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Fuller Up, The Dead Musicians Directory

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Bobby Fuller
Harry Choates
Blind Lemon Jefferson
David McComb
Albert Ayler
Russ Columbo
Brian Jones
Avery Parrish
Chet Baker
Don Drummond
Rodd Keith
Larry Williams
Jesse Belvin
Wardell Gray
Jimmie Lunceford
Mia Zapata
Lenny Breau      



Select Musicians' Name for Official and Unofficial Websites

Bobby Fuller:

Age 22

(b. 22 October 1943, Baytown, TX, 
d.18 July 1966, LA, CA)

An inventive and compulsive musician, Bobby Fuller made his recording debut in 1961. The Bobby Fuller Four's early releases were regional hits, then in January 1966 the band reached the US Top 10 with an ebullient reading of the Crickets’ I Fought The Law. This pop classic, later covered by the Clash, was followed up by a Top 30 hit, Love's Made A Fool OF You.  The singer's stature seemed assured, but on 18 July 1966 any hope for a bright future was cut short when Fuller's badly beaten body was discovered in a parked car in Los Angeles. His death was attributed to asphyxia through the forced inhalation of gasoline, but further investigations as to the perpetrators of this deed remain unresolved.

At the time of his death, Fuller had been keeping company with a young woman named "Melody," whose ex-boyfriend was a jealous club owner reported to be tied to the local crime syndicate. After Fuller's death, she disappeared and has only recently surfaced to deny complicity in Bobby's death. Other mysterious circumstances took place in the days just after the discovery of Fuller's body. Dalton Powell had been confronted by "three real mean-looking dudes" who had come to the apartment he shared with Reese looking for the guitarist, telling Powell they would return, but Powell and Reese left town after Fuller's funeral and never returned to California. Randy Fuller and the band's road manager were nearly run off the road one evening by a car that had been following them. A private investigator, hired by Fuller's parents and Bob Keane, quit the case after a few days when he was shot at by a would-be assassin. The questions have remained unanswered. ~Bryan Thomas, Director of Publicity :DEL-FI RECORDS

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Bobby Fuller

 Albert Ayler:
Albert Ayler Disappeared

Age 34

(b. 13 July 1936, Cleveland, Ohio, 
d. November 1970, NYC). 

His first few albums were taped either in Europe or for European labels, but his reputation was made with the recordings for the New York label ESP, which was established by Bernard Stollman particularly to promote Ayler's music.  Until the late '50s the tendency in the development of jazz had been one of increasing harmonic complexity and sophistication. Ornette Coleman and Ayler created styles which, though neither atonal nor entirely free, re-established the primacy of melody.  On 25 November 1970 his body was recovered from New York City's East River. One bizarre rumor claimed that there was a bullet hole in the back of the neck. Ayler had not been seen for some 20 days before his body was discovered, and the circumstances of his death remain unclear. The theory that he had been killed by the police has been given much currency. However, he had been very depressed about the breakdown suffered by his brother, Donald Ayler, and close friends have confirmed that he had talked about taking his own life.
But, Gary Peacock is quoted in January 1998 Hot House: "Someone had shot him in the back of  the head.  Some said it was drugs.  But my experience was that he wasn't a druggie.   My own suspicion is probably female-related in a way." 

Mary Parks told her version of the death of Albert Ayler to English discographer Mike Hames in 1983. She said, "The strains of surviving as a musician in New York seriously affected the mind of Albert’s brother, Donald. Their mother (Myrtle Ayler) blamed Albert for introducing Donald to the musician’s life and continually pressed Albert to look after Donald." The night he disappeared, Ayler again told his lover, "My blood has got to be shed to save my mother and my brother." He smashed one of his saxophones over their television set and stormed out of the house. Mary called the police to report Albert missing....
According to Hames, she said Albert took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and jumped off as the boat neared Liberty Island -- committing suicide.
a jazz history by Joe Mosbrook

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Albert Ayler

The Books

Albert Ayler Disappeared

 Mia Zapata:

Age 27

(b. 25 Aug 1965, KY
d. 7 July 1993,Seattle, WA)

Mia fronted The Gits, who were rising in popularity and recording a new record,  when she was brutally raped and strangled, left dead on the street while on her way home.  Her murderer has never been found. 

