August 20, 2016 – Matt Roberts (Three Doors Down) was born in rural Mississippi in 1978 – Roberts grew up with lead singer Brad Arnold (vocalist/drummer) and bassist Todd Harrell in Escatawpa, Mississippi, where they formed 3 Doors Down in 1994. He became a seasoned guitarist and back-up vocalist for the group,
The founding members of 3 Doors Down were raised in Escatawpa, a cozy town of 8,000 people in rural Mississippi. Although brought up in religious households, the musicians also felt the call of rock & roll at an early age, eventually forming a rock trio in 1994 to play a friend’s backyard party.
Scott Weiland was born Scott Richard Kline on October 27, 1967 in San José, California. At age 5 he became Weiland when his stepfather adopted him. Moving between Ohio and SoCal in the first 15 years of his life he emerged from the San Diego area as Mighty Joe Young. Weiland’s band landed a contract with Atlantic Records, changed its name to Stone Temple Pilots and cashed in on the burgeoning grunge scene. They took the name Stone Temple Pilots due to their fondness of the initials “STP”.
August 31, 2014 – Jimi Jamison (Survivor) was born in rural Durant, Mississippi, but moved with his mother to Memphis, Tennessee, the day after his birth.
In his teens, he taught himself to play the guitar and piano while honing his vocal abilities. By middle school (Messick Jr. High, Memphis), he was playing in a band called The Debuts, who recorded what became a local hit song (“If I Cry” (1968) on the Scudder label. He also was part of the band D-Beaver, who released one album (Combinations, 1971).
By late 1970, Jamison was fronting the local Memphis band, Target. Jamison and the group released a pair of albums, Target (1976) and Captured (1977), on A&M Records, plus a live concert at the High Cotton school (which marked the beginning of a contract with the record company) and opened concerts for Black Sabbath, Boston, and KISS.
December 28, 2009 – The Rev Sullivan (The Reverend Tholomew Plague) or more affectionately called “The Rev”, by his many fans, was born James Owen Sullivan on February 10, 1981. He attended a Catholic school at Huntington Beach, California, until 2nd grade along with future A7X lead singer M. Shadows.
Jimmy was influenced by musicians such as Vinnie Paul, Dave Lombardo, Mike Portnoy, Paul Bostaph and bands like Metallica, Rancid and Transplants. At the age of 17, he did a brief stint with the third-wave ska band Suburban Legends recording their debut album “Origin Edition”.
June 25, 2009 – Michael Jackson, The King of Pop, was born on August 29, 1958 in Gary, Indiana as the seventh of nine children. His siblings are Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon, Randy and Janet. His father Joseph Jackson, who physically and emotionally abused Michael as a child, often performed in an R&B band called The Falcons. Michael was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness by his mother.
In 1964, he and his brother Marlon joined the Jackson Brothers, a band formed by brothers Jackie, Tito and Jermaine, as backup musicians playing congas and tambourine, respectively. Soon he began performing backup vocals and dancing; then at the age of eight, he and Jermaine assumed lead vocals, and the group’s name was changed to The Jackson 5. They extensively toured the Midwest from 1966 to 1968 and frequently performed at a string of black clubs and venues collectively known as the “chitlin’ circuit”, where they often opened for stripteases and other adult acts.
April 15, 2008 – Sean Costello. Born in Philadelphia on April 16, 1979, Sean was a beautiful and precocious baby who walked, talked and read at an incredibly early age. His interest in music was evident as early as the age of 2, and after he moved to Atlanta at age 9, he began playing guitar. While his early influences were hard rock bands, he soon discovered the blues after picking up a Howlin’ Wolf tape in a bargain bin at a local record store. Sean never looked back. Soon local Atlanta bluesman Felix Reyes took Sean under his wing, and the rest is history.
December 12, 2007 – Ike Wister Turner was born on November 5th, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. By the time he was 8 years old he was working at the local Clarksdale radio station, WROX, as an elevator boy, soon he was helping the visiting musicians and doing all sorts around the radio stations.
He met many musicians such as Robert Nighthawk, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Little Walter and his idol Pinetop Perkins taught the young Ike to play boogie-woogie on the piano.
April 5, 2007 – Mark St.John (Kiss) born Mark Leslie Norton in Hollywood, California on February 7, 1957. St.John was Kiss’ third official guitarist, having replaced Vinnie Vincent in 1984. He started out as a school teacher and guitarist for the Southern California cover band Front Page, before joining Kiss.
By this point, Kiss had done away with its trademark makeup and costumes, but the group was enjoying a career renaissance. The lone Kiss album on which St. John appeared, “Animalize,” re-established the group as one of the world’s top arena metal bands. The album spawned the popular MTV video, “Heaven’s on Fire” (the only Kiss video to feature St. John).
February 23, 2003 – Howie Epstein (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) was born July 21st 1955 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father, Sam, was a top local record producer who worked with various rock and roll and soul groups in the 1950s and ’60s. Howie often visited the music studios, watching his father work and occasionally making recordings under his dad’s watchful eye at a very young age. “I would go into the bars with my father to check out the bands he was thinking of working with,” Epstein recalls, “and a couple of times he let me use groups he was working with as back-up musicians for stuff I’d record.”
June 5, 2002 – Dee Dee Ramone (the Ramones) was born Douglas Glenn Colvin on September 18, 1951 in Fort Lee, Virginia. While an infant his family relocated to Berlin, Germany, due to his father’s military service. His father’s military career also required the family to relocate frequently. These frequent moves caused Dee Dee to have a lonely childhood with few real friends. His parents separated during his early teens, and he remained in Berlin until the age of 15, when he, along with his mother and sister Beverley, moved to the Forest Hills section of New York City, in order to escape Dee Dee’s alcoholic father.
Soon after he met John Cummings and Thomas Erdelyi and together they formed The Ramones.
August 26, 2000 – Douglas Allen Woody (Allman Brothers) was born on October 3, 1955 in Nashville, Tennessee. His father, a truck driver, weaned him on the blues, country and rock oldies. Woody picked up both the mandolin and bass guitar at a very young age. Watching Paul McCartney play with the Beatles, he began learning the bass at age 14. Inspired by such bassists as Mountain’s Felix Pappalardi, Cream’s Jack Bruce, and Hot Tuna’s Jack Cassady, Woody began playing in local bands. Not long afterward he first heard the Allman Brothers Band on the radio and became interested in exploratory Southern rock. Allen started as a guitar player, but later on switched to bass.
He majored in music at at Middle Tennessee University. After graduating, he worked at local Guitarshop in Nashville for eight years, where he met Artimus Pyle, ex-drummer of Lynyrd Skynyrd , who gave Allen his first big break by giving him a job as bass player for APB.
August 20, 1999 –Robert Vaughan Bobby Sheehan (Blues Traveler) was born on June 12th 1968 in Summit, New Jersey. After high school in Princeton where he met the the other 3 members of what became later Blues Traveler.
The hallways of that same Princeton, New Jersey, high school served as the meeting place for all of the future members of Blues Traveler. Popper and drummer Brendan Hill first hooked up in 1983; they were joined by guitarist Chan Kinchla in 1986, and bassist Bobby Sheehan in 1987. Out of their shared fascination with the Blues Brothers was born a worthy name by which to call themselves – the Blues Band.
Following graduation, Sheehan briefly attended the Berklee College of Music, but soon joined Popper and Hill, who had enrolled in the jazz program at New York’s New School for Social Research and would co-found Blues Traveler in 1987. Kinchla briefly attended N.Y.U.) . The New School was just what Popper et al. needed to get their act together: not only did they have the use of free rehearsal space, but the curriculum taught them how to get gigs. As it turned out, they learned a little too well, as before long, they had lined up so many gigs that there wasn’t any time left for school, so they all dropped out of the program.
