Category Archives: Music World Death

Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell 1964-2017 R.I.P.

By Blurt Staff

The Soundgarden and Audioslave vocalist is dead at the age of 52. On Wednesday night, May 17, he took his own life, by hanging. He apparently use an exercise band that he attached to the top of a hotel bathroom door. Soundgarden had performed earlier that evening in Detroit.

Some observers have claimed it was not altogether unexpected, as Cornell had a history of substance abuse and, according to his wife, was on anti-anxiety medicine. His wife, however, further speculated that it might not have been altogether intentional because she had talked to him earlier in the evening and said he sounded “groggy” and indicated he had taken additional anxiety medicine. Cornell’s attorney noted, according to Rolling Stone, “Without the results of toxicology tests, we do not know what was going on with Chris — or if any substances contributed to his demise. Chris, a recovering addict, had a prescription for Ativan and may have taken more Ativan than recommended dosages. The family believes that if Chris took his life, he did not know what he was doing, and that drugs or other substances may have affected his actions…. [side effects of Ativan include] “paranoid or suicidal thoughts, slurred speech and impaired judgment.”

Soundgarden, of course, was one of the premiere acts of the grunge era, along with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, and Mudhoney. 1991’s Badmotorfinger remains a defining release from the era. The band was also one of the early acts to appear on Sub Pop Records. He follows in the footsteps of fellow grunge icon Kurt Cobain, who also committed suicide.

Col. Bruce Hampton (Ret.) 1947-2017 R.I.P.

Southern sonic savant found a helluva way to go out.

By Fred Mills

The jamband world —and indeed, most sentient creatures with any affinity for the musical universe — is mourning the death of Col. Bruce Hampton (Ret.) at the age of 70. Hampton was onstage at Atlanta’s Fox Theater last night (May 1) during a live birthday celebration when he apparently dropped to his knees — to some, it appeared to be part of the show — than collapsed while the musicians around him continued to play. Soon, however stage hands rushed out and carried him offstage and an ambulance was called. Hampton reportedly died a short time later. The concert featured Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, Blues Traveler singer John Popper, The Wood Brothers’ Oliver Wood, Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools, Allman Brothers Band’s Chuck Leavell, Peter Buck, Phish’s Jon Fishman, Warren Haynes and actor Billy Bob Thornton.

The exact cause of death has not yet been announced

According to CNN, Haynes, of Gov’t Mule/Allman Brothers/Dead fame, and a close friend of Hampton’s, was playing with the artist at the time, and he subsequently posted to his Facebook page a brief statement from the Hampton camp:

“After collapsing on stage surrounded by his friends, family, fans and the people he loved, Col. Bruce Hampton has passed away. The family is asking for respect and privacy at this difficult time.”

By this morning, social media was crowded with posts from grieving fans and friends, one of whom posted, appropriately enough, “Godspeed and many thanks to one of the leaders/influencers of the jam band movement, Col. Bruce Hampton. What a way to go out.”

BLURT would like to extended our deepest condolences to Hampton’s family. Speaking personally, I was fortunate enough to see him perform numerous times, frequently with the ARU or the Codetalkers — I never caught him in his early days with the Hampton Grease Band, but their lone LP was a twisted favorite of mine as a teenager — and often as a featured guest at the annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam concert in Asheville, NC. Two of my fondest abiding memories is of hanging with him backstage during a couple of the jams, one time watching him getting a hand massage along with Bob Weir while he and I compared notes on concerts we had potentially attended at the same time while growing up in the South, and another standing in a semicircle with others while he held court, telling jokes and talking baseball. He was a funny, funny guy and a supremely talented musician, a guy who commanded love and respect from any musician who came into his wild, spontaneous orbit.

Guitarist J. Geils 1946-2017 R.I.P.

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Had been estranged from his former bandmembers for several years.

