Steve's Dead Rock Stars


*** 1970's ***

Claim to Fame
Cause of Death
11/23/197935Judee Sillsinger/songwriterDrug OverdoseNorth Hollywood, Los Angeles, California

Rest in Peace
Judee Sill
October 7, 1944 - November 23, 1979

Judee Sill was an American singer and songwriter, singing in a style she called "Country-Cult-Baroque". Many of her songs dealt with Christian spirituality, metaphysics, rapture and redemption, and related topics. She was baptized by Pat Boone in his swimming pool.

Notably, she was the first artist signed to David Geffen's Asylum label. She released two albums on the new label "Judee Sill" and "Heartfood" before disappearing into obscurity.

Judee was the subject of a 1972 review in Newsweek magazine who called her "one of the most promising new singers in the business." She performed on BBC radio several times in the 1970s and appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine (April 13, 1972).

Judee Sill wrote two songs that were minor hits for others: "Lady-O" (recorded by the Turtles) and "Jesus Was a Cross-Maker" (recorded by the Hollies). Produced by Graham Nash, "Jesus Was a Cross-Maker" was also recorded by several other notable artists, including Warren Zevon and Cass Elliot.

Sill struggled with drug addiction for much of her life. After dropping out of the music scene, she died of a drug overdose the day after Thanksgiving in 1979.

11/17/197928John GlascockJethro TullHeart FailureLondon
11/16/197937Twiggs LyndonDixie DregsSkydiving AccidentDuanesburg, New York

Rest in Peace
Twiggs Lyndon
1942 - November 16, 1979

Twiggs Lyndon was road manager for the Allman Brothers Band, but also worked for Little Richard, Otis Redding, and, later, for the Dixie Dregs.

The Allman brothers played two packed shows at a Buffalo, New York club named Aliotta's on April 29th, 1970. When the road crew arrived the next afternoon to pick up the band's gear, the owner met them and refused to pay, claiming that the band had shown up late for the show.

Twiggs, the Allman Brother's tour manager, was called to the club to speak with the club's owner, Angelo Aliotta. An argument and scuffle apparently ensued. Aliotta was stabbed three times with a ten-inch knife, causing fatal injuries. Lyndon was arrested at the scene and charged with first-degree murder. He spent 18 months in a Buffalo jail awaiting trial. The book, Skydog: The Duane Allman Story contains an interesting account of these events.

The Allman's live album At Fillmore East was released during this period. The Allman Brothers liked to include the road crew in band activities, including the photo shoot for this album cover. Since Twiggs was in jail and unavailable for the shoot (with famous Rock 'n' Roll photographer Jim Marshall) Lyndon's photo was superimposed over the roadie group photo that appears on the back of the album's cover.

During the murder trial, Lyndon's lawyers argued that he had been temporarily insane at the time of the incident; touring with the Allman Brothers, they declared, would drive anyone insane. To demonstrate the point, bassist Berry Oakley was called to the stand and, though he was barely coherent and had to run to the bathroom several times to vomit, he did manage to answer a few questions:

"Did you take any dope in the last month?"
"In the last week?"
"Oh yeah."
"What about the last hour?"
"You bet."

Incredibly, Lyndon was acquitted.

He died in 1979 in a parachute jump at an upstate New York airport. In the book, Midnight Riders: The Story of The Allman Brothers Band by Scott Freeman, the author noted: "Lyndon was the veteran of three hundred jumps. He stepped out of an airplane at 8,500 feet, his chute never opened and Twiggs was killed on impact. He was 37. Although it was impossible to know, a lot of people suspected suicide. They said Twiggs had never been the same after Duane Allman and Berry Oakley died, and the irony was inescapable-the airport was in a little town named Duanesburg."

In an August 2000 interview in Goldmine magazine, guitarist Steve Morse states: "Anybody who said it wasn't an accident, first of all, wasn't there and is just trying to romanticize this crap. I spent all night driving and talking to Twiggs about everything. I spent a lot of time with him right before he went into the plane. I also spent hours, days, weeks, months talking about parachute jumps with him. I even dropped him out of one of my planes so he could make an appointment. Instead of landing, he would just jump."

To add to the irony, the Dixie Dregs first major label release, 1977's Freefall (Capricorn Records) features cover art showing Twiggs and the band jumping from an airplane!

09/27/197926Jimmy McCullochWingsHeart Failure (drug related)London
07/12/197931Minnie RipertonR&B singerBreast Cancer
06/29/197934Lowell GeorgeLittle FeatHeart Failure
02/02/197921Sid ViciousSex PistolsDrug Overdose
01/13/197933Donny HathawayDefenestrationNew York City

Rest in Peace
Donny Hathaway
October 1, 1945 - January 13, 1979

Donny Hathaway was perhaps the greatest soul singer of the 1970's, whose life came to a tragic end much too soon. On January 13th 1979, Donny was found dead on the sidewalk below the 15th floor window of his room in New York's Essex House hotel.

The glass had been carefully removed from the window, and there were no signs of struggle, leading investigators to rule his death a suicide.