Late breaking news:

GITS - Man Found Guilty in Rape, Death of Singer Mia Zapata

Man Found Guilty in Rape, Death of Singer

By Associated Press

March 25, 2004, 11:20 PM EST
SEATTLE -- A man was found guilty of first-degree murder Thursday in the 1993 rape and strangulation of a rising punk-rock singer. Jesus C. Mezquia, 49, most recently of Marathon, Fla., faces anywhere from 20 years to life in prison, said Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the King County prosecutor. No sentencing date was set. Mezquia was arrested in January 2003 in the Florida Keys after DNA from saliva found on Mia Zapata's body linked him to the slaying. A police
investigation found Mezquia had been in the Seattle area at the time of the killing. Zapata, the 27-year-old lead singer of The Gits, was found on a Seattle street, beaten, raped and strangled with the drawstring of her sweat shirt. An autopsy found evidence of a struggle in which Zapata suffered blunt impact to her abdomen and a lacerated liver, court documents said. The jury deliberated three days before returning the guilty verdict. Family and friends of the late singer wept as the decision was read. "I'm just glad that he'll be rotting in prison and we'll be able to live a little bit freer lives," said Steve Moriarty, who was The Gits' drummer. A telephone message left for Mezquia's attorney seeking comment was not immediately returned. Copyright (c) 2004, The Associated Press

About Mia Zapata, a few months ago DNA confirmed some scumbag who has been locked up in Florida jail for years due to some other horrendous crimes was involved with her death.  He was a transient who has been confirmed in the Seattle area when Mia was killed.  It sounds like pretty solid evidence this guy did it, and if they haven't charged him yet, I bet they will soon.

Kevin K., Portland


Gits News
After ten bloody years of searching for the bastard, DNA has implicated a man in the murder of Mia. The scumbag was arraigned on April 8th, 2003 in King County Superior Court on charges of first degree murder. Hopefully the case will go to trial soon, but we are prepared for a long process. At least its off the street.

CHEERS! Steve Moriarty

A Mia  Zapata poem
Home AliveMIA
1993 photo copyright: Lucy Hanna, used by permission.  Thank you, Lucy)

Unsolved Mysteries TV show did a broadcast on Mia's case.

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The Gits




Select Musicians' Name for Official and Unofficial Websites

Blind Lemon Jefferson:
Age 32

(b. July 1897, Wortham, Texas, d. December 1929, Chicago, IL)

Jefferson was one of the earliest and most influential rural blues singers to record.  His later recordings seemed to lose some of the originality and impact of his earlier work but he remained popular until his sudden and somewhat mysterious death. Legend has it that he froze to death on the streets of Chicago, although a more likely story is that he died of a heart attack while in his car, possibly during a snow storm, and was abandoned by his driver. At this date it is unlikely that the truth will ever be established. 

Chet Baker:
Age 58

(b. Chesney H. Baker, 23 Dec 1929, Yale, Oklahoma
d. 13 May 1988, Amsterdam, Holland) 