Newly baptized as Blues Traveler, the band signed a record deal with A&M in 1989, and released their self-titled debut album later that same year. Travelers & Thieves followed in 1991. Their next album, Save His Soul (1993), was marred by a near-tragedy. Twelve days into recording sessions on the album, Popper was riding his motorcycle in the remote area of Louisiana where the studio was located when a turning car plowed into him. He sustained a broken arm, leg, and hip and had to
endure months of rehabilitation in a wheelchair.
Injuries aside, the band resumed recording after only a single month’s break; and not even the fact that he was confined to a wheelchair could keep Popper off the road after Save His Soul was released.
Throughout their early years, Blues Traveler built its reputation and its fan base by touring constantly, averaging more than 250 shows a year. Despite a lack of any radio or MTV coverage, the band secured a devoted following by word of mouth alone. The grapevine method worked well: the band managed to sell hundreds of thousands of copies of each of its first three releases, although none of the albums quite achieved gold status (sales of 500,000). That all changed with the release of
1994’s four; the album spawned two Top 10 singles, “Run-around” and “Hook,” and went on to sell over six million copies. Apart from the healthy boost in record sales, the band’s profile was also rising due to the ever-growing popularity of the HORDE (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) Tour, which Popper had organized in 1992 after the band failed to get a support slot on a major tour.
HORDE has become a summertime staple for concertgoers–it was the fourth-biggest grossing tour of summer of 1996–and as it grew, so did its ability to attract some of the biggest names in rock; over the years, Phish, Spin Doctors, the
Black Crowes, Neil Young, Beck, Sheryl Crow and Dave Matthews Band have all played the traveling summer fest. (Note: The last one was held in 2015 after a 17 year hiatus, as the result of Bobby Sheehan’s death and John Popper’s heart problems in 1999.)
In 1994/95 on their rise to the lofty ranks of the multi-platinum, the members of Blues Traveler achieved some significant career milestones:
• they reached their goal of having played in all fifty states in December 1995;
• they guest-starred on an episode of Roseanne in 1995;
• they have appeared on Late Night With David Letterman more than any other band in the history of the show;
• and they sold out Madison Square Garden for their annual New Year’s Eve show in December 1996.
Somehow, during all that excitement, they also managed to compile tracks for a two-CD live set called Live From the Fall, which was released in 1996.
Sheehan moved to New Orleans in 1996. The upbeat pop single “Run-Around” became a smash hit and was followed by the catchy “Hook”. “Run-Around” won a Grammy Award and broke a record for most weeks on the chart. The group recorded the Johnny Rivers song “Secret Agent Man” for the film Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and the Bob Seger song “Get Out of Denver” for the film Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, as well as Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin'” for Rebel Highway: Cool and the Crazy. Several previously-recorded Blues Traveler songs were included on film soundtracks, including The Last Seduction, Speed, Very Bad Things, White Man’s Burden, and The Truth About Cats & Dogs. The band also appeared in the 1998 film Blues Brothers 2000 and on its soundtrack, playing “Maybe I’m Wrong”.
Sheehan pleaded guilty in January 1998 to possession of less than a gram of cocaine. He had been arrested at an airport in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in September 1997, where Blues Traveler were opening for the Rolling Stones. He was placed on two years’ unsupervised probation. He almost completed the probation time, but almost is not completely.
Bobby was find unresponsive in his house in New Orleans on August 20, 1999, and tragically died of an accidental drug overdose. He was 31.
July 12, 1996 – Jonathan David Melvoin (Prince, the Smashing Pumpkins) was born on December 6th 1961 in Los Angeles, California. He was the brother of twins Susannah and Wendy Melvoin of Prince and the Revolution, and son of Wrecking Crew musician Mike Melvoin. He first learned to play drums at the age of five and was described by friends and relatives as a musician who could play anything.
His parents divorced when he was 14, and he moved with his mother from California to New York City and eventually to Conway, N.H.
As keyboard player and drummer; he performed with many punk bands in the ’80s such as The Dickies, and also made musical contributions to many of Susannah and Wendy Melvoin projects, as well as Prince and the Revolution’s album “Around the World in a Day”.
He was also a member of The Family, a Prince side project which produced the original recording of “Nothing Compares 2 U” and made musical contributions to many Wendy & Lisa projects, as well as to Prince and the Revolution’s album Around the World in a Day. He also played drums on Do U Lie? from the 1986 Prince & the Revolution album Parade. At the time of his death he was the (already fired) touring keyboardist for The Smashing Pumpkins during their worldwide tour for the album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
In 1994, Melvoin, who worked between gigs as an emergency medical technician, and his wife, Laura, bought a home in Kearsarge, N.H., and prepared for the birth of their son Jacob August in the spring of 1995.
On July 12, 1996 Melvoin died in New York City at age 34 from a potent mixture of alcohol and heroin (specifically a substance known as Red Rum) in Manhattan’s Regency Hotel. Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, present at the scene, tried but failed to revive him. There is much mystery and speculation about what actually took place. Chamberlin was allegedly advised by 9-1-1 operators to put Melvoin’s head in the shower in an attempt to revive him until paramedics arrived.
Melvoin was pronounced dead at the scene. Chamberlin was subsequently fired from the band and criminally charged. According to the band, there had been previous overdoses by both of them. Melvoin had already been fired, but was continuing to tour with The Smashing Pumpkins until the end of the tour leg. Melvoin’s replacement was Dennis Flemion of The Frogs. His last gig with the Pumpkins was at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland.
The Smashing Pumpkins were not invited to Melvoin’s funeral. Several songs were inspired by his death, including the Sarah McLachlan song “Angel”, the Wendy & Lisa song “Jonathan” (as Girl Bros.), and Prince’s “The Love We Make” from the album Emancipation.
May 25, 1996 – Bradley James Nowell was born February 22, 1968 and was the founding frontman/guitarist of the ska rock group Sublime. He tragically did not live to see the success of the band’s best-known album, Sublime, having overdosed on heroin in 1996 before it was released.
He truly could have become a legend.
The story of Sublime is full of sad, strange twists, but this is perhaps the strangest: Since frontman Brad Nowell overdosed before his band became a phenomenon, before he had a chance to become a bona fide rock star, his death has been oddly free of the mythic impact of so many rock star flameouts.
Sublime’s success has come as a slow-building surprise, rather than in a rush of mourning, and it’s been based on the sweet funk Nowell cooked up during his too-short 28-year love affair with punk, hip-hop, reggae and whatever other music he could lay his hands on. Bradley Nowell died on May 25, 1996, in a San Francisco hotel room, after shooting up some heroin that was much more potent than the brown Mexican tar he was used to. His death came seven days after his wedding to Troy den Denkker, who’d given birth to their son, Jakob, 11 months earlier; it was two months before the release of Sublime, the album that would make his band famous. The heroin death of the Smashing Pumpkins’ touring keyboard player, Jonathon Melvoin, got more attention in the press. In fact, plenty of Sublime fans don’t even know that Nowell is gone. “We still get lots of letters for him,” says Brad’s father, Jim, who handles his son’s estate. “I have a boxful of them in my office.”
At least a boxful. By April 1997, a little less than a year after Nowell’s OD, Sublime had entered Billboard‘s Top 20, and the album’s first single, the breezily grooving, mostly acoustic hip-hop toaster “What I Got,” went to No. 1 on the Modern Rock chart. And that was only the beginning. Throughout 1997, Sublime produced hit after hit, and the album has sold more than 2 million copies to date. The follow-up to “What I Got” was the reggae-tinged ballad “Santeria”; then came the shuffling ska of “Wrong Way” and the dance-hall-flavored “Doin’ Time,” which Nowell constructed around the melody of the Gershwin standard “Summertime.”
Eighteen months after Nowell’s death, Sublime sold about 40,000 records every week; in November, MCA released Second-Hand Smoke, a collection of early songs, unissued material, remixes and alternate takes. Sublime’s surviving members recently inked a deal to release at least three more albums of archival material over the next few years. Incredibly, the band that was no longer a band became perhaps the biggest American rock act of 1997.