01/05/197956Charles Mingusjazz bassistLou Gehrig's diseaseCuernavaca, Mexico
12/27/197841Bob Lumanrockabilly singerPneumonia
12/27/197827Chris BellBig StarCar AccidentMemphis, TN

Rest in Peace
Chris Bell

January 12, 1951 - December 27, 1978

Chris Bell was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist born in Memphis, Tennessee. Along with Alex Chilton, he led the power pop band Big Star, which recorded albums during the early 1970s. Bell left the group after Big Star's first album, #1 Record (1972).

Chris Bell died when he lost control of his Triumph TR-7 sports car on his way home from his father's restaurant in East Memphis. The car struck a wooden light pole on the side of the road, killing him instantly. His funeral was held the next day, December 28, the birthday of former band mate Alex Chilton.

His death at age 27 qualifies him as another member of the "Forever 27" Club.

09/07/197832Keith MoonThe WhoDrug OverdoseEngland
04/20/197831Sandy DennyFairport ConventionBrain Hemorrhage England
03/11/197839Claude FrancoisFrench pop StarElectrocutionParis, France

Rest in Peace
Claude Francois
February 1, 1939 - March 11, 1978

Claude Francois was a very popular French rock star. He wrote "Comme d'habitude," the original version of "My Way."

Like Jim Morrison, he died in a Paris bathtub. It seems that after bathing, he observed a burned out light above him. While standing in the tub, his feet in the water, he attempted to change the bulb. He was electrocuted and efforts to revive him failed.

01/23/197832Terry KathChicagoGun Accident

Rest in Peace
Terry Kath
January 31, 1946 - January 23, 1978

Terry Alan Kath was the original guitarist and a founding member of the rock band Chicago.

Terry Kath was tragically killed while playing with a semi-automatic 9 mm handgun from his collection. He removed the clip, but a round was already chambered.

He is buried in the famous Forest Lawn Cemetery, Glendale, California.

He left a widow, Camelia Emily Ortiz (whom he married in 1974), and a daughter, Michelle, born in 1976. Camelia was later married to Kiefer Sutherland from 1987 to 1990.

10/20/197729Ronnie Van ZantLynyrd SkynyrdPlane CrashGillsburg, MS
10/20/197728Steve GainesLynyrd SkynyrdPlane CrashGillsburg, MS
10/20/197729Cassie GainesLynyrd SkynyrdPlane CrashGillsburg, MS
09/30/197753Mary Fordsinger with Les PaulDiabetesArcadia, California

Mary Ford
July 24, 1924 - September 30, 1977

Born Iris Colleen Summers, Mary Ford was a vocalist and guitarist half of the husband-and-wife musical team Les Paul and Mary Ford. Between 1950 and 1954, the couple had 16 top-ten hits. In 1951 alone they sold six million records. They divorced, bitterly, in 1962, ending their professional association.

Mary Ford died of complications from diabetes in Arcadia, California at the age of 53. She is buried at Forest Lawn-Covina Hills in Covina, California. Although her year of birth has been variously reported (1924, 1925, 1928), the year 1924 is engraved on her tombstone.

Along with interviews, performance footage of the couple is featured in the musical documentary Chasing Sound: Les Paul at 90.

09/16/197729Marc BolanT-RexCar AccidentLondon

Rest in Peace
Marc Bolan
September 30, 1947 - September 16, 1977

Marc Bolan (Born Mark Feld) was British singer, songwriter whose influential band, T. Rex, helped define the glam rock era. T. Rex is remembered for genre-defining hit songs such as "Bang a Gong (Get it On)", "Jeepstar", and "Telegram Sam."

Bolan died in a car accident two weeks before his 30th birthday. After leaving a party, he was a passenger in a purple Austin Mini driven by his girlfriend and band member, Gloria Jones. Jones lost control of the car and it struck a sycamore tree. The accident occurred in southwest London, less than a mile from Bolan's home. Today, the site of the accident is a memorial to Marc Bolan and the musical legacy of T-Rex.

Ironically, Bolan had never learned to drive himself, fearing a premature death!

Fellow T. Rex member Steve Currie also died in a car crash less than four years later. Other members of T-Rex that have passed include Steve Peregrin Took, Mickey Finn & Dino Dines.

08/16/197742Elvis PresleyDrug OverdoseMemphis, TN

Rest in Peace
Elvis Presley
January 8, 1935 - August 16, 1977

Elvis Aaron Presley, the "King of Rock and Roll", was born in Tupelo Mississippi, but moved to Memphis Tennessee at the age of 13. While there, in 1954, Sun Records owner Sam Phillips hired Elvis to help fulfill Sam's vision of bring the sound of African American music to a wider audience.

In a deal arranged by Colonel Tom Parker, Presley's contract was sold to RCA Victor. In January 1956, Elvis released his first single for RCA "Heartbreak Hotel." It became a #1 hit and Elvis became the leading figure of the emerging Rock 'n' Roll Revolution. In November 1956, he made his film debut in Love Me Tender.

Elvis served two years in the U.S. Army after being drafted in 1958. Returning to his career, he began to make Hollywood movies and soundtrack albums, staging only the occasional live concert.

In 1968, after 7 years away from the stage, he returned with a comeback television special on NBC, seen by millions.

In his lifetime, he won three Grammy awards and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36.

His health weakened by very poor eating habits and an addiction to prescription drugs, Elvis died suddenly in 1977 at age 42.