One of the more lyrical of the early post-war trumpeters, Baker's fragile sound epitomized the so-called ‘cool’ school of West Coast musicians who dominated the American jazz scene of the '50s. Baker studied music while in the army and soon after his discharge, in 1951, he was playing with Charlie Parker. He gained international prominence as a member of Gerry Mulligan's pianoless quartet and in late 1953, after another short stint with Parker, formed his own group, which proved to be extremely popular. Baker kept this band together for the next three years, but he was not cut out for the life of a bandleader, nor was he able to withstand the pressures and temptations which fame brought him. He succumbed to drug addiction and the rest of his life was a battle against dependency. Inevitably, his music frequently fell by the wayside. In the '80s, in control of his life, although not fully over his addiction, he was once again a regular visitor to international jazz venues and also made a few incursions into the pop world, guesting, for example, on Elvis Costello's Shipbuilding. Probably his best work from this later period comes on a series of records he made for the Danish Steeplechase label with a trio that comprised Doug Raney and Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen. By this time his clean-cut boyish good looks had vanished beneath a mass of lines and wrinkles—fellow trumpeter Jack Sheldon, told by Baker that they were laugh-lines remarked, ‘Nothing's that funny!’. In his brief prime, Baker's silvery filigrees of sound, albeit severely restricted in tonal and emotional range, brought an unmistakable touch to many fine records; however, his lack of self-esteem rarely allowed him to assert himself or to break through the stylistic bounds imposed by exemplars such as Miles Davis. A film, Let's Get Lost, charts the closing years of the erratic life of this largely unfulfilled musician, who died falling, or possibly jumping, from an Amsterdam hotel window.

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The books

His Life and Music
Jeroen De Valk

As Though I Had Wings : The Lost Memoir
by Chet Baker



Larry Williams:
Age 44

(b. 10 May 1935, New Orleans,LA   
d.  2 January 1980, Los Angeles)

Williams recorded a handful of raucous rock ‘n’ roll songs for Specialty Records which, among others, later influenced John Lennon.  In 1954, while visiting his old home town of New Orleans, he met and was hired as pianist by Lloyd Price, who recorded for Specialty.  His first record was a cover of Price's Just Because, which reached number 11 on the R&B chart for Williams and number 3 for Price. Backed by fellow Specialty artist Little Richard's band, Williams recorded his own Short Fat Fannie. To follow up his song about the fat girl, Williams next recorded one about a skinny girl, Bony Moronie, which was almost as big a hit. Williams had one final chart single for Specialty the following year, Dizzy, Miss Lizzy. (It was later covered by the Beatles, with Lennon singing. They also covered Slow Down and Bad Boy, while Lennon later recorded Bony Moronie and Just Because as a solo, providing Williams with steady royalties income until his death.) A number of singles and an album were issued by Specialty up until 1959 none of which were hits. That year he was arrested for selling drugs and sentenced to prison, causing Specialty to drop him and his career to fade.  In January 1980, Williams was found in his Los Angeles home with a gunshot wound in the head, ruled to be self-inflicted, although it was rumoured that Williams was murdered owing to his involvement with drugs and, reportedly, prostitution.


Select Musicians' Name for Official and Unofficial Websites

Harry Choates:

Age 29

(b. December 26, 1922,
d. July 17, 1951)

Country/cajun fiddler.  By 1950 he had divorced his wife and wound up being arrested for failing to provide support for her and their children.  Arrested and jailed in Austin, the sudden withdrawal from alcohol proved too much. His death on July 17,1951 is a fact, though whether it was a result of delerium, an epileptic fit, police cruelty or some combination of each is pure conjecture. 

Jimmie Lunceford
 James Melvin Lunceford

 AGE 45
( Born: June 6 , 1902 in Fulton, MS Died: July 12, 1947 in Seaside, OR)

The Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra has always been a bit difficult to evaluate. Contemporary observers rated Lunceford's big band at the top with Duke Ellington and Count Basie but, when judging the music solely on their records (and not taking into account their visual show, appearance and showmanship), Lunceford's ensemble has to be placed on the second tier. His orchestra lacked any really classic soloists (altoist Willie Smith and trombonist Trummy Young came the closest) and a large portion of the band's repertoire either featured the dated vocals of Dan Grissom or were pleasant novelties. And yet, the well-rehearsed ensembles were very impressive, some of the arrangements (particularly those of Sy Oliver) were quite original and the use of glee-club vocalists and short concise solos were pleasing and often memorable. Plus Lunceford's was the first orchestra to feature high-note trumpeters (starting with Tommy Stevenson in 1934) and had a strong influence on the early Stan Kenton Orchestra.   Although he was trained on several instruments and was featured on flute on "Liza" in the 1940s, Jimmie Lunceford was much more significant as a bandleader than as a musician. While teaching music at Manassa High School in Memphis in 1927, Lunceford organized a student band called the Chickasaw Syncopators, recording two songs that year and a pair in 1930. After leaving Memphis, the band (known by then as the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra) played in Cleveland and Buffalo and cut two songs in 1933 that were not issued until decades later. 1934 was the breakthrough year. The orchestra made a strong impression playing at New York's Cotton Club, waxed a few notable songs for Victor and then started recording regularly for Decca. Their tight ensembles and colorful shows made them a major attraction throughout the remainder of the swing era. Among their many hits were "Rhythm Is Our Business," "Four or Five Times," "Swanee River," "Charmaine," "My Blue Heaven," "Organ Grinder's Swing," "Ain't She Sweet," "For Dancers Only," "'Tain't What You Do, It's the Way That Cha Do It," "Uptown Blues" and "Lunceford Special." The stars of the band included arranger Sy Oliver (on trumpet and vocals), Willie Smith, Trummy Young (who had a hit with "Margie") and tenor saxophonist Joe Thomas.

 In 1939 it was a major blow when Tommy Dorsey lured Sy Oliver away (although trumpeters Gerald Wilson and Snooky Young were important new additions). Unfortunately Lunceford underpaid most of his sidemen, not thinking to reward them for their loyalty in the lean years. In 1942 Willie Smith was one of several key players who left for better-paying jobs elsewhere and the orchestra gradually declined. Jimmie Lunceford was still a popular bandleader in 1947 when he suddenly collapsed; rumors have persisted that he was poisoned by a racist restaurant owner who was very reluctant about feeding his band. After Lunceford's death, pianist / arranger Ed Wilcox and Joe Thomas tried to keep the orchestra together but in 1949 the band permanently broke up. -- Scott Yanow, All Music Guide

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Jimmy Lunceford

Don Drummond:

Age 27


(b.1943, Kingston, JA,
d. 6 May1969, Kingston, JA).

One of the saddest things about Jamaican music is that one of its principal innovators died before ever seeing the growth and success of the genre he helped to create.  His fragile mental condition was not helped by the lack of either financial rewards or recognition for his talents. 1/1/65: Don Drummond was jailed for the murder of his girlfriend, Marguerita Mahfood. He was later convicted and remanded to the Belle Vue Asylum where he ended his days in 1969. Foul play is suspected as he was reported to be in excellent physical health.  ~Music Central 96

New Year's Day of 1965, he was arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, exotic dancer Marguerita Mahfood.  Her body was found in his home, the victim of multiple stab wounds; after a brief investigation, Drummond was deemed legally insane, and committed indefinitely to Bellevue Hospital. He died there on May 6, 1969 at the age of 37 -- although officially explained as a suicide, there was no official autopsy, and rumors about his death continue to swirl to this day. At the memorial service, Supersonics drummer Hugh Malcolm ripped up the death certificate, charging the hospital staff with murder and calling Drummond a victim of the government authorities who regularly targeted Kingston-area performers; others claimed Drummond was slain by mobsters in cahoots with the family of Marguerita Mahfood. In any case, his death was the true end of an era, but his influence lives on. ~ Jason Ankeny, All-Music Guide

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Don Drummond

Lenny Breau

Age 43

 (Born August 5, 1941
Died August 12, 1984)