By Fred Mills

John Warren “J.” Geils Jr. – just call him J. (with the period) has passed away at the age of 71. The Boston blues-rock guitarist lived in Groton, Mass., and he was found yesterday afternoon, April 11, at his home, of not-yet-disclosed causes. The police are investigating but for the time being foul play is not suspected, according to the Boston Globe.

The J. Geils band was a touring mainstay of the ‘70s – yours truly saw them on numerous occasions, and they were a dynamic outfit, particularly with Geils’ potent guitar playing, frontman Peter Wolf’s physicality and harp player Magic Dick’s wild, hirsute, Afro-delic appearance. They began notching hits early on via tracks like “Lookin’ For a Love,” “Give It to Me” and “Must of Got Lost”, and then when MTV entered the picture, they went global thanks to hits “Centerfold” and “Freeze Frame.” (Below: the band during the ‘70s.)

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The band broke up in the mid ‘80s, subsequently mounting a number of reunions over the years. Unfortunately, Geils left the band he formed in 2012, having become estranged from Wolf over a legal dispute stemming from his having trademarked the band name. Peter Wolf posted a note on Facebook when the news of Geils’ death broke: “’Thinking of all the times we kicked it high and rocked down the house! R.I.P. Jay Geils.”

Corpses Of Folk (Drake, Buckley, Seeger, Harper) LP for RSD 2017!

Corpses of Folk

Hats off to Arlo Guthrie! Previously unreleased album on colored vinyl or cassette only.

By Rob Gordon

Long-rumored, but never confirmed: the one-off collaboration of musical giants that wags once cynically termed “The Corpses Of Folk” has finally been revealed as fact, and it’s headed to stores on April 15 via Scorpio. The label, which earned infamy in the ‘90s as a bootleg label that issued titles by Dylan, Springsteen and other icons, resurfaced earlier this year as a legitimate imprint of a certain Los Angeles-based archival label. It plans to release the project on starburst swirl purple vinyl and cassette for Record Store Day, April 15; a digital and CD releases will follow later in the year.

Corpses Of Folk comprises sessions recorded over (as a press release puts it) “one stoned weekend in Woodstock” in late ’71 and co-produced by Jimmy Page and Arlo Guthrie. The musicians? Bedsit icon Nick Drake, avant-provocateur Tim Buckley, scene godfather Pete Seeger, and reluctant cricketer Roy Harper. The four had convened at the behest of Led Zeppelin’s Page, who’d struck up a friendship with Harper and, after suggesting the off-the-wall summit as a kind of dream date for him, had his manager, Peter Grant, get in touch with the other three.

Grant used his, er, legendary powers of persuasion to land Drake, Buckley and Seeger—apparently the long-standing urban legend of Grant’s bodyguard dangling the sickly Drake outside a window by his ankles until he assented is just that, an urban legend (albeit one convincingly circulated by rap impresario Suge Knight)—and voila, a supergroup was born. Sadly, at the time the four principals’ record companies could not come to a contractual agreement despite Page and Grant’s assurances that their label, Swan Song, which would release the album, would see that everyone was fairly compensated. So the sessions were shelved, until now.

Apparently My Morning Jacket’s Jim James obtained a bootleg CDR of the music and was so entranced that he used his estimable clout to bring the project to contemporary fruition. James receives an executive producer credit on the album (as does Grant, who passed away in 1995 but still commands fear and respect in the industry from the grave), and both James and M. Ward reportedly “sweetened” some of the guitar and backing vocal tracks, but the material is otherwise presented in exactly the form it was recorded.

(Apparently there are a number of outtakes from the sessions that will remain in the vaults, including Harper’s version of the blues standard “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” and a Harper original provisionally titled “The Chicken Hawk Waltz.”)

Oh, and about that band moniker: While Drake, Buckley and Seeger have passed away and Roy Harper is technically still among the living, the name “Corpses Of Folk” took on fresh cachet in November of 2013 when Harper was charged in England with “unlawful sexual intercourse, indecent assault and gross indecency” regarding allegations about a young girl he’d known between 1975 and 1977. “He’s among the walking dead,” stated a London-based music industry publicist at the time.