These are a few of the things Brad Nowell loved: surfing; eating; drugs; his dog, Louie; his son, Jakob; his wife, Troy; and music – maybe music most of all. He grew up gifted and musically inclined: His mother was a singer with perfect pitch, and his father liked to strum folk songs on the guitar. At Christmas, the acoustic guitars would come out and Brad would spend hours playing and singing with his father, grandfather and uncle. He devoured sounds, and could pick out a tune on the guitar after hearing it once. By the time he was 13, he’d started his own band, Hogan’s Heroes.
Nowell was 10 when his parents split up. He lived with his mom, Nancy, for four years before moving back to his dad’s house in Long Beach, Calif., in 1981. He was a smart kid who got good grades and had the brains to make his younger sister, Kellie, do his homework whenever he didn’t want to. “He was probably twice as intelligent as I am,” she says, “but he just wasn’t real school-minded.” Guidance counselors had a name for what was wrong with kids like Brad who failed to live up to their obvious potential – attention-deficit disorder – and a drug for it, too: Ritalin.
Unlike the wealthier, whiter suburbs of Orange County, where Brad’s mom lived, Long Beach is a funky old port town of 450,000, with affluent bayside communities – Belmont Shore and Naples – and Latino, African-American and Southeast Asian neighborhoods farther inland. With cheaper rents than Hollywood and lots of available space, Long Beach had a thriving art underground in the ’80s, as well as a music scene in which punk, surf and hip-hop cultures clashed and blended freely.
Nowell was a master at melding these sounds into something new. From Sublime’s earliest recordings, his combination of ska, dub, punk, funk, rap, reggae and heavy metal seemed less like a synthesis than a natural byproduct of Long Beach’s youth culture. Though there were few local clubs to play, house parties could bring a couple hundred bucks every weekend – enough to buy all the beer, pot and gasoline the band needed. In 1990, one semester before graduating from California State University Long Beach with a degree in finance, Nowell dropped out to devote all his time to the band. By then, Sublime were well-known up and down the coast; from San Diego to Santa Barbara, beach towns were their turf.
In photographs from this period, Nowell looks like the prototypical SoCal surf rat: sun-bleached hair, wraparound shades and Hawaiian shirts. With his round face and easy smile, the cherubic singer gave off an air of bemused calm. But behind the mellow exterior, Nowell was troubled. “There was always a part of him that wasn’t satisfied,” says his widow, Troy Nowell. Sitting on the patio of Nowell’s dad’s house, overlooking the calm waters of Alamitos Bay, she recalls her three-year life with Brad. “As happy as he was 80 percent of the time, there was 20 percent that could not be made happy, and it ate him up.”
Nowell battled with his addiction for most of the time Troy knew him, kicking when his record deal with MCA was in the offing, in 1994, and again when Troy got pregnant a year later. But friends say he could never be comfortable without the drug. Troy blames the Ritalin he was given as a child for having created his craving for drugs, but she blames something else as well: “He wanted to be a rock star. He said it was very rock & roll, you know. Perry Farrell and Kurt Cobain and all those guys did drugs, and Brad wanted to see what it was like. Then they honestly begin to think that they write better music! I mean, Robbin’ the Hood [Sublime’s second album] was written when Brad was at his worst of being strung out. It’s a great album, but it’s all about his heroin abuse: ‘Now I’ve got the needle/I can shake but I can’t breathe/Take it away and I want more, more/One day I’m gonna lose the war.’ ”
Sublime were a party band. They played house parties, beach parties, frat parties; and if there wasn’t a party, they brought one with them. They were, people will tell you, lovable, but they were also, the same people will attest, out of control. They loved to get fucked up, they loved to fuck things up, and they had many ways of doing it. Sometimes Nowell hocked the band’s instruments before a gig in order to pay for his habit. Other times, the band would party too much on the day of a major gig and squander a golden opportunity. For instance: June 17, 1995 – Sublime are invited to play the KROQ Weenie Roast in Los Angeles alongside Bush and Hole, at a time when they have nothing more than two indie albums and a hot local single, “Date Rape.” They print up 40 backstage passes for their friends, family and dogs. By the end of the day, Nowell’s beloved Dalmatian, Louie, has bitten a record exec’s little girl, and one of their pals just missed puking on MTV’s Kennedy while she was interviewing the band.
Here’s the latest variant: In September 1997, Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh – Sublime’s bassist and drummer – fly to New York for the MTV Video Music Awards. The band has been nominated for best alternative video. The duo’s been drinking for most of the evening, and by the time their category comes up, Gaugh is melted into his seat and Wilson is sucking down a vodka tonic at the lobby bar.
MCA reps corral them just before they win, and they’re shoved onstage, followed by Troy Nowell and Marshall Goodman, the group’s DJ. Dazed in the spotlight, Gaugh performs a little jig and mumbles a few thank-yous to friends and family. Then, the hulking Wilson holds up the band’s shiny statuette, raises a fist and incongruously blurts out, “Lynyrd Skynyrd!” Gaugh, realizing that his band mate’s comment might need clarification, adds, “for writing the tune ‘Workin’ for MCA.'” In the midst of this stoned spectacle, Goodman comes to the rescue, pointing out very soberly, “This is all for Bradley Nowell – peace.”
A month later, Wilson and Gaugh are in more familiar environs – sitting with their girlfriends around a picnic table at Long Beach Sport Fishing, a tackle shop, seafood restaurant and boat-charter operation that looks like it’s been perched on this rusty waterfront since long before oil refineries dotted the landscape. Wearing wraparound sunglasses, a loose T-shirt, shorts that reveal several tattoos, and a fresh buzz cut, Gaugh is itching to explain his and Wilson’s onstage blunders back in New York.
“It all started with the tequila,” Gaugh begins. The day before the show, the drummer had been fishing with his girlfriend in Cabo San Lucas, a party town at the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, and he purchased an $85 bottle of tequila as a gift for his dad. But by the time he met up with Wilson the next day in New York, the bottle looked too good to save. So the two decided to “have a little victory shot,” as Gaugh puts it. “We thought, ‘Fuck it, even if we don’t win, let’s drink this shit.’ So by the time we got onstage, man, we were wasted.” He gazes out at the fishing boats swaying by the docks. “I guess we forgot to thank a couple of people.”
Wilson, clutching a jet-fueled margarita, shudders at the memory. “See, we were already pretty buzzed back at the hotel when I said to Bud, ‘You know, if we win, we should say “Lynyrd Skynyrd!”‘ Bud had mentioned something about the song they did about working for MCA. So when we actually got up there, I was so flabbergasted that I just go, ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd!’ That’s all I could say.”
The conversation drifts to memories of Sublime’s early days. “It was [the most] fun for us when we were traveling around in a van and crashing on people’s floors,” Wilson says wistfully. These days, Wilson and Gaugh start most mornings with a bong hit and continue smoking well into the night. Wilson’s thrashed two-story Victorian house in Long Beach is their headquarters and the practice space for their new band, the Long Beach Dub All-Stars. It has the feel of a college hangout, with a revolving cast of characters lounging on the couches and chairs, beer bottles covering every flat surface, bongs on the end tables and three Rottweilers that bark viciously and gnash their teeth at newcomers.
Wilson and Gaugh whose families lived across an alleyway from each other, have been friends since childhood, when they first started playing music together and surfing at nearby Seal Beach. When punk bands like the Minutemen came to town, Gaugh and Wilson were always at the edge of the stage. (In fact, the Minutemen lyric “punk rock changed our lives” was sampled as the first line on Sublime’s 1992 debut, 40 Oz. to Freedom.)
Wilson’s dad, Billy, a drummer who toured with big bands in his youth and played on a cruise ship during the Depression, was Gaugh’s drum teacher. Though Billy Wilson was much older than the parents of Eric’s friends, he was also much cooler; it was he who introduced his son to marijuana. “He got into it while he was hanging out with all those jazz cats, I guess,” Eric says of his dad. “He smoked now and then, and to hide the odor he carried around a little bottle of Binaca.”