Lenny Breau was born August 5, 1941 and died August 12, 1984. Lenny was born in Auburn, Maine, USA to Hal "Lone Pine" Breau and Betty Cody. Lone Pine and Betty were country and western performers who were active together as a live and recording act from the mid 1940's to the late 1950's...In 1968 & 69 Lenny recorded two albums for RCA with his Winnipeg trio featuring Ron Halldorson (electric bass) and Reg Kelln (drums). The first album was a studio session produced in Nashville by Chet Atkins, and the second a live session recorded in Hollywood at the jazz club, "Shelly's Manne Hole" which was produced by Danny Davis. From late 1969 through 1973 Lenny played primarily in Toronto and Ottawa and worked as a sideman for Moe Koffman, Jimmy Dale, Beverly Glenn Copeland and Anne Murray, to name a few. He also led his own trio with various sidemen and performed at such venues as "The Riverboat " and "George's Spagetti House" in Toronto. After doing a national tour with Anne Murray, Lenny returned to Winnipeg late in 1973 and continued performing solo, in trios and as a sideman. Reunited with Kelln and Halldorson, they appeared at U of Manitoba's "Festival of Life and Learning". Lenny also played solo regularly at the "Ting", a Winnipeg coffeehouse. From 1974 until his death Lenny travelled extensively between Edmonton, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto, Nashville, New York, Maine and Los Angeles. During this period Lenny recorded for many small record labels as both leader and sideman. Some of the musicians he worked with included pedal steel great Buddy Emmons, guitarists Chet Atkins and Phil Upchurch and country fiddler Buddy Spicher.  The last period of Lenny's life (1981-84) was spent primarily in Los Angeles where he taught guitar at the "Musicians Institute" and performed at several jazz clubs (most notably "Donte's"). Lenny was found dead in the swimming pool of his apartment complex on August 12, 1984. Although his death was originally thought to be an accidental drowning, it was soon discovered that he had actually been murdered. The Los Angeles Coroner report determined that Lenny had been strangled; the case remains unsolved to this date. ~http://www.guitarchives.com/lb_bio.htm

Wardell Gray:

Age 34

(b. 13 February 1921, Oklahoma City, Ok
d. 25 May 1955, Nevada)

Wardell Gray was one of the top tenors to emerge during the bop era (along with Dexter Gordon and Teddy Edwards). His LesterYoung- influenced tone made his playing attractive to swing musicians as well as younger modernists. He grew up in Detroit, playing in local bands as a teenager.  Gray was with Earl Hines during 1943-45, recording with him (1945). That same year he moved to Los Angeles and he became a major part of the Central Avenue scene, having nightly tenor battles with Dexter Gordon; their recording of "The Chase" was popular. Gray recorded with Charlie Parker in 1947 and yet his style appealed to Benny Goodman with whom he played the following year. Among his own sessions, his solos on "Twisted" (1949) and "Farmer's Market" (1952) were turned into memorable vocalese by Annie Ross a few years later. Back in New York, Gray played and recorded with Tadd Dameron and the Count Basie septet and big band (1950-51); "Little Pony," his showcase with the Basie orchestra, is a classic. Gray was featured on some Norman Granz jam sessions ("Apple Jam" has a particularly heated solo) and recorded with Louie Bellson (1952-53). Ironically, Wardell Gray, who in the late '40s was an inspiration to some younger musicians due to his oppostion to drug use, himself  became involved in drugs and died mysteriously in Las Vegas on May 25, 1955, when he was just 34. ~Scott Yanow, All-Music Guide

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Wardell Gray

Gray died on 25 May 1955 in circumstances that have never been fully resolved: his body was found in the Nevada Desert, his neck broken. The official report gave the cause of death as a drug overdose, though there was no autopsy, and rumours persisted that Gray had been murdered—either for failing to pay gambling debts or simply as a random victim of racial violence.~Music Central 96

Avery Parrish

Age: 42

(Born: Jan. 24, 1917 in Birmingham, AL
Died: Dec. 1, 1959 in New York, NY)

Avery Parrish will always be most famous for his 1940 recording of "After Hours" with Erskine Hawkins' Orchestra but his playing career was actually tragically brief. Parrish attended Alabama State Teachers College where he became a member of the 'Bama Street Collegians in 1934, which in time became the Erskine Hawkins Big Band. Parrish was with Hawkins through the glory years, staying until 1941 and appearing on all of the band's early recordings. His "After Hours," a classic blues solo, would become a standard in future years. Parrish left Hawkins in 1941 to work in California but a year later he was in a bar fight, suffered partial paralysis and his playing career was over; he was only 24. Avery Parrish, who never recorded under his own name, spent the rest of his life working day jobs and when he was 42 he died mysteriously. — Scott Yanow