06/05/197778Sleepy John Estesblues guitaristStrokeBrownsville, TN

Rest in Peace
Sleepy John Estes
January 25, 1899 - June 5, 1977

John Adam Estes (better known as Sleepy John Estes) was a blues guitarist and singer. Estes made his debut as a recording artist in Memphis, Tennessee in 1929, for Victor Records. He later recorded for the Decca and Bluebird labels, but fell largely out of the public eye. He was tracked down in 1962 by Bob Koester and Samuel Charters. By this time, he had become completely blind and was living in poverty. He resumed recording and touring and appeared at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival.

Many of Estes' original songs were based on events in his own life or on people he knew from his home town of Brownsville, Tennessee, such as the local lawyer ("Lawyer Clark Blues"), local auto mechanic ("Vassie Williams' Blues"), or an amorously inclined teenage girl ("Little Laura Blues").

Bob Dylan mentions Estes in the liner notes of his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home.

05/03/197727Helmut KöllenTriumvirat, bassistcarbon monoxide poisoningCologne, Germany

Annette Snell
Helmut Köllen
March 2, 1950 - May 3, 1977

Helmut Köllen was the bass player and musician for the German progressive rock trio Triumvirat. He died from carbon monoxide poisoning while listening to some of his studio tracks in his car's cassette player while running the engine in his garage. His debut solo album You Won't See Me was released posthumously in October 1977.

04/04/197732Annette SnellFabulettes, singerPlane CrashNew Hope, Georgia

Annette Snell
Annette Snell
March 22, 1945 - April 4, 1977

Annette Snell was a rhythm and blues singer from Miami. She recorded with the girl vocal group the Fabulettes, but left them in 1968 for a solo career. Her greatest success was a #19 hit with "You Oughta Be Here With Me".

She died in New Hope, Georgia (northwest of Atlanta) on April 4, 1977, in crash of Southern Airways Flight 242, a DC-9 jetliner. Earlier that Day, Annette was recording at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama for what was going to be her breakout album.

A couple of interesting books were written about this plane crash. Am I Alive? A Surviving Flight Attendant's Struggle and Inspiring Triumph Over Tragedy and the story of surviving passenger John Tielking is told in his book Hail Fire.

At the time of her death Snell was married to Pete Jackson of Touch of Class.

02/26/197770Bukka Whiteblues guitaristCancerMemphis
12/28/197642Freddie KingHeart Failure, Ulcers
12/04/197625Tommy BolinDeep PurpleDrug OverdoseMiami, FL
05/14/197633Keith RelfYardbirdsElectrocutionEngland

Keith Relf
Keith Relf
March 22, 1943 - May 14, 1976

Keith Relf was born on the 22nd of March 1943 in Richmond, Surry. He was a part of the Metropolis Blues Quartet before joining the Yardbirds in 1963. With Keith's jaw dropping vocal range and amazing harmonica skill, he seemed to lead his fellow Yardbirds. In 1969, when the Yardbirds had fallen from the charts, he teamed up with his sister Jane Relf and former Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty to form Renaissance. In 1970 he left the band and continued to do various producing jobs and forming the band Armageddon.

On May 14th 1976, Keith met his untimely death by electrocution due to an improperly grounded guitar.

05/09/197664Floyd Councilbluesmanheart failureSanford, NC

Floyd Council
Floyd Council
September 2, 1911 - May 9, 1976

Floyd Council was a bluesman from North Carolina. He played with Blind Boy Fuller in the Piedmont blues style, popular in the early 1900's.

Syd Barrett, of the English progressive rock band Pink Floyd, came up with that band's name by combining the first names of Council and fellow Carolina bluesman, Pink Anderson. Syd noticed the names of these bluesmen in the liner notes of a 1962 Blind Boy Fuller LP. There is no evidence that Pink and Floyd ever met or recorded together.

04/09/197635Phil OchsfolksingerSuicide (hanging)Far Rockaway, NY

Phil Ochs
Phil Ochs
December 19, 1940 - April 9, 1976

Phil Ochs was folksinger/songwriter who specialized in topical, political and Vietnam War protest songs. His best remembered song is "I Ain't Marching Anymore" (from his second LP).

Phil was involved in the creation of the Youth International Party, known as the "Yippies", along with '60s radicals Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman and Paul Krassner. Ochs went to Chicago in 1968 to participate in the demonstrations against the Vietnam war. He performed in Lincoln Park, Grant Park and at the Chicago Coliseum, witnessed the violence perpetrated by the Chicago police against the protesters, and was himself arrested at one point.

The cover of his 1969 "Rehearsals for Retirement" album eerily portrays a tombstone with the words:


Phil was troubled by manic depression and hung himself at his sister's home. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in Scotland.

03/19/197625Paul KossoffFreeHeart Failure, Drug relatedNew York City
01/31/197664Buster Brownblues singer New York City
01/10/197665Chester A. BurnettHowlin' WolfKidney DiseaseHines, Illinois

Rest in Peace
Howlin' Wolf
June 10, 1910 - January 10, 1976

Chester A. Burnett, known professionally as Howlin' Wolf, was an influential American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player. His large size and loud, booming voice contributed to his commanding and slightly fearsome style of blues. He was an imposing figure at 6'6" (198 cm) tall and weighing close to 300 pounds.