Wilson played trumpet for a while but says he sucked at it and switched to guitar and then bass. When he was in sixth grade, he met Nowell. The two began playing music together before Nowell took off for Santa Cruz, to start college at the University of California. During one of Nowell’s breaks from school, Wilson introduced him to Bud Gaugh, and the three started jamming together. After recording several DIY cassettes and selling them at shows, Sublime went into a Long Beach studio in 1992 to record 40 Oz. to Freedom. The album, which the band released on its own label, Skunk, did well on a word-of-mouth basis.
But by then Nowell had begun experimenting with hard drugs, and by the time Sublime began work on the followup, Robbin’ the Hood – most of which was recorded in a Long Beach crack house – his addiction was out of control. Gaugh attempted to reach out to his band mate – though often in destructive ways. “I felt like kicking his ass,” recalls Gaugh, who himself had been hooked on speed and heroin for years. “I mean, I’d been there and was still struggling with it. So I was all things that I could be to him during that time. I tried to be his conscience; I tried to be his nurse. I even tried to be his drug buddy; I mean, we got loaded together a couple of times.”
Nowell met Troy in 1993, at a Sublime show in San Diego. “We were just friends at first and we stayed friends for a long time,” she says. “It wasn’t until ’95 that we started seeing each other.” As Nowell alienated his friends, family and band mates, Troy was the one person who was there for him to talk to. “He’d already promised everybody that he would stop doing it and had asked for help,” she says. “People would help him and then he’d hurt them. So when I came along, I hadn’t been fooled by him yet.”
The prospect of signing to a major label was a big deal for Nowell, so when Sublime began talking with MCA, in 1994, he was determined to really clean up. “He decided on his own that he wanted to go to rehab,” says Troy. “He knew he had to get clean before the MCA thing could happen.” Nowell did get clean for a while, but in February 1996, when the band traveled to Austin, Texas, to begin recording Sublime at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Studio with producer Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers, Nowell went back to heroin more vigorously than ever. “They’re the sweetest bunch of guys, [but] it was chaos in the studio,” Leary says. On good days, they’d show up at 9 a.m. with margaritas in one hand and instruments in the other and go to work; on bad days, they nearly burned the place down. “There were times where someone had to go into the bathroom to see if Brad was still alive,” he says. Nowell’s drug use became so intense that Leary sent him home to Long Beach before the record was completed. “It took him three days to get back on his feet,” Jim Nowell recalls. “It was the worst I’d ever seen him.”
The skies above Long Beach are clear today, and Troy Nowell is sprawled on a lounge chair on the back patio of her in-laws’ house, a modest yellow-paneled, two-story home in a well-kept neighborhood. She has long, blond-streaked hair and is dressed in black running shorts and a white baby tee that partially exposes a rose tattoo on her right arm. When she speaks, her voice has a coarse, cigarette-wrecked edge. “Did you see the tattoo on my back?” she asks, turning to reveal a pair of Chinese characters. “The top one means ‘to be in mourning,’ and the bottom one means ‘husband.'” She laughs and lights another Marlboro as 2-year-old Jakob runs around in a tiny T-shirt with Big Kahuna scrawled across the front. “He was very bad at the grocery store this morning,” she says. “He’s acting much better now, aren’t you, Jake?” Jakob nods vigorously, and you can see Brad in his face and Troy in his half-moon eyes. “Sometimes Jake will say something that I want Brad to hear so bad,” she says, “but he can’t, because he’s gone.”
Troy den Denkker was born and raised in a San Diego household where drugs and alcohol were always around. Her mother was hooked on speed throughout Troy’s childhood, and her father was a biker who held frequent parties at the house. “They were wonderful people,” Troy stresses. “I loved them all. I mean, they were real.” Troy will look you straight in the eye and tell you exactly why she was attracted to Brad Nowell. “I love drug addicts,” she says. “I went to see that movie Boogie Nights the other night, and, you know, I knew all those people. When it was over, I turned to my girlfriend and that’s just what I said: ‘I love drug addicts.’ I guess they’re just the kind of people I’m used to being around. They’re great; they’re crazy.”
Troy, who is studying to be a substance-abuse counselor, says she and Brad spent a lot of time talking about his problems. “I was very understanding,” she says. “And Brad was so open about it. He used it as a way of getting attention. That’s the sick thing about heroin addicts. They’re like, ‘Take care of me.’ They’re like puppy dogs. And I guess I wanted to take care of him.” She was also more than ready for him to clean up when he decided to go back to rehab in 1995, soon after Troy found out she was pregnant.
“In the beginning I was real accepting of his behavior, but then there was much more at stake,” she says. “We’d bought this beautiful house, we had our beautiful son, we were about to get married and it was driving me crazy. I felt like I didn’t have anyone to turn to. His whole attitude was, ‘Look at everything we’ve got – I can have a reward every now and then.’ He wanted to reward himself. It was like, ‘I’m not hurting anyone, I’m just doing it this one day.’ ”
But one day turned into a week, and pretty soon Brad was in trouble again. “It scared the hell out of me,” Troy says. “And the thing that was so horrible is that when he would get high, he’d be so euphoric and so happy. I was like, ‘Why can’t you be this happy when you’re not on it?’ ” She pauses and looks away. “It got really ugly,” she finally says, “and that tore him up.
“You know, the one thing that gave me the most peace after Brad died,” she continues, “was when his first love, Eileen, came to me and said, ‘He did everything that he wanted to do, and he went to sleep. He was tired and went to sleep.’ The way she put it was exactly true. Brad was so tired – he really was. He was tired of letting everyone down, of letting himself down; he was tired of trying to stay clean, tired of everything.”
Even though Nowell died too soon to experience his band’s success, for Troy his death was like the final chapter in a long, exhausting journey. “Brad had accomplished everything he wanted,” she says. “He always wanted to have a baby: ‘We gotta have a kid,’ he said. He wanted to get his family back, ’cause he had hurt them so bad with his drug use. And he did. He wanted to get this album written, and he wanted it to be the best one he ever wrote. And he did. He wanted his band to have glory. And they did.”
She lights another cigarette. “I’m not saying that it’s OK that Brad died, because it’s not OK. So many things have happened that I wish he could see – Sublime being nominated for awards and their videos being on MTV all the time and their songs played on the radio. Or things will happen with me, and Brad’s the first person I want to tell, ’cause we were best friends. I want to see his reaction to all this. What’s OK is [that] there’s no more struggle, no more war. That struggle took up a lot of our energy and our time, and it was horrible. He’s at peace now.”
Jim Nowell and his second wife, Jane, are flipping through a photo album that shows Brad from birth through his teen and college years, his emaciated drug years, and his wedding, a Hawaiian-themed extravaganza in Las Vegas, when he had filled out again and gotten some color back in his face. Jim, a burly, affable guy, was a contractor until he retired to manage Sublime’s affairs. Last Fourth of July, he and Jane threw a big backyard barbecue and invited Brad’s old posse. The Long Beach Dub All-Stars jammed most of the afternoon. When they got around to playing Brad’s songs, Jim and Jane were shaken and had to go inside – they didn’t want their grief to spoil anyone’s good time.
The first time she met Brad, says Jane, she was astonished at his good behavior. “I remember telling Jim, ‘Gee, you did something really good with this kid. I’ve never seen a boy who is so polite and interested in his elders.’ Even when he got into his teens, he would always offer his chair to you.” She loved Brad from day one, helping him through his best years as a student and musician, as well as his worst years as a drug addict. Jane defended her stepson’s decision to get a tattoo – even when his father opposed it. “It was kind of like an Aztec design that went from his knee to his ankle,” she says, remembering the day he came home with it. “Well, Jim’s sitting here looking at it, and he says to Brad, ‘So, how long is that thing going to be on there?'”
“I said, ‘It does wash off, doesn’t it?’ ” Jim adds.