However, as Wikipedia notes, “on 5 February 2015 Harper was unanimously acquitted by a jury of indecent assault. The following day, Harper was cleared of a second charge of indecent assault, and the jury at Worcester Crown Court was discharged after failing to reach verdicts on the remaining charges. According to the BBC, the judge Robert Juckes QC then gave the prosecution two weeks to consider whether they wished to seek a re-trial on the undecided charges, but it wasn’t until 9 November 2015 that the prosecution announced that they were dropping all allegations of sexual abuse against Harper.”

It’s widely assumed that the resolution of the Harper controversy is what finally cleared the way for the release of the tapes, but a representative from the Harper camp declined to comment on that count, simply saying, “That’s all in the past.

Go here to listen to the Drake-Buckley duet, “Time Has Told Me to Get On Top,” which is, incidentally, the only track to feature Guthrie. He’s on the part-spoken, part-sung backing vocals.

 

James Cotton 1935-2017 R.I.P.

James Cotton

Blues harp master was one of the last living links to The Blues’ heyday. Above photo: Christopher Durst (via the web).

By Blurt Staff

A giant of classic—and contemporary—blues passed away March 16: James Cotton, harmonica legend, at the age of 81, from pneumonia. Fittingly enough, he died in an Austin hospital while the SXSW musical throngs clogged the clubs in the streets below.

The Delta-spawned bluesman influenced untold players from multiple genres—blues, rock, folk—and aside from the many blues peers he performed with over the years, he also worked with everyone from Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton to Janis Joplin and Keith Richards. He got his start as a vocalist in the ‘50s, at Sun Records of all places, then wound up as a featured performer with Muddy Waters before starting his own James Cotton Blues Band.

The Washington Post and the New York Times both have key summaries of the man’s career. Meanwhile, check out some of his music, below.

Paying Tribute to Chuck Berry 1926-2017 R.I.P.

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Knoxville-based musician Tim Lee, of the late, great Windbreakers, more recently of the Tim Lee 3 and Bark (reviewed here, incidentally) wrote this morning at his Facebook page about the enormous influence Chuck Berry had upon him and several generations’ worth of rockers. He says it better than any of us Blurt-ers could possibly say it. Follow Tim on Facebook here.

BY TIM LEE

When I was a kid, I was eat up with guitar (as we say in the South). I watched the bands on Midnight Special and ABC’s In Concert, and I thought there was nothing cooler than a low-slung Gibson or Fender. Still do.

We had an old Kay hollow-body stashed away in a closet that my brother never got around to learning, so I pulled it out one day. My dad was gracious enough to drive me and the guitar over to Skeets McWilliams’ music store in west Jackson, where they put strings on it and replaced the missing bridge.

That thing had scary high action, but it was a guitar. I joined the guitar club at my junior high school (yeah, pretty cool, huh?), where English teacher/musician J.R. Robertson gave us printouts of the chords and words to current songs like “Angie” by the Stones. He brought in different guitars and let us play them, and he lit a fire under some of us that never went out.

J.R. is still one of my parents’ good friends. They don’t hold it against him.

A year or so later, we were living in Brookhaven, Miss. David Bowling was a skinny red-haired neighborhood guy who was a couple years older than me and knew some guitar. He figured out that, if he could show me some bar chords and a few familiar rock and roll riffs, he’d have someone to play rhythm guitar while he worked on his improvising solos skills.

I’d spend hours at his house playing “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Stormy Monday” (9th chords and all). It was a great education for playing rock n’ roll rhythm guitar.

But David’s favorite was playing “Johnny B. Goode.” He taught me how to play the “runka, runka” rhythm stuff, and I eventually mastered it, no matter how much my pinky protested.

Eventually, he showed me how to play the double-stop intro riff. Torturing my fingers on that damn-near-impossible-to-play Kay through my little solid state Silvertone amp, I thought I’d found Nirvana (obviously the state of being, not the band).