Several songs written or popularized by Burnett, including "Smokestack Lightnin'", "Back Door Man", "Killing Floor", "Red Rooster" and "Spoonful", have become blues and rock standards.

Burnett died at the Hines VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois on January 10, 1976. He was buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Hillside, Cook County, Illinois in Section 18, on the east side of the road. His large gravestone, allegedly purchased by Eric Clapton, has an image of a guitar and harmonica etched into it.

12/17/197560Hound Dog Taylorblues guitaristLung Cancer

Rest in Peace
Hound Dog Taylor
April 12, 1915 - December 17, 1975

Theodore Roosevelt Taylor, known professionally as Hound Dog Taylor, was a blues guitarist noted for his slide playing, the use of cheap guitars, and his raucous boogie beat.

Born in Natchez, Mississippi, he moved to Chicago around age 20 and played in the Southside blues clubs and the Maxwell Street market. In 1971, a young man named Bruce Iglauer used his $2500 inheritance to form a new label and recorded Taylor's debut album, Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers. The album was the first release on Alligator Records, now a major blues label.

Iglauer began managing and booking the band, which toured nationwide and performed with stars like Muddy Waters and "Big Mama" Thornton. The band became particularly popular in the Boston area, where Hound Dog inspired a young protege named George Thorogood.

Hound Dog Taylor was born with the genetic condition polydactyly in which he had a small sixth finger on each hand. One evening, while drunk, he amputated the extra digit from his right hand with a razor blade.

12/08/197527Gary ThainUriah HeepHeroin Overdose
06/29/197528Tim Buckleysinger/songwriterDrug OverdoseSanta Monica, California
05/13/197570Bob WillsKing of Western Swing Fort Worth, Texas
04/24/197527Peter HamBadfingerSuicide (hanging)
03/16/197564T-Bone Walkerblues pioneerPneumoniaLos Angeles
02/10/197527Dave AlexanderStooges, bassistPneumonia
Dave Alexander
June 3, 1947 - February 10, 1975

Another member of the "Forever 27" Club.

02/04/197566Louis JordanBlues humoristHeart FailureLos Angeles

Louis Jordan
Born: July 8, 1908 – Brinkley, Arkansas
Died: February 4, 1975 - Los Angeles, California

Pioneering blues musician and songwriter with a humorous style. Known as The King of the Jukebox. Some of his big hits were "G.I. Jive," "Caldonia," "Buzz Me," "Choo Choo Ch' Boogie," "Ain't That Just like a Woman," "Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens," "Boogie Woogie Blue Plate," "Beans and Cornbread," "Saturday Night Fish Fry," "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?," and "Blue Light Boogie." Jordan was particularly popular during World War II.

11/25/197426Nick DrakeBritish Folk SingerTrypitzol OverdoseTanworth-in-Arden, England
10/13/197473Ed SullivanTV HostEsophageal CancerNew York City
10/12/197474Pink AndersonBlues PioneerSpartanburg, SC
09/23/197424Robbie McIntoshAverage White BandHeroin OverdoseLos Angeles
09/03/197473Harry Partchavant Garde composer/instrument creatorHeart AttackSan Diego
07/29/197432Mama Cass ElliotMamas & PapasHeart Attack / Ham SandwichLondon

Mama Cass Elliot
September 19, 1941 - July 29, 1974

Cass Elliott, born Ellen Naomi Cohen, was a noted American singer, best remembered as Mama Cass of the 1960s pop quartet The Mamas & the Papas. She went on to a successful solo career with hits like "Dream a Little Dream of Me" from the 1968 album of the same name.

Elliot performed two sold-out concerts at the London Palladium in July of 1974. Afterwards, she telephoned Michelle Phillips, utterly elated that she had received standing ovations each night. She then retired for the evening, and died in her sleep of a heart attack.

An urban legend arose that Elliot died choking on a ham sandwich. The police noted that a partly eaten sandwich had been found in her room, but the coroner's autopsy found no food in her trachea.

Ironically, Elliot died in the same flat, No.12 at 9 Curzon Place, Mayfair, London, that The Who drummer Keith Moon would die in four years later.

07/17/197432Don RichThe Buckeroos Motorcycle AccidentMorro Bay, California

Don Rich
Don Rich
August 15, 1941 - July 17, 1974

Often called the "right arm" of Buck Owens, Don Rich was born Donald Eugene Ulrich on August 15, 1941, in Olympia, Washington. He was only 3 when he started singing and playing guitar. He appeared on radio at age 5 and took up the violin at age 6. At 15, he was playing lead guitar with Tex Mitchell. A year later, he began playing part-time with Buck Owens.

On July 17, 1974, after an evening in the studio, Don rode his motorcycle toward Morro Bay, California, where he planned to join his wife Marlene and their two sons, Vic and Vance, on a fishing trip. Don never made it to Morro Bay. Somewhere near San Luis Obispo he crashed his motorcycle into a highway divider. He was laid to rest at Hillcrest Memorial Park in Bakersfield.

03/28/197468Arthur "Big Boy" Crudupblues guitaristHeart Disease and diabetesNorthampton County, Virginia

Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup
August 24, 1905 - March 28, 1974

Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup was delta blues singer known for writing songs covered by Elvis Presley including "That's All Right (Mama)" (1946), "My Baby Left Me" and "So Glad You're Mine."