Jane laughs. “Brad and I just look at each other because we’re thinking, ‘He’s kidding,’ you know. And then we look at Jim and we see that he’s not kidding. So I go, ‘Jim, that’s not the wash-off kind of tattoo.’ And Jim goes, ‘It’s not?’ I mean, it was a huge tattoo!” To prove her loyalty to her stepson, Jane hikes up her pant leg and shows me her own new tattoo. It’s the image of the sun from the cover of 40 Oz. to Freedom.
There’s a party going on at Eric Wilson’s house, which is on the edge of one of Long Beach’s more unsavory neighborhoods. Wilson and the Dub All-Stars are jamming on an old Skatalites tune when Jim Nowell drops by for a visit. Before long, Nowell picks up an acoustic guitar and joins in, playing and singing. As the group moves from the Skatalites to a silly version of “Puff the Magic Dragon” and then to a free-form Dead-like jam, everyone in the house – including a gangly couple who’d been playing pool in the front room, a couple of dudes just back from a beer run, and Opie Ortiz, a shirtless tattoo artist who had earlier been working on a customer – packs into the room, listening intently to the deep, warm croon of the elder Nowell’s voice.
At one point, Wilson, hunched over his upright bass in a Surf and Sail tank top and mismatched sneakers, turns to Nowell and smiles. “Hey, Jimbo,” he says, “play some of those real old songs that you know. How ’bout ‘Minnie the Moocher’?” Over the next hour, the group runs through a set of pop, folk and country hits, like “Ain’t She Sweet?” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and “Okie From Muskogee.” By the end, the blue-collar cool of this posse of tattooed skate-punks has turned to blissful, drunken, giddy exuberance.
Then, suddenly, the mood turns wistful. “Hey, Jimbo,” asks Jack Maness, who’s been playing acoustic lead guitar, “what about ‘Sunny’?” He is referring to the old Bobby Hebb song that Jim and Brad used to play together at backyard parties at the Nowells’ home. “I remember one day Brad said to you, ‘I wanna do it like this, Dad,’ and you told him, ‘Yeah, son, but this is how it goes.’ ”
Everyone in the room erupts in laughter. The kind of laughter that brings tears. It’s a laughter that has positively conjured the ghost of Brad Nowell – right here, right now, in the wee hours of an October morning in Long Beach. It’s a few moments before Wilson’s gregarious girlfriend, Kat Rodriguez, breaks the silence: “Now, that’s Brad for you – in a nutshell,” she says. “He was going to do things his way or no way. That’s why no band will ever sound like Sublime.”
This story is from the December 25th, 1997 issue of Rolling Stone.
October 21, 1995 – Richard Shannon Hoon was born on September 26, 1967 and raised in Lafayette, Indiana. After graduating from McCutcheon High School in 1985 he joined and fronted two local bands Styff Kitten and Mank Rage. He also composed his first song at this time titled “Change”. Several years later he relocated to Los Angeles where he met musicians Brad Smith and Rogers Stevens and they formed the band Blind Melon, and in 1991 got a recording contract with Capitol Records.
In LA he also met up with Axl Rose of Guns ‘n’ Roses, a high school friend of his half-sister Anna, who was recording the albums Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. Hoon sang backing vocals on several of the tracks, including “The Garden” and “Don’t Cry”.
Axl Rose also invited him to appear in the video for “Don’t Cry”. In 1992, Blind Melon released their self-titled debut album, it sold poorly until the single “No Rain” was released in September of 1993 and the album went quadruple-platinum.
In 1994, they recorded their second album ‘Soup’, which was released in 1995. They went on tour to promote the album, which sadly was Hoon’s last album and tour. He was found dead on the band’s tour bus; tragically he had died from a heart attack, due to a cocaine overdose, while in New Orleans on October 21, 1995 at age 28.
August 1994 – Kristen Pfaff (Hole) One of the mourners at Kurt’s Seattle memorial was Kristen Pfaff, a member of Courtney Love’s band, Hole, and a former girlfriend of fellow member Eric Erlandson. Two months after Kurt’s death, in 1994, Pfaff died of a heroin overdose in the bath tub at her Seattle apartment, just like Jim Morrison. She was also 27, the third member of the Seattle music community to die at that age within a year.
She was a bass guitarist and a founding member of the Minnesota group Janitor Joe, and more famously, Hole.
June 27, 1992 – Stefanie Sargent (7 Year Bitch) was born in Seattle, Washington on June 1, 1968. Raised in Seattle (she graduated the Summit K-12 Alternative School at age 16).
She then worked various jobs – making pizza in particular – traveled up and down the West Coast and played music. She became a familiar figure in the Seattle music scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s, after and became well recognized as the original guitarist for 7 Year Bitch.
She first played with Selene Vigil-Wilk (vocals), Valerie Agnew (drums) and Lisa Orth (guitar) in the band Barbie’s Dream Car. When their bassist left for Europe they recruited Elizabeth Davis, and changed the name of the band to 7 Year Bitch. Lisa Orth was no longer in the band at this point, and Stefanie became the sole guitarist for 7 Year Bitch. Their first concert was a benefit at the OK hotel with the Gits, DC Beggars and several other bands.
May 29, 1992 – Ollie Halsall was born Peter John Halsall on March 14th 1949 in Southport, England.
Halsall started out playing drums and the vibraphone (an instrument on which he became extraordinarily proficient) before taking up the guitar in 1967. By 1970, as a member of the cult-favorite band, Patto, he had evolved into one of the world’s most sensational players. That he never got that recognition can only be explained by the fact that the world had a number of top players already in the marketing line up and there was only so much promotional effort made available by the record companies.
Other guitar gods that didn’t make the Super Stardom Line Up of those early days- but should have- were in my opinion Jan Akkerman from the Dutch prog band Focus, Eddie Hazel with Parliament-Funkadelic who died 7 months after Ollie, Chicago’s Terry Kath, Jimi Hendrix favorite guitar player at the time, and April Lawton from Ramatam.
July 26, 1990 – Brent Mydland was born in Munich, Germany on October 21, 1952, the child of a U.S. Army chaplain. The family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when he was just one and he spent most of his childhood living in Antioch, California, an hour east of San Francisco. He started piano lessons at age six and had formal classical lessons through his junior year in high school. In an interview he commented that: “my sister took lessons and it looked fun to me, so I did too. There was always a piano around the house and I wanted to play it. When I couldn’t play it I would beat on it anyway.” His mother, a graveyard shift nurse, encouraged Mydland’s talents by insisting that he practice his music for two hours each day. He played trumpet from elementary till his senior year in high school; his schoolmates remember him practicing on an accordion, as well as the piano, every day after school.
“In my late teens I went and saw a lot of groups, and thank God I did, because the era didn’t last much longer.” When asked if he had musical aspirations in high school he admitted to wanting to originally be “a high school band teacher or something, I played trumpet in the marching band … then my senior year I got kicked out of the marching band for having long hair … they told me “sorry we’ll lose points for your long hair”, so that was the end of my band career. I gave up the trumpet and concentrated on the keyboards.” Brent graduated from Liberty High in nearby Brentwood, California, in 1971.
Of his early musical experiences Mydland has stated: “Late into high school I got into playing rock ‘n’ roll with friends and it was like I had to start from the beginning almost, because if I didn’t have a piece of music in front of me I couldn’t do much. I changed my outlook on playing real fast after that. I think dope had something to do with that.”
Influenced by rock organists such as Lee Michaels, Ray Manzarek and Goldie McJohn of Steppenwolf. Mydland was in a series of local bands. In the late 1960s he bought the first albums by Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, and during this interview he stated that he was in a band “where I used to sing “Morning Dew” and we did “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” too.”
When asked if that scene, which was based heavily on extended jams, had influenced him musically at all he said: “For a while, yes, but I could never find people that could make that kind of music sound good. We’d jam along and then. It’s nice to have people who add to it and change it instead of “Ok, I’ve got my part”; that gets boring really fast”.