That was it for me. I’d already taken the bait, but the hook was set at that point in time.

From that moment forward, it was hard to drag me away from the guitar. I got a book called “How to Play Lead Guitar” from the Brookhaven library, where I learned a couple scales and a few more “Chuck Berry licks,” as the book referred to them.

Yeah, that’s how important Chuck Berry is to rock n’ roll guitar. That book contained no “George Harrison licks,” no “Bo Diddley licks,” no “B.B. King licks,” and no “Keith Richards licks.” There were just “guitar licks” and “Chuck Berry licks.”

There might have been a few co-authors of the form, but Berry wrote the figurative book on the matter.

The first time I hung out with Bobby Sutliff, he showed me a bunch of less-familiar CB riffs. That had a strong effect on my approach to lead guitar. (Not to stray too far off course, but Bobby really has an encyclopedic knowledge of that stuff. I’ve seen seasoned pros pull him aside so he can show them that killer ascending bit in the “Let it Rock” solo.)

I often joke that my approach to soloing is just Jeff Beck’s solo on “Heart Full of Soul” combined with a handful of Chuck Berry licks, that anything else is just over-achieving. But I’m only half-kidding.

So here’s to Chuck Berry, who was set to release his first record in years at the age of 90. This has been all about his influence on rock n’ roll guitar, but there’s a whole ‘nuther tome that could be written on his contributions to the poetry of the medium.

There won’t be another one like him.

Photo Gallery: Farewell to Jazz Guitarist Larry Coryell, R.I.P.

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Mega-memorable show from 2012 in Toronto. Above: the virtuoso clearly loved what he did onstage.

By Eric Thom

Jazz innovator and guitar icon Larry Coryell passed away this week, and we here at BLURT have to note the man’s passing as he was an inspiration to us all. Below, some photos of him that I took during a June 2012 performance at Hugh’s Room in Toronto. R.I.P., to a master,,,

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Funky Drummer Clyde Stubblefield 1943-2017 R.I.P.

 

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By Fred Mills

One of the most acclaimed – and sampled – drummers, Clyde Stubblefield, passed away yesterday, Feb. 18, from kidney failure. He was 73.

Stubblefield of course was James Brown’s drummer at the time Brown and his JB’s cut signature track “The Funky Drummer.” The 1970 tune, or more accurately the 20-second drum fill in the middle of the song, would one day become one of the most recognizable and heavily sampled loop in hip-hop history.Think  Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” “Bring the Noise” and “Rebel Without a Pause,” N.W.A’s “Fuck tha Police” and Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride,” LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” Run-D.M.C.’s “Run’s House” and Beastie Boys’ “Shadrach.”

Below, you can hear the track, and after that is a video that instructs you how to actually play the drum loop.

Stubblefield had played with Otis Redding and worked as a session man before joining Brown’s band in 1965. After leaving in 1971 he continued working, releasing some solo records and also forming the Funkmasters. According to Rolling Stone he was in poor health in recent years:

“While Stubblefield did not have health insurance, in April 2016, Stubblefield revealed that Prince secretly paid the $90,000 in medical bills the drummer accumulated while undergoing chemotherapy for bladder cancer. Prince considered Stubblefield one of his “drumming idols,” Stubblefield told Billboard following Prince’s death.”

Accolades from across the musical spectrum have poured in following his death, among them Bootsy Collins, who  wrote on Facebook Saturday “We lost another Pillar Stone that held up the Foundation of Funk,” And Questlove wrote on Instagram on Saturday, “The Funky Funkiest Drummer Of All Time, Clyde Stubblefield thank you for everything you’ve taught me. The spirit of the greatest grace note left hand snare drummer will live on thru all of us.”

 

 

FAREWELL TO… Game Theory’s Gil Ray

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1956-2017 R.I.P. Ace drummer also manned the kit for the Rain Parade in recent years. Above photo by Robert Toren.