03/21/197429Candy Darlingtransgender actressLymphomaNew York City

Candy Darling
November 24, 1944 - March 21, 1974

Candy Darling (born James Lawrence Slattery) was a transgender actress who was part of the Andy Warhol / Velvet Underground scene in New York in the mid to late 1960's.

She is immortalized in second verse of the Lou Reed song Walk on the Wild Side:

Candy came from out on the Island
In the back room she was everybody's darling
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head
She says, "Hey, babe,
Take a walk on the wild side."
Said, "Hey, babe,
Take a walk on the wild side."
And the colored girls go
"Doo do doo do doo do do doo..."

12/20/197337Bobby DarinsingerHeart FailureHollywood

Rest in Peace
Bobby Darin
May 14, 1936 - December 20, 1973

Bobby Darin's hits included "Splish Splash" and "Mack The Knife". Born with a rheumatic heart, he died after unsuccessful open-heart surgery at the age of 37.

In 2004, actor Kevin Spacey starred as Bobby Darin in the feature film biography Beyond the Sea.

11/20/197348Allan Shermannovelty songwriterRespiratory failureLos Angeles

Rest in Peace
Allan Sherman
November 30, 1924 - November 20, 1973

Novelty songwriter most famous for his spoof summer camp song "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" from his 1963 album My Son, The Nut.

Born Allan Copelon, he took his mother's maiden name after being abandoned in childhood by his father, Percy Copelon.

11/13/197330Jerry Lee Lewis, Jr.son of Jerry Lee LewisCar Accident
09/20/197330Jim Crocesinger-songwriterPlane CrashNatchitoches LA
09/20/197324Maury MuehleisenguitaristPlane CrashNatchitoches LA

Rest in Peace
Jim Croce
January 10, 1973 - September 20, 1973

Jim Croce and five others (his guitarist Maury Muehleisen, manager Dennis Rast, booking agent Ken Cortese, comedian George Stevens, and the pilot) were killed after their Beechcraft D-18 airplane clipped trees during takeoff from Natchitoches, Louisiana. He had just performed at a concert at Northwestern State University. Jim was honoring a previous commitment to the school for a show they had booked before his career starting taking off.

Ingrid, Croce's widow, runs a successful restaurant and nightclub, Croce's, in San Diego. Jim's son, A.J. Croce, is a musician active in the San Diego music scene. He has released several CDs.

09/19/197326Gram ParsonsThe ByrdsDrug OverdoseJoshua Tree, California

Rest in Peace
Gram Parsons
November 5, 1946 - September 19, 1973

Gram Parsons was born as Ingram Cecil Connor III in Winterhaven, Florida, the grandson of citrus fruit magnate John A. Snively. As a teenager, he developed a strong interest in folk music and formed his first professional band by age 16.

He attended Harvard University, studying theology, but departed after one semester. In 1966, he and others from the Boston folk scene formed the International Submarine Band. This band relocated to Los Angeles, and in 1968 released the album Safe at Home, which contains one of Gram's best-known songs, "Luxury Liner."

Gram Parsons toured with the Byrds in the summer of 1968. When he dropped out of a planned concert in South Africa, citing opposition to that country's apartheid policies, he was fired from the band. During his time with the Byrds, Parsons made major contributions and guided the direction of their album Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Parsons next joined with Chris Hillman, Chris Ethridge (bass) and pedal steel player Sneaky Pete Kleinow to form the Flying Burrito Brothers.

Parsons became friendly with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. This friendship helped the Burrito Brothers get booked as the opening act at the infamous Altamont Music Festival. The Burrito's performance of the song "Six Days on the Road" was included in Gimme Shelter, a documentary of the Altamont concert.

Embarking on a solo career, Parsons signed with A&M Records and partnered with producer Terry Melcher, who had produced The Byrds' Mr. Tambourine Man and worked with The Beach Boys. Parsons met Emmylou Harris and the two toured, with a band, as Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels. The road manager for the tour was Phil Kaufman, who had served time with Charles Manson on Terminal Island in the mid-sixties. Kaufman first met Parsons while he was working for the Stones in 1968.

In the summer of 1973 Parsons' Topanga Canyon home burned to the ground, the result of a stray cigarette. Nearly all of his possessions were destroyed with the exception of a guitar and a prized Jaguar automobile. Gram himself would be consumed by fire just a few weeks later.

Gram Parsons died of a drug overdose in room 8 at the Joshua Tree Inn. His body was moved to Los Angeles in preparation for a flight back to New Orleans, where we has to be buried in a private ceremony. Phil Kaufman and a friend stole Parsons' body from the mortuary at the Los Angeles International Airport. In a borrowed hearse, they drove Parsons' body to Joshua Tree and attempted to cremate it by pouring five gallons of gasoline into the open coffin, and throwing a lit match inside. What resulted was an enormous fireball. They were arrested several days later, but since there was no law against stealing a dead body, they were only fined for stealing the coffin. The burned remains were eventually returned to Parsons' stepfather and interred in New Orleans.

The movie Grand Theft Parsons presents a somewhat fictionalized version of these events.

