In the early 90s, “No Rain” and its famous bee-girl video seemed to be playing on MTV in an endless loop, and Blind Melon was touring with Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Neil Young and other legendary musicians. Yes, life was good, and Blind Melon’s guitarist Rogers Stevens was living it. Sometimes he and his bandmates traveled with Guns N’ Roses for shows on the MGM Grand 727, an exclusive, chartered jet that catered only to the biggest stars in movies, sports and music.
Stevens’ current work commute is a tad less glamorous. He drives every morning from Swarthmore to Center City to work as a lawyer at the white-shoe law firm Ballard Spahr.
His life now is labor and employment law. He wears suits, probably for the first time since he was a kid going to church. His shoulder-length hair from Blind Melon’s 90s hey-day is long-gone. Music comes on the side.
But this isn’t the story of an artist forced to give up and join the rat race. He could tour often, produce tracks for other artists or live comfortably off royalties from “No Rain” for the rest of his life. This is the challenge Stevens wanted.
“It was enough that I never really would have to get a job,” Stevens says, “but I just didn’t want to not do something. I wanted to find something that I’m passionate about and dive in — which I did.”
And now most everyone Stevens encounters as a lawyer knows about his past. He has to tell them. It’s a great conversation starter, and it’s completely necessary. If he didn’t tell them, he jokes, people might wonder if the 45-year-old associate spent the last 20 years in jail or something.
Stevens describes himself as someone who makes abrupt life decisions. He did that when he moved from Mississippi to Los Angeles seeking success in the music industry, and he did it again about six years ago when he decided to become a lawyer.
The law had always interested Stevens. His father was a small-town, general practice lawyer. When Blind Melon had to deal with lawyers, he always accepted the role.
Stevens and his wife, Joanna, had a two-year-old, and she was pregnant with another child when Stevens chose to pursue his law career. They moved from New York City to Swarthmore, where Joanna grew up. It was all set. Stevens would practice law and spend plenty more time with the kids. He just had to do all the school stuff first. Thirty-nine years old at the time, he hadn’t taken a college course in his life.
So Stevens went to Temple and jammed as many credits into a semester as possible, graduating summa cum laude two and a half years later in 2011. He spent the next three years studying law at Penn, occasionally escaping to Europe or South America to play the odd Blind Melon gig.
He got hired by Ballard Spahr last year. On his office wall, he displays a gift given by his one-time manager: A massive photo of Blind Melon’s quadruple platinum plaque.
“I had to put it up,” Stevens says.
Blind Melon went from attracting a healthy following to achieving platinum status in 1993, a year after the band’s self-titled debut album and single “No Rain” came out. When MTV started airing the video for “No Rain” in 1993, sales skyrocketed. The song reached No. 1 on the alternative rock chart and the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.
On the strength of that song and album, Blind Melon embarked on a journey of fame so quintessentially 90s that even you will feel nostalgic hearing about it: The band got nominated for a Grammy. They toured the world. They posed on the cover of Rolling Stone — naked. They performed at Woodstock ‘94, on Saturday Night Live (with Chris Farley dancing as the bee-girl while the band was introduced) and on a popular but short-lived MTV program called “The Jon Stewart Show.”
The ride came to an unexpected, tragic end in 1995. Singer Shannon Hoon, who had twice entered rehab, died from an accidental cocaine overdose. From the time he arrived in Los Angeles, Hoon carried a handheld camcorder with him. Stevens says Hoon “filmed everything, and I mean everything.” The footage has been used for a soon-to-be-released documentary on Hoon and Blind Melon.
“I think about him all the time,” Stevens says. “He’s like right here, in my head. He’s such an incredibly dynamic personality that he just sears himself into your memory.”
After a break, Blind Melon continued without Hoon. The band never replicated the success of its first album, but its famous single lives on. For some reason, classic rock and adult contemporary stations have picked it up for the last two decades, even though Blind Melon’s music is much more similar to the grunge-era rock bands they toured with like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam.
Stevens’ son heard “No Rain” in the bathroom at IKEA the other day.
“That’s when you know it’s practically Muzak,” Stevens says, laughing. “I guess it doesn’t affect me. I remember the first time I heard our music on the radio, how cool that was. But for whatever reason we started getting played on like the classic rock stations or whatever, and that just changed everything. I go to our shows and there’s young kids and old people. It is a very broad audience now.”
Stevens expects to play about 20 concerts this year with Blind Melon. They usually play for crowds of up to 1,000 in the United States and larger in other countries.
After an 11-hour workday of writing and researching for cases related to discrimination claims and labor disputes, he slides his phone across a table at a Center City Starbucks and shows video of Blind Melon walking onto the stage at a festival concert in Mexico. It looks like a late-night scene from Ibiza. Thousands and thousands of people are bouncing up and down, waiting to hear Blind Melon and a guy who spends most of his time practicing law.
“We sell out probably the vast majority of our shows,” Stevens says, “and it’s kind of amazing.
“I stand there and I’m like, ‘you’re still here? What the fuck are you doing?’”