UPDATE 1/29: Gil’s wife Stacey wrote a moving comment on Facebook, noting that she struggled all week to find the right words. Ultimately, she found the perfect words.You can read it HERE.

By Fred Mills

This one, for obvious reasons to anyone who visits the BLURT site on even an irregular basis, hurts more than most. Gil Ray, erstwhile drummer for ‘80s power pop legends Game Theory, passed away on January 24 following a lengthy battle with cancer. He was only 60, and he leaves behind an extended family of fans, friends, and fellow musicians that, even as I write this obituary, is grieving as heavily and publicly as any artists I can think of from the recent past. Just one visit to Gil’s Facebook page will confirm the outpouring of sorrow, accolades, and remembrances. Many have also posted pictures of Gil from over the years, and one friend also posted an image that I’m taking the liberty of reposting here, because I think it sums the man up in ways I could never match:

gil-drawing

I suppose you can peruse his overall bio readily enough at his Wikipedia page, which summarizes his long career, which started in Charlotte, NC, in the late ‘70s, hit an early peak in the mid ‘80s on the West Coast after he joined Scott Miller’s band Game Theory, and after a spell resumed, as drummer for Miller’s subsequent outfit, the Loud Family. He also embarked on several side projects, additionally cutting a wonderful solo album in 2006, I Am Atomic Man!

Then in 2012 he was tapped for kit duties in the Rain Parade, and enjoyed renewed fame alongside his fellow Paisley Underground alumni. BLURT’s own Jud Cost documented a particularly memorable 2013 concert in San Francisco that featured the Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate, the Three O’Clock, and the Bangles.

On a personal level, I feel compelled to add that I’m eternally grateful to have reconnected, if on a long distance level via Facebook, with Gil during the past six months. Whenever I got to see Game Theory back in the day, he and I would chat and catch up on North Carolina goings-on, especially about Charlotte since I was living there at the time. (He was clearly the hometown hero when GT came to Charlotte, with old friends coming up, hugging, asking him what he’d been doing aside from the band, etc.) As it turns out, Gil had seen some of the Game Theory coverage that yours truly and fellow GT fanatic Michael Toland had been diligently publishing here at BLURT. Among those clips:

Dead Center” album review, 2014

Nighttime of The Season” feature, 2015

Lolita Nation” bonus track MP3, 2015

Unreleased Live ’88 track” MP3, 2015

The Big Shot Chronicles” album review, 2016

Then there was a piece written last year by Jason Cohen and featuring exclusive photos by Robert Toren. It concerned the band during its Big Shot Chronicles period, and for some reason I decided to title it “This Band Could Be Your Life”—yes, a nod to the classic Michael Azerrad book about the alt- and college-rock era in the ‘80s—because Game Theory seemed so emblematic of what a lot of us, from fans to writers to musicians, experienced during that time. Below is one of Toren’s photos that he so kindly shared with us.

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Gil seemed particularly surprised and proud that his old band commanded such reverence among both his fans and his peers, and he expressed his appreciation to me for remembering him and his bandmates so fondly.  And after we had reconnected after all these years, he popped in from time to time with an observation, comment, or anecdote regarding something I’d posted at BLURT. A passage from the Cohen piece involving Gil now stands out in my mind, and by way of tribute, I’m going to repost that section here. Meanwhile, to Gil, all I can say is—you are already deeply, permanently missed, and while I know this is a cliché that gets uttered all the time, at least we still have the music and the memories. As I type this, I’ve been spinning GT music for the past hour. I never get tired of it. Please say hello from all of us here to Scott Miller when you run into him…

By Jason Cohen, from “This Band Could Be Your Life” article: In the fall of 2012, The Rain Parade announced that they’d be getting back together to join the Tim Lee 3 at an Atlanta benefit show for Lee’s Windbreakers compadre Bobby Sutliff, who’d been in a bad car accident. The Rain Parade’s Matt Piucci posted on Facebook that they needed a drummer, prompting both Lee and Dan Vallor (the other co-producer of these reissues) to send separate Facebook messages to Ray, who hadn’t played live in 12 years.