He went on to state that: “In senior year I got together with a guitar player; he knew a drummer and bass player who were both pretty good. We were serious about it for about six weeks or so and then it kind of fell apart. I ended up living in a quonset hut in Thousand Oaks, California, writing songs and eating a lot of peanut butter and bread and whatever else was around. In one of the bands, I played with a guy named Rick Carlos and he got a call from John Batdorf of Batdorf & Rodney asking him to come to L.A, to play with them. A couple months later they were looking for a keyboard player who could sing the high parts, so I went down there and joined the band. I got to do a tour with them which was great experience. Then after that fell apart John and I put together Silver; Silver lasted about two years. We put out an album on Arista and were going to do a second but Clive Davis, Arista’s president, kind of choked it”.
“After Silver I bummed around L.A for about six months and then hooked up with Weir through John Mauceri, who I’d played with back in Batdorf & Rodney, and I joined the Bob Weir Band. With Bobby, at first, I’d say to him: “Well, should I play this instrument on this song, or this other instrument?” And he’d say, “I don’t care. Why not play one this time and the other the next time if you feel like it.” It loosened me up a lot and it got me more into improvisation. I liked it a lot.” So much so that he had no apprehension to join the biggest jamband of the all, when he replaced Keith and Donna Godcheaux on the keyboard for The Grateful Dead.
After two weeks of rehearsals, he played his first concert with the band at the Spartan Stadium, San Jose, on April 22.
Mydland quickly became an integral part of the Dead owing to his vocal and songwriting skills as much as his keyboard playing. He quickly combined his tenor singing with founder members Weir and Jerry Garcia to provide strong three-part harmonies on live favourites including “I Know You Rider”, “Eyes of the World” and “Truckin'”. He easily fit into the band’s sound and added his own contributions, such as in Go to Heaven (1980) which featured two of Mydland’s songs, “Far From Me” and “Easy to Love You”, the latter written with frequent Weir collaborator John Perry Barlow. On the next album, In the Dark (1987), Mydland co-wrote the defiant favorite “Hell in a Bucket” with Weir and Barlow; he also penned the train song “Tons of Steel”.
Built to Last (1989) featured several more of Mydland’s songs: the moody “Just a Little Light”, the environmental song “We Can Run”, the live performance driven “Blow Away” and the poignant “I Will Take You Home”, a lullaby written with Barlow for Mydland’s two daughters.
Mydland wrote several other songs that were played live but not released on any studio albums, such as “Don’t Need Love”, “Never Trust A Woman”, “Maybe You Know”, “Gentlemen Start Your Engines”, and “Love Doesn’t Have To Be Pretty”; the latter two written with Barlow. He also co-wrote “Revolutionary Hamstrung Blues” with Phil Lesh collaborator Bobby Petersen, although the song was performed live only once.
His high, gravelly vocal harmonies and emotional leads added to the band’s singing strength, and he even occasionally incorporated scat singing into his solos. Mydland’s vocals added colour to old favorites such as “Cassidy”, “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo”, “Ramble on Rose”, the Band’s “The Weight”, and even wrote his own verse for Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster”. He sang lead on many covers, including Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy”, the Beatles’ “Hey Jude”, and the Meters’ “Hey Pocky Way”.
Brent was also a capable songwriter whose credits include “Hell In A Bucket,” “Tons Of Steel,” “Just A Little Light,” “Blow Away” and the tender “I Will Take You Home.” “He could take something and turn it into a fully scored, well-thought-out, harmonically structured masterpiece in about a minute and a half,” songwriting partner John Perry Barlow told the New York Times. “Brent could pick his way through anything immediately, which meant he had the special requirement it was going to take to walk into the Dead overnight. He was musically central to the band, but he was so good at what he did that he was able to become fundamental to everything that the band was doing musically without it being immediately apparent to the audience.”
Mydland’s voice and approach was also on display for a number of covers the Dead performed during his time in the group such as “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” “Hey Pocky Way” and “Gimme Some Lovin’.” The keyboardist died just days after the Grateful Dead completed Summer Tour 1990 at The World in Tinley Park, Illinois on July 23, 1990. The encore that night was the Dead’s recently debuted cover of “The Weight” by The Band. All of the Dead’s vocalists sang lead for one verse of “The Weight.” Brent’s verse ends and the final words he sang as lead vocalist were “I gotta go, but my friends can stick around.”
The keyboardist who had been with The Grateful Dead for 11 years, longer than any other keyboardist, died of a drug overdose at his home in Lafayette, California, on July 26, 1990. He was 38. He was known mostly as a drinker, but in his later years he turned to hard drugs as he was struggling to cope with family issues and severe depression.
Watch the eerie and emotional performance of “The Weight” from July 23, 1990.
• In 1994, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Grateful Dead.
• After joining the Grateful Dead, Mydland played in Bob Weir’s Bobby and the Midnites during 1980 and 1981. • In 1982, he recorded and mastered a solo studio album, but it was never released. • In the Summer of 1985, he performed with fellow band member Bill Kreutzmann in their band Kokomo’ along with 707’s Kevin Russell and Santana’s David Margen. • Also in 1985, he performed at the Haight Street Fair with Weir, John Cipollina, and Merl Saunders, among others. • In 1986, Mydland formed Go Ahead with several San Francisco Bay area musicians, including Bill Kreutzmann, also former Santana members Alex Ligertwood on vocals and David Margen on bass, as well as guitarist Jerry Cortez. The band toured during the time Jerry Garcia was recovering from a diabetic coma, and also briefly reunited in 1988. • He also did numerous solo projects and performances, as well as duo performances with Bob Weir numerous times throughout the 1980s, with Weir on acoustic guitar and Mydland on grand piano. • Brent had a love for Harley Davidson motorcycles, and was an avid rider. A Harley which was owned by Mydland was featured on a 2013 episode of Pawn Stars.
March 5, 1982 – John Belushi (The Blues Brothers) was born January 24th 1949 in Chicago, Illinois. Belushi’s mother, Agnes Demetri (Samaras), was the daughter of Albanian immigrants, and his father, Adam Anastos Belushi, was an Albanian immigrant from Qytezë. Born in Humboldt Park, a neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois, John was raised in Wheaton, a suburb west of Chicago, along with his three siblings: younger brothers Billy and Jim, and sister Marian. Belushi was raised in the Albanian Orthodox Church and attended Wheaton Central High School, where he met his future wife, Judith Jacklin.
In 1973, Belushi and Judith Jacklin moved together to New York where Belushi worked for National Lampoon magazine’s The National Lampoon Radio Hour, a half-hour syndicated comedy program where he was a writer, director and actor. During a trip to Toronto to check the local Second City cast in 1974, he met Dan Aykroyd. Jacklin became an associate producer for the show, and she and Belushi were married on December 31, 1976.
Belushi became an original cast member of the new television show Saturday Night Live (SNL) in 1975. His characters at SNL included belligerent Samurai Futaba. With Aykroyd, Belushi created the characters Jake and Elwood Blues, also known as The Blues Brothers.
The band made its debut as the musical guest on the April 22, 1978, episode of Saturday Night Live. The band then began to take on a life beyond the confines of the television screen, releasing an album, Briefcase Full of Blues, in 1978, and then having a Hollywood film, The Blues Brothers, created around its characters in 1980.
Although better known as a comedian/ actor, notable for his work on Saturday Night Live and National Lampoon’s Animal House, it is as a “Joliet” Jake Blues (named after Joliet Prison) of the Blues Brothers that he caught instant stardom. Belushi and Aykroyd, in character as lead vocalist and harmonica player/backing vocalist “Elwood” Blues (named after the Elwood Ordnance Plant, which made TNT and grenades during World War II), the Blues Brothers R&B Review became a sensation.
During his tenure at SNL, Belushi was heavily using drugs and alcohol which affected his performance and caused SNL to fire him (and promptly re-hire him) a number of times.