Select Musicians' Name for Official and Unofficial Websites

Brian Jones

Rolling Stones

Age 27

 (b. Lewis Brian Hopkin-Jones, 28 February 1942, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England
d. 3 July 1969, Cotchford Farm, Sussex)

While the Stones were re- establishing themselves, Brian Jones was falling deeper into drug abuse. A conviction in late 1968 prompted doubts about his availability for US tours and in the succeeding months he contributed  less and less to recordings and became increasingly jealous of Jagger's leading role in the group. Richards' wooing and impregnation of Jones' girlfriend Anita Pallenberg  merely increased the tension. Matters reached a crisis point in June 1969 when Jones officially left  the group. The following month he  was found dead in the swimming  pool of the Sussex house that had once belonged to writer A.A. Milne. The official verdict was ‘death by misadventure’.  ~music central '96 

"The many theories of murder mostly revolve around the many people who were at Brian's home that night, and whose police statements all clash and contradict one another. These theories carry a lot of weight and there seems to be too much proof to be just rumours. To find out more about the murder of Brian, look out for the books: 'Golden Stone-The Untold Life And Death Of Brian Jones' by Laura Jackson or 'Paint It Black-The Murder Of Brian Jones' by Geoffrey Giuliano."~redrooster 

Swedish girlfriend claims Stones' Brian Jones murdered
Thursday, July 08, 1999

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A Swedish woman who found Rolling Stones star Brian Jones drowned in his swimming pool 30 years ago has said she believes the guitarist was murdered.

Anna Wohlin, who was Jones' girlfriend at the time of his death, has broken her years of silence with a new book, "Murder of Brian Jones '' published this week.

Wohlin, now 53, told Swedish newspaper Expressen it had taken her this long to be able to talk about the night of July 3, 1969, when she found 27-year-old Jones' dead in the pool at his luxury farmhouse in Hartfield, England.

``It hurt so much and went so deep. It was as if it had not happened to me,'' Wohlin said in the interview. ``I was in such shock that I was sick. Then I repressed it -- I got married.'

A verdict of misadventure was recorded at the inquest into Jones' death. He was believed to have been swimming while under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

But Wohlin, who now runs a women's clothing shop in Stockholm, insists that by the time of his death Jones had stopped using hard drugs and had cut back on his drinking.

She claims builder Frank Thorogood, now also dead, killed Jones in a dispute over money. Thorogood was doing some work for Jones at his farm.

This theory gained credibility in 1994 when a recording of an alleged death bed confession by Thorogood came to light. Police briefly reopened the investigation but made no progress.

Wohlin said she decided after her recent divorce to tell her version of Jones' death.

``I felt that I wanted to tell what really happened, mainly for the sake of his son and his closest friends, who also believed that he died when he was on drugs. That wasn't true. I knew what was going on,''  she said.   ~Reuters/Variety

Rodd Keith

Age 37

(Rodney Keith Eskelin)
d. December 15, 1974)

Keith has become a cult figure among record collectors for his work in the "song-poem" (send us your lyrics) industry in the late 60s and early 70s.  

Rodd spoke of making a movie. It was said that he liked to take pictures and had bought one of the first video type cameras available.  Rodd described how the main character in this movie would jump to their death from a freeway overpass. Nobody thought much about it at the time. Two weeks later Rodd either jumped or fell to his own death in much the same way he described. Some of his friends thought he was depressed, perhaps the result of something in his childhood. Others swear that Rodd could have never taken his life intentionally. He certainly wasn't happy having spent so many years doing demos. There's a rumor going around that Rodd actually had his death leap filmed. It's probably a distortion of Rodd's movie story. Still, it's telling that no one that I've talked to dismissed it as being totally ridiculous, as if it were actually within his character to have done so. All in all, there are just as many compelling reasons to think that Rodd's death was indeed an accident. I like to think that he had a lot to live for. ~Ellery Eskelin  

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I Died Today

Russ Columbo:

Age 26

Born: Ruggiero Eugenio di Rudolpho Colombo 
Birthdate: January 14, 1908 
Died: September 2, 1934 at 7:30 pm. 