He got the gig. “It was one of the best things a 56 year-old guy could have dreamed of,” Ray says. “We were meant for each other. Some of the best shows I have ever been involved with were the Rain Parade shows. The fact that I was a former member of Game Theory made it even more special. Worlds collided in a fabulous way.”

I’d gotten to know Tim and his wife, Susan Bauer Lee, both on the Internet and IRL, when they started playing in the Tim Lee 3 around 2001. When the Sutliff benefit was first announced, I tweeted that I wished the Dream Syndicate and the Rain Parade could follow that up by playing SXSW with the Windbreakers and Game Theory. When the Three O’Clock reunited to play Coachella 2013, I fantasized out loud on Twitter about Game Theory following suit (and more than once). So when the Lees heard from Gil about Scott’s death, Susan knew I’d be almost as heartbroken as she and Tim were, and sent me a Twitter DM.

Losing Scott in the social media era–balancing public virtual grief with private grief–was “one of the most messed up things I’ve had to deal with, ever,” says Ray. “I did not know how to process and handle my loss, his family’s loss, and his closest friends’ loss…on Facebook.” This was especially true in the days before Miller’s death became public knowledge. That ended up happening during the Three O’Clock’s April 17 show at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, between the two Coachella weekends.

“I knew it was going to be a very emotional night,” says Ray. “Before the band went on, Matt showed me his phone. It was now public knowledge. We hugged each other and cried. I looked up and a large part of the audience were staring at their phones. I will never, ever forget that. It was the most emotionally charged moment of my adult life. This was the new world. This was social media. This was fucked up. But I made it through somehow.”

Then the Rain Parade came to Texas to play Austin Psych Fest. It’s a show I wouldn’t have missed in any case, but now it was also something of a wake. It was where I needed to be to feel Scott’s loss, but also to temporarily fill the void. And it was where Ray and his Rain Parade bandmates needed to be to expel their own grief at high volume. A show of strength. An offering to the rock’n’roll gods. One more for St. Michael.

“The audience knew,” Ray says. “They gave me great respect, and we played what Matt called ‘our most punk rock’ set ever. It was healing, for the moment.”

Below: Gil and Suzi Ziegler performing at a 2013 memorial for Scott Miller. Via Wikipedia: By Lwarrenwiki – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34079211

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Allman Bros.’ Butch Trucks R.I.P.; Death Ruled Suicide

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Legendary drummer born in 1947 helped change the face of rock music in general, and Southern music in particular.

By Fred Mills

The news that broke a few days ago, Jan. 24, was that Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks had passed away at the age of 69, but no details were given at the time. Now word arrives via the Miami Herald that the cause of death has been ruled a suicide, according to the West Palm Beach police department.

According to the newspaper:

“Trucks, 69, shot himself in the head with a pistol as his wife of 25 years stood near him in their downtown West Palm Beach condo, the records show. While authorities have only said so far that the death was under investigation while foul play wasn’t suspected, the transcript of a frantic call made to West Palm Beach Police about 6:00 p.m. Tuesday provides the shocking details of the rock’n’roller’s death at home in the downtown waterfront Villa Del Lago complex. A woman caller who is unidentified on the transcript but described as “hysterical” dialed 911 and told the dispatcher her “husband just shot himself” with a pistol.”

Police were dispatched to the Trucks home where the musician apparently later died. An autopsy has been ordered. No official statement has been issued by the Allman Brothers or by Trucks’ PR agent yet.

Trucks had been in the middle of a tour with his own band, Freight Train Band, which played shows in Asheville, Atlanta, Athens and Rocky Mount, VA, a couple of weeks prior to his death. A full summer tour had been scheduled as well.

Blurt extends our deepest condolences to Trucks’ family, his band, and the extended Allman Brothers family. Speaking personally, I was privileged to see the band as early as 1971 and many times since then – Trucks and his signature percussion style has an integral part of the mix and he was never less than inspiring.