one thing in common created bonds I never thought possible."
The inner peace he found in Japan did not last. "I guess just being away from home for so long, being away from the normality of Quarryville started to get to my head," Rogan recalled. "I was drinking at least a 12-pack of beer every single night and it really started to take a toll on my thought process."
It got so bad one night, Rogan called home, ostensibly to say goodbye. "At that point ending everything seemed like my easiest option," he said. "Talking to my family showed me that I needed to keep pushing on. My family and friends are the only reason I’m still here."
Rogan planned to reenlist in the Marines, but that did not happen. While stationed in San Diego, Marine Corps regulations on tattoos changed slightly, he said. "If you already had tattoos that were in compliance with the old regulation you could get grandfathered in with some simple paperwork," said Rogan. "I submitted my paperwork but there were some complications throughout the process and I ended up getting out of the Marine Corps for that reason."
Separating from the Marines sent Rogan spiraling out of control. "It was a lot worse than I had anticipated," he said. "The day I signed my release paperwork, I met Bethanie at a local Mexican restaurant for lunch. I remember her asking me how it felt and I couldn’t even begin to explain, I had tears in my eyes. The day I was released from the Marine Corps was the day I started using drugs and alcohol to cope. At that lunch I ended up drinking so much that she had to drive me home and I woke up the next morning with no recollection of what happened. From there it all started to just roll downhill, spending every last penny I had on one of the two substances."
In December, 2017, Rogan turned to music as a way of expressing himself. "Prior to that I had just been writing poems and lyrics frequently, just not adding a beat," he said. "I think as I started writing I realized everything started to get better. My thoughts were now becoming brighter and my days were becoming more peaceful so I kept going with it. Music has turned into everything. It took the place of substance abuse and helped me become the person I am today. I can put my thoughts onto paper, whether I record it into a song or not. That alone helps clear my mind and I highly recommend it for anyone that has a plethora of thoughts going through their mind."
Rogan says his music is not easily defined. "A lot of people would classify my music as rap; I would classify it more as lyrical or inspirational," he said.
One of the performers who inspired Rogan was a then-mostly unknown rapper from Pittsburgh named Mac Miller. Miller, who went on to have a wildly successful career but battled substance abuse and depression, died from an accidental drug overdose on September 7, 2018.
In 2009, Rogan and a group of friends from Solanco met Miller following a show at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster. "At that point in my life music was strictly an outlet through listening, writing and recording music was not even a thought in my head," Rogan said. "Talking to Mac after the show was my first actual encounter with someone that I actually admired and looked up to. It is one of the greatest moments of my life. Following him through his struggles had helped me get through a lot of my own. His lyrics had more meaning and started to impact my life. It was like when I turned on his music I had my own little counseling session. That is what inspires me when writing my own music. I want it to change lives and help people have a place to get away, even if it is only for a few minutes."
Rogan's music is available on many digital platforms including Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, SoundCloud, and Youtube. Search for Johnny Rogue. He promotes his music on social media sites Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter using the name Johnny Roguee.
"I honestly think that the sky is the limit with my music," Rogan said. "A lot of artists these days speak and write about things that are not easily relatable. I feel my music is extremely relatable to individuals of all ages and all backgrounds, so I hope it sticks around for many years to come. In the long run I have already achieved what I set out to do. I have people telling me I have inspired them to be better and do better. I have people older than me calling me an inspiration, and people younger than me saying I have helped them through some of the lowest points of their lives. At this point in my life, if everything came to a close with music I know I have already done my part. I do hope this becomes a career. I would love to help people in mass amounts and making it a career seems to be the only way to do that."
While chasing his dreams, Rogan has established a backup plan. He elected to return to college, first at Bloomsburg before transferring to Alvernia after he and Bethanie moved into a new apartment. A fulltime student on the GI Bill, Rogan plans to graduate with a degree in anthropology in 2021.
"College this time around has been a lot easier and I am thankful for that," said Rogan. "I chose anthropology because it has always interested me, studying why cultures do what they do and the different ways we all view life." Rogan wants to eventually want to work with the POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Hawaii as a forensic anthropologist. JPAC goes throughout Asia trying to recover remains of World War II veterans who were deemed to be killed in action, missing in action, or held as a prisoner of war.
Johnny, who currently resides in Port Carbon, has two brothers, Jimmy (27) and Jeff (24) and a sister, Jena (22). His parents, John and Joni, live in Ireland. Johnny hopes to one day live near his parents in Ireland. "The goal is definitely still to head to Ireland," he said. "It has always been a dream of mine and now I have my best friends along for the ride. We are hoping to move out there within the next couple years, it all depends on the house building and citizenship process for Patrick. I never thought I’d say that I am excited to become my parent’s next-door neighbor, but I am."
Patrick is due June 7. As that date approaches, Rogan constantly thinks back to a meme his mother sent him which features a father and son talking. It reads: "A father said to his son: 'Be careful where you walk.' The son responded: 'You be careful, remember that I follow in your footsteps'."
"Knowing I have a son on the way has helped me an incredible amount," Johnny Rogan said. "I have buckled down and focused more, I have set out to become a better person, and an inspiration for Patrick in the future. I think of the quote my mom sent me every single day. It is actually now saved in my phone and the background of my computer. That way no matter what I am doing in my day-to-day life I can see the quote and live by it."
After trudging down a dark, desolate path, Rogan is confidently striding toward a fruitful future.