08/17/197334Paul WilliamsTemptationsSuicide (gunshot)Detroit, Michigan
08/06/197376Memphis Minnieblues guitarist/singerStrokeMemphis

Rest in Peace
Memphis Minnie (Lizzie Douglas)
June 3, 1897 - August 6, 1973

07/14/197329Clarence WhiteByrdsKilled by Drunk DriverPalmdale, California

Rest in Peace
Clarence White
June 7, 1944 - July 15, 1973

Clarence White was a guitarist for the country-rock bands Kentucky Colonels and The Byrds. He made major contributions to several Byrds recordings, most notably the 1968 classic Sweetheart of the Rodeo. As a session guitarist, he played on early Monkees recordings. Clarence and Gene Parsons were co-inventors of the Parsons-White B-Bender guitar string bender.

Clarence was loading equipment into his van when he was mortally injured by a hit-and-run drunk driver named Yoko Ito. He had finished a performance with his brother at BJ's, a club in Palmdale, California.

At his funeral, Gram Parsons and Bernie Leadon lead the mourners in singing "Farther Along." Gram Parsons died only two months later.

07/03/197378Laurens Hammondinventor of Hammond Organ

Laurens Hammond
January 11, 1895 - July 3, 1973

Laurens Hammond was a prolific inventor and childhood prodigy. He invented the first automatic transmission for cars, but was unable to interest automakers. He holds over 90 patents and created inventions including clocks and early system for 3D films.

His most successful invention was the Hammond organ and most notable among these is the B3 model. The Hammond B3 is a church organ in a heavy wood cabinet. In the 1960s, rock musicians discovered these organs and loved the sound (roadies HATE the massive and heavy B3, however!) The spinning horn in the Leslie cabinet, typically used in conjunction with the organ, gives the Hammond organ a unique sound. Thousands of these instruments are still in use and still being lugged around by backsore roadies around the world.

06/04/1973 Bruce Berryroadie for CSN&YHeroin OverdoseLos Angeles

Bruce Berry

Bruce Barry was a roadie for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. He got started in the music business by working at his brother Ken's store, SIR (Studio Instrument Rentals). He used to load all of his instruments into his white Ford Econoline van. He moved to London for a time to work with Stephen Stills. When he moved back to Los Angeles, he was addicted to Heroin, having been turned on by Danny Whitten (from Neil Young's band, Crazy Horse).

One Story: When working for David Crosby, he told everyone that David's car had been broken into and that David's beloved Stratocaster had been stolen. He apparently had sold the guitar for drug money.

Berry died of a Heroin overdose on June 4, 1973. Neil Young's album Tonight's the Night is dedicated to Bruce and Danny Whitten, who himself died of a heroin overdose a few months earlier. The lyrics of the song "Tonight's the Night" speak directly of Bruce:

Bruce Barry was a working man, he used to load that Econoline van. A sparkle was in his eye, but his life was in his hands. Late at night when the people were gone, he used to pick up my guitar and sing a song in a shakey voice that was real as the day is long.

Bruce was brother to Jan Berry of Jan & Dean.

03/26/197373Noël CowardEnglish playwright and songwriterHeart FailureJamaica
03/08/197327Ron "Pigpen" McKernanGrateful DeadLiver Disease

Rest in Peace
Ron "Pigpen" McKernan
September 8, 1945 - March 8, 1973

Ronald Charles McKernan, nicknamed Pigpen for his slovenly lifestyle, was a founding member of the Grateful Dead. His musical contributions included vocals, Hammond organ, harmonica, percussion, and occasionally, guitar.

He grew up with many African-American friends and his father was a rhythm and blues disc jockey, so Pigpen was exposed to black music at an early age. He taught himself blues piano and developed a biker image.

Pigpen dropped out of high school and started playing gigs at around age 15, often in bars. He soon started drinking and developed a life-long problem with alcohol.

After meeting Jerry Garcia around 1962, the two decided to work together and with a few other musicians formed Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, with Pigpen mostly covering keyboard, harmonica, and vocals.

The next official grouping for Pigpen would be The Warlocks, with Garcia, Weir, drummer Bill Kreutzmann, and Phil Lesh. Around 1965, Phil Lesh joined and they became the Grateful Dead.

McKernan had a short relationship and longer friendship with Janis Joplin. A poster from the early 1970s featured them together. Joplin joined McKernan onstage at the Fillmore West in June 1969 with the Grateful Dead to sing his signature "Turn On Your Lovelight", despite her dislike of the band's jamming style. The two reprised this duet July 16, 1970 at the Euphoria Ballroom in San Rafael, California.

Pigpen's final concert appearance was June 17, 1972 at the Hollywood Bowl, in Los Angeles, California. On March 8, 1973, he was found dead of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage at his home in Corte Madera, California.. His death at age 27 qualifies him as a member of the "Forever 27" Club.

His memorial marker reads:

Pigpen was and is now forever
one of the Grateful Dead.

03/05/1973Mike JefferyManager, Jimi HendrixPlane CrashFrance
02/08/197353Max YasgurOwner of Yasgur's Dairy Farm, WoodstockHeart Attack
11/18/197229Danny WhittenCrazy HorseDrug OverdoseLos Angeles

Danny Ray Whitten
May 8, 1943 - November 18, 1972

Danny Whitten was a songwriter and guitarist for Neil Young's backing band, Crazy Horse. He is also remembered as the songwriter of "I Don't Want to Talk About It", a hit for Rita Coolidge and Rod Stewart.