Following the success of The Blues Brothers on the show, Belushi and Aykroyd, with the help of pianist-arranger Paul Shaffer, started assembling a collection of studio talents to form a proper band. These included SNL band members, saxophonist “Blue” Lou Marini and trombonist-saxophonist Tom Malone, who had previously played in Blood, Sweat & Tears. At Shaffer’s suggestion, guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, the powerhouse combo from Booker T and the M.G.’s and subsequently almost every hit out of Memphis’s Stax Records during the 1960s, were signed as well. In 1978 The Blues Brothers released their debut album, Briefcase Full of Blues with Atlantic Records. The album reached #1 on the Billboard 200 and went double platinum. Two singles were released, “Rubber Biscuit”, which reached number 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 and “Soul Man,” which reached number 14.
The Blues Brothers became a Grammy Award-nominated American blues and soul revivalist band.
Other than the titular “Blues Brothers” and a handful of characters, all musicians performed under their real names. The full band for the 1980 film included:
The genesis of the Blues Brothers was a January 17, 1976, Saturday Night Live sketch. In it, “Howard Shore and his All-Bee Band” play the Slim Harpo song “I’m a King Bee”, with Belushi singing and Aykroyd playing harmonica, dressed in the bee costumes they wore for the “Killer Bees” sketch.
Following tapings of SNL, it was popular among cast members and the weekly hosts to attend Aykroyd’s Holland Tunnel Blues bar, which he had rented not long after joining the cast. Aykroyd and Belushi filled a jukebox with songs from many different artists such as Sam and Dave and punk band The Viletones. Belushi bought an amplifier and they kept some musical instruments there for anyone who wanted to jam. It was here that Aykroyd and Ron Gwynne collaborated on and developed the original story idea which Dan then turned into the initial story draft of the Blues Brothers movie, better known as the “tome” because it contained so many pages.
It was also at the bar that Aykroyd introduced Belushi to the blues. An interest soon became a fascination and it was not long before the two began singing with local blues bands. Jokingly, SNL band leader Howard Shore suggested they call themselves “The Blues Brothers”. In a 1988 interview in the Chicago Sun-Times, Aykroyd said the Blues Brothers act borrowed their “duo thing and dancing” from Sam & Dave and others, “but the hats came from John Lee Hooker. The suits came from the concept that when you were a jazz player in the 40’s, 50’s 60’s, to look straight, you had to wear a suit.”
The band was also modeled in part on Aykroyd’s experience with the Downchild Blues Band, one of the first professional blues bands in Canada, with whom Aykroyd continues to play on occasion.[a] Aykroyd first encountered the band in the early 1970s, at or around the time of his attendance at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada and where his initial interest in the blues developed through attending and occasionally performing at Ottawa’s Le Hibou Coffee House. Aykroyd has said of this time:
So I grew up (in Ottawa), in this capital city. My parents used to work for the government, and I went to elementary school, high school, and the university in the city. And there was a place on Sussex Drive (Sussex Drive is where the Prime Minister’s house is, right below Parliament Hill), and there was a little club there called Le Hibou, which in French means ‘the owl.’ And it was run by a gentleman named Harvey Glatt, and he brought every, and I mean every blues star that you or I would ever have wanted to have seen through Ottawa in the late 50s, well I guess more late 60s sort of, in around the Newport jazz rediscovery. I was going to Le Hibou and hearing James Cotton, Otis Spann, Pinetop Perkins, and Muddy Waters. I actually jammed behind Muddy Waters. S. P. Leary left the drum kit one night, and Muddy said, ‘Anybody out there play drums? I don’t have a drummer.’ And I walked on stage and we started, I don’t know, Little Red Rooster, something. He said, ‘Keep that beat going, you make Muddy feel good.’ And I heard Howlin’ Wolf (Chester Burnett). Many, many times I saw Howlin’ Wolf. And of course Buddy Guy, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. So I was exposed to all of these players, playing there as part of this scene to service the academic community in Ottawa, a very well-educated community. Had I lived in a different town I don’t think that this would have happened, because it was just the confluence of educated government workers, and then also all the colleges in the area, Ottawa University, Carleton, and all the schools—these people were interested in blues culture.
The Toronto-based Downchild Blues Band, co-founded in 1969 by two brothers, Donnie and Richard “Hock” Walsh, served as an inspiration for the two Blues Brothers characters. Aykroyd initially modeled Elwood Blues in part on Donnie Walsh, a harmonica player and guitarist, while John Belushi’s Jake Blues character was modeled in part on Hock Walsh, Downchild’s lead singer. In their first album as the Blues Brothers, Briefcase Full of Blues (1978), Aykroyd and Belushi featured three well-known Downchild songs closely associated with Hock Walsh’s vocal style: “I’ve Got Everything I Need (Almost)”, written by Donnie Walsh, “Shot Gun Blues”, co-written by Donnie and Hock Walsh, and “Flip, Flop and Fly”, co-written and originally popularized by Big Joe Turner. All three songs were contained in Downchild’s second album, Straight Up (1973), with “Flip, Flop and Fly” becoming the band’s most successful single, in 1974.
Belushi’s budding interest in the blues solidified in October 1977 when he was in Eugene, Oregon, filming National Lampoon’s Animal House. He went to a local hotel to hear 25-year-old blues singer/harmonica player Curtis Salgado. After the show, Belushi and Salgado talked about the blues for hours. Belushi found Salgado’s enthusiasm infectious. In an interview at the time with the Eugene Register-Guard, he said:
I was growing sick of rock and roll, it was starting to bore me … and I hated disco, so I needed some place to go. I hadn’t heard much blues before. It felt good.
Salgado lent him some albums by Floyd Dixon, Charles Brown, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and others. Belushi was hooked.
Belushi began to appear with Salgado on stage, singing the Floyd Dixon song “Hey, Bartender” on a few occasions, and using Salgado’s humorous alternate lyrics to “I Don’t Know”:
I said Woman, you going to walk a mile for a Camel Or are you going to make like Mr. Chesterfield and satisfy? She said that all depends on what you’re packing Regular or king-size Then she pulled out my Jim Beam, and to her surprise It was every bit as hard as my Canadian Club
These lyrics were used again for the band’s debut performance on SNL. This took place on the episode of April 22, 1978 (hosted by Steve Martin), where, in the cold open, Don Kirshner (played by Paul Shaffer) describes how Marshall Checkers of Checkers Records called him on a hot new blues act, and how with the help of “Neshui Wexler and Jerry Ertegun” (a play on the names of record industry executives Jerry Wexler and Nesuhi Ertegun), they were no longer regarded as an authentic blues band, but “a viable commercial product.”
Belushi, technically, did not have a great voice; he compensated for this by throwing his heart and his soul into his singing, from which approach the power of the blues is said to come.
With the film came the soundtrack album, which was the band’s first studio album. “Gimme Some Lovin’” was a Top 40 hit and the band toured to promote the film, which led to a third album (and second live album), Made in America, recorded at the Universal Amphitheatre in 1980. The track “Who’s Making Love” peaked at No. 39. It was the last recording the band would make with Belushi’s Jake Blues.
At the time of his death, music had become more of a byline for Belushi, who was pursuing several movie projects.
Belushi died on the morning of March 5, 1982 in Hollywood, California at the Chateau Marmont, after being injected with, and accidentally overdosing on, a mixture of cocaine and heroin (a “speedball”) at the age of 33.
Feb 15, 1981 – Michael Bernard ‘Mike’ Bloomfield was born on July 28th, 1943, in Chicago, on the wrong side of the blues. His father, Harold, ran Bloomfield Industries, a successful restaurant-supply firm. The older of two sons, Michael rebelled against school, discipline and his family’s wealth, seeking solace and purpose in the music coming from the city’s black neighborhoods on the South and West sides.
A grandfather, Max, owned a pawnshop, and Bloomfield got his first guitar there. Born left-handed, he forced himself to play the other way around. “That’s how strong-willed he was,” says Goldberg. “When he loved something so much, he just did it.”
Hanging out at the pawnshop, Bloomfield also “got a certain empathy, for people on the skids, on the down and out, looking for $5,” Gravenites says. “He got to know that kind of life.” Continue reading Mike Bloomfield 2/1981
December 4, 1976 – Thomas Richard “Tommy” Bolin was born August 1, 1951 in Sioux City, Iowa from a Swedish father and a Syrian mother.
