Sam Rawhauser, of the Sharks, dies - LancasterOnline: News

Sam Rawhauser, of the Sharks, dies

Popular rock band won MTV contest

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Posted: Friday, October 9, 2009 12:06 am | Updated: 4:16 pm, Wed Sep 11, 2013.

Sam Rawhauser, the lead singer and guitarist for the Sharks, a popular 1980s rock band, died Thursday, the group announced in a notice posted on its Web site.

Rawhauser, who went by the stage name Sam Lugar, had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer about a month ago, said bandmate Steve Wettig.

Rawhauser, 55, died early Thursday morning at Hospice of Lancaster County's Mount Joy center.

"Sam was such a large part of the Lancaster musical scene," said the band's drummer, Doug Phillips, a longtime friend of Rawhausar's. "But I always tell people, he was like the anti-rock star. There were no pretenses about Sam.

"He was the quintessential guy you could have a beer with. He was also extremely talented," Phillips said. "In the dog-eat-dog world of rock 'n' roll and all the opportunists, he was not a part of that. He thrived in that world despite all that swirled around him."

The Sharks, whose hits included "On My Own" and "Holiday," formed in 1979 and nearly became a national act after winning an MTV contest before disbanding in 1990.

Even after disbanding, the band members still got together for occasional concerts.

Rawhauser, who was married and has a son, worked a job in facilities management. He continued to write music and was planning to record a CD with the band later this year. He was excited about the project.

"He was working on songs at his home whenever he could," said Wettig, a guitarist who uses the stage name Steve Zero. "He wrote five brand-new songs and hoped to start recording before we did a show in November. We were working on rehearsals."

Rawhauser, who lived in East Hempfield Township, told friends in August he was having back pains. Shortly after checking into the hospital in September, he was diagnosed with Small cell lung cancer, which can spread quickly through the body.

Rawhauser's health quickly deteriorated.

Rawhauser's bandmates described him as gentle giant - he was well over 6 feet tall - and a reluctant lead singer whose voice was a combination of Boz Scaggs and Bruce Springsteen.

"He didn't think he had a good voice," Phillips said.

Fans thought otherwise. They jammed fire halls and later The Village nightclub to hear the Sharks perform covers of songs by acts like the Clash, Elvis Costello and Talking Heads in the early 1980s, at a time when no other band in the area was performing such material. The band later began writing and performing its own music.

The band's peak came in the mid-1980s when it won the MTV Basement Tapes contest. The contest prize was an album contract with Elektra Records, but the label merely fulfilled its promotional obligation. It never promoted the Sharks and charged the band to distribute the album, "In a Black and White World."

Elektra later dropped the Sharks, but the band continued to play gigs in the area through the 1980s before calling it quits.

Rawhauser is survived by his wife, Sandy, and son, Ian.

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