Everyone has a story: The Rock-n-Roll judge

In 1973, Mick Jagger sat somewhere on a stage quietly singing “Angie” before getting up and dancing like a chicken while screaming out a rendition of “Street Fightin’ Man.”  Dr. John must’ve been in the right place, but in the wrong time. Bowie was trying to figure out Jean Jeanie. Bad, Bad Leroy Brown was the baddest man in this damn town and keyboardist Oliver Lobaugh was thinking about law school.

I’m a little late to this game of knowing our president judge.

I was at the Oil Heritage Festival on Saturday night listening to the featured band do sound checks and get set up for their show in the park. Sitting at the keyboard was someone I recognized, but not sure from where.

I shot a few pictures and tried to place how I knew him.

I was also impressed with one of the lead singers, Rachael Mellor and told someone I knew in the crowd that.

“Ollie’s a pretty smart guy,  he knows who he wants to play with,” said this person.

“Who is Ollie?” I asked.

“Judge Lobaugh.”


Well, flies had an excellent opportunity to fly into my mouth because it was wide open.

In my head I was thinking these four words were never so true …”How cool is that?”

Judge Lobaugh is Venango County’s president judge. A serious man in a serious job. A hugely important job. Over the two and a half years I have worked at the paper I have come across him a dozen or so times.

(All on the job, Mom, I’m still managing to not appear before a judge for any other reason but to make photographs. Promise!)

I have learned of Judge Lobaugh’s child advocacy work, his work with alcohol and drug issues in the county and his interest in the health and well-being of people in this county. We haven’t spoken often really, just a little hello or I’ll inject a question into an interview from time to time when working with a reporter on a story.

He is a judge. He is a figure one approaches when one has important things to say.


So there I am listening to a rock band warming up amazed that one of the most important figures shaping life in Venango County was playing keyboards. As the show went on I kept thinking about that, is he playing wondering about a decision he made in a case? When he’s on the bench does he wish he was jamming with his friends? Does he wear on a vintage 1980 Molly Hatchet “Flirtin’ with Disaster” concert tour t-shirt under his robe on the bench?

Suddenly this ‘Judge’ was a lot more than his title.

Then, after listening to the band awhile and forgetting about this new(to me) revelation, this lengthy and dreamy melody rose up from the stage. At first, I thought the band was taking a break. The players and singers seemed to be milling around and taking drinks of water… but there was this keyboard…. this sound that was meandering around and growing. My eyes went out to the Allegheny River reflecting the lights from Oil City’s south side. The cooler air was refreshing after a long humid day. I took a break too and just sort of became quiet and lost in some thoughts. The music built up!

“Hello, is there anybody in there?”

Judge  … Ollie Lobaugh began to sing Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”

Again, those four words came into my head…again. “How cool is that?”

I began thinking about all the stories we don’t know about in people’s lives. Stories that might seem almost contradictory to the ones we do know about. I thought how we jump to conclusions, label and put people into neat little boxes. I thought about how people are surprised when I explain to them that I play competitively in a stodgy old English bowling sport on perfectly manicured lawns dressed in white. Something that makes sense to me, but I was there when it all happened and know how and why it happened! They weren’t.

It is these stories that add complexity to who we are as a people and who we are as a community. I gain even more respect for people when I learn that they are not simply one dimensional characters in a play. That they have surprises.

Learning that the judge is a rock-n-roller, carrying with that, the reputation of ‘no rules,’ all while, his day job is all about understanding rules.  He has to understand rules in a complex well-rounded way so when he lays down a decision, and that decision is final, it is made with, not one-dimensional reasoning, but an understanding that rules are guides. That each person in front of him is more than the sum of the infractions they are charged with.

I wonder if his playing rock-n-roll helps him understand this even more?

So  in 2017, Mick Jagger is still walking like a chicken on stage and Oliver Lobaugh is serving his community’s needs with his leadership and also serving them as the leader and, from what I can tell, a very accomplished keyboardist, with the perfectly named band, Lawyers, Guns and Money.

How cool is that?