In his own words:
“I was five or six at the time, I think, and I used to watch this show on TV called Caravan of Stars. I saw Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins. After seeing them perform I knew that was what I wanted to do. I actually started on drums when I was thirteen and played them for two years. Then I went to guitar for a year, played keyboards for a year and a half, and went back to guitar. It was just the right instrument. You’re in direct contact with the music you’re making by having the strings under your fingers. It’s not mechanical like a piano. My first guitar was a used Silvertone, the one that had the amplifier in the case. When I bought it, I had a choice between it or this black Les Paul for 75.00. I took the Silvertone. That was my first mistake.”
August 2, 1972 – Brian Cole (The Association) was born on September 8th 1942 in Tacoma, Washinton and raised in Portland Orgeon.
Before becoming a musician, Brian Cole had worked as an actor and a comedian. He mixed his comedic and musical influences in his first steady band gig, with an outfit called the Gnu Folk. In 1965, Cole became a member of a new six-man outfit, the Association, as their bassist, woodwinds player as well as a singer. He was a linchpin of the group’s sound on-stage – on their records, however, as with most of the rest of the band, Cole was usually replaced on his instrument by a session musician.
The band opened the famous 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival after they got their break with their second single “Along Comes Mary” in 1966 which reached No. 7 in the Hot 100. This was followed with a No. 1 hit “Cherish” in 1967, “Never My Love” at No. 2 and another chart topped in with “Windy”.
Brian was the group’s one major success casualty, as he developed a drug habit that turned into full-blown addiction by the end of the 1960s. He died of an overdose during the summer of 1972, just a few weeks short of his 30th birthday.
His son Jordan became a member of the reunited Association in the 1990s, playing keyboards, various wind instruments, guitar, vocals and drums.
On August 2, 1972Brian died from a heroin overdose in his Los Angeles home at age 29.
October 4, 1970 – Janis Lyn Joplin was truly one of the most remarkable rock and blues performers of the 1960s and the decades following. Born in Port Arthur Texas, on January 19, 1943, she escaped the small town prejudices and took off for the San Francisco counter culture, dominated by Love and Peace and Alcohol and Drugs. Janis unfortunately became a member of the infamous forever 27 Club as she passed on October 4, 1970, just a short 3 weeks after her brief former love interest and famous 27 Club member Jimi Hendrix. She was no. 4 to join the club after Robert Johnson, Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix.
Her Texas upbringing put Joplin under the sway of Leadbelly, Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thornton in her teens, and the authenticity of these voices strongly influenced her decision to become a singer. A self-described “misfit” in high school, she suffered virtual ostracism, but dabbled in folk music with her friends and painted. She briefly attended college in Beaumont and Austin but was more drawn to blues legends and beat poetry than her studies; soon she dropped out and, in 1963, headed for San Francisco, eventually finding herself in the hippie filled Haight Ashbury neighborhood. She met up with guitarist Jorma Kaukonen (later of the legendary San Francisco rock outfit Jefferson Airplane) and the pair recorded a suite of songs with Jorma’s wife, Margareta, providing the beat on her typewriter. These tracks – including blues standards like “Trouble in Mind” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” – would later surface as the infamous “Typewriter Tapes” bootleg.Continue reading Janis Joplin 10/1970
September 18, 1970 – James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix, was born Johnny Allen Hendrix on November 27, 1942 and became without discussion one of the top electric guitarists Rock and Roll has produced.
As his mainstream career spanned roughly only 4 years, something can be said for the fact that he was the right man at the right time and in the right place in the socio-cultural explosion of the late 1960s. His early sixties performing career consisted mostly of the chitlin’ circuit between Clarksville and Nashville in Eastern Tennessee, backing start-ups like Little Richard, Curtis Knight, Wilson Pickett, Slim Harpo, Sam Cooke and even an occasional gig with Roy Orbison. Early 1964 he found himself in the New York Village scene, where his girlfriend Faye got him a number of introductions, one of which got him to play with the Isley Brothers Band. His big break however came in a round about way, when he made it over to London, where he bedazzled the blues rock scene led by the then Superstars likes of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page and became an overnight success. Continue reading Jimi Hendrix 9/1970
July 3, 1971 – Jim Morrison was born James Douglas “Jim” Morrison on December 8, 1943 in Melbourne, Florida
Paris, France. July 2, 1971, early evening. Jim Morrison and his girlfriend Pamela Courson went to the cinema to see Pursued, a western starring Robert Mitchum. At another theater, Jim Morrison sat alone, watching a documentary called Death Valley. Across town, at the Rock ’n’ Roll Circus nightclub, Jim Morrison scored some heroin and OD’d in the bathroom. At the same time, Jim Morrison walked the streets of Paris and shot up with some junkies on skid row. Meanwhile, at Orly Airport, Jim Morrison boarded a plane for an unknown destination.
February 27, 1968 – Frankie Lymon was born Franklin Joseph “Frankie” Lymon on September 30, 1942.
Frankie Lymon was born in Harlem to a truck driver father and a mother who worked as a maid. Lymon’s mother and father, Howard and Jeanette Lymon, also sang in a gospel group known as the Harlemaires; Frankie Lymon and his brothers Lewis and Howie sang with the Harlemaire Juniors (a fourth Lymon brother, Timmy, was a singer, though not with the Harlemaire Juniors). The Lymon family struggled to make ends meet, and Lymon began working as a grocery boy at the age of 10.
At the age of 12 in 1954, Lymon heard a local doo-wop group known as the Coupe De Villes at a school talent show. He became friends with the lead singer, Herman Santiago, and he eventually became a member of the group, now calling itself both The Ermines and The Premiers. Dennis Jackson of Columbus, Georgia, was one of the main influences in Lymon’s life. His personal donation of $500 helped start Lymon’s career.
May 20, 1964 – Rudy Lewis was born Charles Rudolph Harrell on August 23, 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Lewis began his singing career in gospel music. He was one of only two males to have sung with the Clara Ward Singers and sang with the gospel group right up to the day before he auditioned for George Treadwell at Philadelphia’s Uptown Theater where he was hired on the spot. Lewis joined the Drifters as lead vocalist, replacing departed group member Ben E. King, and ended up performing most of King’s repertoire live in concert.
Lewis was the lead vocalist for a string of hits: “Please Stay”, “Some Kind of Wonderful”, “Up On The Roof” and “On Broadway”. He also featured on other tracks such as: “Another Night With The Boys”, “Beautiful Music”, “Jackpot”, “Let The Music Play”, “Loneliness Or Happiness”, “Mexican Divorce”, “Only In America”, “Rat Race”, “She Never Talked To Me That Way”, “Somebody New Dancing With You”, “Stranger On The Shore”, “Vaya Con Dios” and “What To Do”.
December 14, 1963 – Dinah Washington was born Ruth Lee Jones on August 29, 1924 in Tuscaloosa Alabama, but moved to Chicago as a child. She sang gospel music in church and played piano, directing her church choir in her teens and being a member of the Sallie Martin Gospel Singers. She sang lead with the first female gospel singers formed by Ms. Martin, who was co-founder of the Gospel Singers Convention.
After winning a talent contest at the age of 15 at Chicago’s Regal Theater where she sang “I Can’t Face the Music”, she began performing in clubs. By 1941–42 she was performing in such Chicago clubs as Dave’s Rhumboogie and the Downbeat Room of the Sherman Hotel (with Fats Waller). She was playing at the Three Deuces, a jazz club, when a friend took her to hear Billie Holiday at the Garrick Stage Bar. Club owner Joe Sherman was so impressed with her singing of “I Understand”, backed by the Cats and the Fiddle, who were appearing in the Garrick’s upstairs room, that he hired her. During her year at the Garrick – she sang upstairs while Holiday performed in the downstairs room – she acquired the name by which she became known.