With Neil Young, Whitten is first heard on the 1969 album Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. Whitten plays second guitar and contributes vocals on the songs "Cinnamon Girl", "Down by the River" and "Cowgirl in the Sand." During the early phases of Neil's next solo effort, After the Gold Rush, Neil dismissed Crazy Horse, in part because of drug use. Neil wrote "The Damage and the Needle Done" during this period. The song contains direct references to Whitten's abuse of heroin.

Danny was also kicked out of the band Crazy Horse. A replacement guitarist was used on the band's two albums in 1972. Friends convinced a Neil Young that Danny was off drugs, so he was rehired in October 1972. Danny began rehearsals for the Harvest tour at Young's Broken Arrow ranch, but drug use had taken its ugly toll and Danny could not play his parts. He was again fired from the band.

Danny Whitten died of a drug overdose on November 18, 1972, the same day he was fired from Crazy Horse for drug use, erratic behavior and poor performance. Neil Young bought Danny a plane ticket to Los Angeles, gave him $50 cash, and sent him on his way. Danny reportedly became inebriated on the flight and had to be restrained. He went to a friend's house where he was later found dead on the bathroom floor. An autopsy revealed that he died of an overdose of alcohol and Valium.

Neil Young's album Tonight's the Night is dedicated to Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry , who died of a heroin overdose just a few months later. The album contains a captioned photo of the band with Danny's name written below the empty space where he should have stood. Danny's vocals are heard on the album's live track "Come on Baby, Let's Go Downtown", which Danny co-wrote with Neil Young. Ironically, the song's lyrics are about buying drugs: "Sure enough, they'll be selling stuff..."

Danny is also heard on Neil's 2006 release Live at the Fillmore East which was recorded in March of 1970. The live track on Tonight's the Night was taken from this performance.

Fans maintain a web page dedicated to the life and exceptional talent of Danny Whitten.

11/11/197224Berry OakleyAllman BrothersMotorcycle AccidentMacon, GA

Berry Oakley
April 4, 1948 - November 11, 1972

On November 11, 1972, Berry Oakley's motorcycle collided with a city bus in Macon, Georgia, near the corner of Napier and Inverness Avenues, just three blocks from where Duane Allman had his fatal motorcycle accident the year before. Oakley said he was OK after the accident, declined medical treatment, and went back to The Big House. Just three hours later, he was taken to the hospital and there died of a skull fracture.

11/06/197221Billy MurciaNew York DollsAlcohol & PillsLondon
08/02/197228Brian ColeAssociation, bassistHeroin OverdoseLos Angeles
07/24/1972 Bobby RamirezEdgar Winter, drummerStabbingChicago
07/03/197268Mississippi Fred McDowellbluesmanCancerMemphis
05/05/197276Reverend Gary Davisbluesman
06/13/1972 Clyde McPhatterThe Drifters
04/27/197224Phil KingBlue Oyster CultMurderedNew York City

Phil King

Phil King, a booking agent associated with Blue Oyster Cult, was murdered during a gambling dispute in New York City. He was shot three times in the head. His death came before the heavy metal group achieved major success.

01/16/197252Ross BagdasarianThe ChipmunksHeart FailureBeverly Hills

Rest in Peace
Ross Bagdasarian
January 27, 1919 - January 16, 1972

Ross Bagdasarian was a songwriter, singer and actor of Armenian ethnic heritage. Under his stage name of David Seville, he wrote songs for Rosemary Clooney and Dean Martin. He had a #1 hit in 1959 with "The Witch Doctor," his first experiment with speeding up tape playback to create a high-pitched, squeaky sound. This success led to his recording of "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" with The Chipmunks in 1959. The Chipmunks went on to sell millions of records and win several Grammy awards.

The Chipmunks are named after executives of their original record label, Liberty Records: Alvin Bennett (the president), Simon Waronker (the founder and owner), and Theodore Keep (the chief engineer).

The singing Chipmunks were given life in several animated TV shows and motion pictures. In 2007, the live-action/computer-generated feature length movie Alvin and the Chipmunks was released. The movie portrays a Los Angeles songwriter who discovers the Chipmunks and saves them from evil music executives.

Bagdasarian also appeared in minor film roles, including Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954), in which he plays an obsessed piano-playing songwriter.

10/29/197124Duane AllmanAllman BrothersMotorcycle AccidentMacon, GA

Rest in Peace
Duane Allman
November 20, 1946 - October 29, 1971

Howard Duane Allman, guitarist, was co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band. Also an established session guitarist, he also played with Rock Royalty and made contributions to recordings that are the foundation of rock music, notably Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos.

Duane Allman first played publicly in 1961. With his brother, Gregg, they played with a number of local groups. Their band the Escorts opened for the Beach Boys in 1965, but disbanded and eventually became the Allman Joys. This band morphed into the The Hour Glass, which moved to Los Angeles in early 1967. Some of these early songs can be heard on the Allman Brother's Boxed set, Dreams.

The Hour Glass broke up in early 1968, and Duane and Gregg Allman went back to Florida, where they played on demo sessions with the 31 February, a folk rock outfit whose drummer was Butch Trucks. Duane became a Muscle Shoals, Alabama, session player, first appearing on an album with Wilson Pickett. Allman's work on that album, Hey Jude (1968), got him hired as a full-time session musician at Muscle Shoals and brought him to the attention of a number of other musicians, such as guitar great Eric Clapton. While at Muscle Shoals, Allman was featured on releases by a number of artists, including Clarence Carter, King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Laura Nyro, Wilson Pickett, Otis Rush, Percy Sledge, Johnny Jenkins, Boz Scaggs, Delaney & Bonnie and jazz flautist Herbie Mann.

The Allman Brothers band formed in March 1969, when Gregg was called back from Los Angeles. The sextet (with Butch Trucks, Dickey Betts and Jaimoe Johanson) moved to Macon Georgia to be near Capricorn Sound Studios and their manager, Phil Walden. The Allman Brothers Band went on to become one of the most influential rock groups of the 1970s.

Duane Allman suffered a fatal motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia, when his Harley-Davidson motorcycle crashed into a tractor-trailer carrying logs. The accident occurred on the west side of Macon at the intersection of Hillcrest and Bartlett streets. He died during surgery at the hospital and is buried at Rose Hill cemetery in Macon Georgia, next to Berry Oakley, who died in a similar motorcycle accident only 13 months later. Respectful fans may visit their gravesites, overlooking the Ocmulgee River, during daylight hours.

10/12/197136Gene VincentVincent Eugene CraddockUlcerLos Angeles

Rest in Peace
Gene Vincent
February 11, 1935 - October 12, 1971

Born Vincent Eugene Craddock in Norfolk Virginia, he changed his name to Gene Vincent when he formed a rockabilly band he named the Blue Caps (a term in reference to his time with the US Navy). He left the Navy after a 1955 motorcycle accident resulted in a crippling leg injury.

Gene Vincent and his Blue Caps included Willie Williams on rhythm guitar, Jack Neal on upright bass, Dickie Harrell on drums, Paul Peek singer/guitar and lead guitarist, Cliff Gallup. In 1956, he wrote "Be-Bop-A-Lula", by far his biggest hit, and signed a publishing contract with Bill Lowery of The Lowery Group of music publishers in Atlanta, Georgia. He landed a deal with Capitol records.

Vincent appeared in the 1956 Jayne Mansfield film The Girl Can’t Help It, considered one of the earliest rock and roll movies. Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Eddie Cochran also appear in the movie.

Finding his career declining in the United States, Vincent moved to England and signed with promoter Don Arden. On April 16, 1960, Vincent broke his ribs and collarbone and further damaged his weakened leg in the same car crash outside London that killed Eddie Cochran.

Vincent died on October 12, 1971 from a ruptured stomach ulcer and is interred in the Eternal Valley Memorial Park, Newhall, California.

Gene Vincent was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

08/13/197137Curtis OusleysaxophonistStabbed in a fightNew York City

Rest in Peace
King Curtis
February 7, 1934 - August 13, 1971

King Curtis (born Curtis Ousley in Fort Worth Texas) was murdered in 1971 by junkies he asked to move off the front stoop of his Harlem brownstone. He was Aretha Franklin's musical director and a prolific session man who played with many big names, including Eric Clapton, Wilson Pickett, and the Allman Brothers. Duane Allman played at Curtis' star-studded funeral along with Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. Allman also incorporated Curtis' "Soul Serenade" into a blistering version of "You Don't Love Me". This can be found on the excellent "Dreams" 4-CD box set.

Tragically, Duane Allman died only 10 weeks later when his motorcycle collided with a log truck.

07/06/197169Louis ArmstrongJazz trumpeterHeart FailureNew York City
07/04/197129Donald McPhersonThe Main IngredientleukemiaIndianapolis
07/03/197127Jim MorrisonThe DoorsHeart FailureParis

Rest in Peace
Jim Morrison
"The Lizard King"
December 8, 1943 - July 3, 1971

Jim Morrison was an American singer/songwriter/poet and lead singer of The Doors.

10/04/197027Janis JoplinBig Brother and the Holding CompanyDrug OverdoseHollywood, California
09/18/197027Jimi HendrixDrug OverdoseLondon
09/03/197027Alan "Blind Owl" WilsonCanned HeatDrug OverdoseTopanga, California

Member of the "Forever 27" Club.

04/24/197040Otis SpannBlues pianistCancerChicago
01/17/197032Billy StewartR&B SingerCar AccidentSelma, North Carolina

Billy Stewart
March 24, 1937 - January 17, 1970

Billy Stewart was a Rhythm & Blues singer with a highly distinctive scat style. After reportedly being discovered playing piano by Bo Diddley in Washington DC, he was offered a recording contract with Chess records. In the 1960's he had hits with "I Do Love You" and "Sitting in the Park."

Stewart and three members of his band, The Soul Kings, died in a tragic car accident when the car he was driving crashed off a bridge and into the Neuse River near Selma, North Carolina. The new car was reportedly experiencing brake problems. Killed in the crash were Billy Stewart, Norman Rich, Rico Hightower and William Cathey.


© Steve Covault, all rights reserved.
E-MAIL for information.