Russ Columbo spent most of Friday, August 31, 1934, at what would be his last session, recording the songs from Universal's Wake Up and Dream for the Brunswick label. That evening, he attended the preview of this film at the Pantages Theater on Hollywood Boulevard with Carole Lombard. His best friend of ten years, portrait photographer Lansing Brown, Jr., was also in the audience, but not seated near Lombard and Columbo. After appearing in close to a dozen films, Russ finally received top billing.  A Universal press release, prepared by John LeRoy Johnston ended with this quote from Columbo: "At 26, I find that I have just about everything I want from life and am pretty happy the way things have turned out for me."  On Saturday, September 1, Columbo drove to Santa Barbara for the out of town preview of Wake Up and Dream. That morning he had unsuccessfully attempted to telephone Lansing Brown, who had not given Russ his opinion of the film. Carole Lombard, exhausted from working on three productions in a row, heeded her doctor's advice and went with her secretary Madalynne Fields to Lake Arrowhead to rest. Rumors would later abound that the two had a fight, but this is not true. She and Columbo planned a late supper Sunday evening with Carole's mother, Elizabeth Peters, and brother, Stuart. Feeling a remonition of disaster, Lombard tried calling Columbo upon her arrival at Arrowhead, but found the telephone exchanges closed for the evening. They would never speak again...Lansing Brown kept a pair of antique dueling pistols on his desk. According to statements given at the inquest, Brown was toying with one of the pistols and holding an unlighted match in his left hand. The "trick" was that the hammer would ignite the match, although Brown would later testify that he did not know why he had the match and the gun, other than a sort of odd "habit." Unfortunately, the old relic had both gunpowder and a vintage minie ball. Somehow, the match and the hammer triggered the gun powder, and the bullet was discharged. Detectives later determined that the bullet must have ricocheted off the mahogany desk between the two men, striking Russ Columbo in the left eye, lodging at the back of his brain. He slumped in the  chair and immediately lost consciousness. It was 1:45 PM. Although Brown's father later testified that there was no evidence of any quarrel, and no one had been drinking liquor that afternoon, rumor claimed that "servants" heard loud voices shortly before the shot. Brown, Sr., assuming Columbo had died instantly, contacted the police. When the coroner's ambulance arrived to pick up the body, it was discovered that Russ was unconscious, but still alive. He was taken first to Hollywood Receiving Hospital, then transferred to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan.  Doctors attempted to save his life by surgery, but it was too late. Carole Lombard rushed down by automobile from Lake Arrowhead after being telephoned by surgeon George W. Patterson, but it was close pal and actress Sally Blane who was at Columbo's bedside when he died at 7:30 PM. He was 26 years old. 
Burial: Forest Lawn, Glendale CA. Russ was buried on October 17, 1934-this delay was caused by his family's debate on telling Julia Colombo her son was dead.   Russ is interred in the Sanctuary of the Vespers of the Great Mausoleum. Unlike the area where Carole Lombard is interred, this hallway is open to the public. Russ rests about a quarter of the way into the Sanctuary on the left side, about 8 feet from the floor. The crypt immediately beneath him is empty.  His brother Fiore, who died in 1929, is across from him, but on the top row.  The Colombo family ultimately chose not to tell Julia that her son had died, thus creating one of Hollywood's most unusual legends. Julia Colombo died 10 years later, in 1944. ~ Max Pierce


 Jesse Belvin :

Age 27

(b. 15 Dec 1932, San Antonio,
d. 6 February 1960, Hope, AR)

Less than three weeks before the first anniversary of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, and some 32 years before a presidential candidate made it one of America's most famous small towns, Hope, Arkansas was the site of a horrific car accident. Though very few fans of modern rock and pop music are aware of it, the crash snuffed out the life and career of Jesse Belvin, a major figure in the fusion of black soul and white folk music.

It is strange that Belvin's passing is rarely noted or even mentioned in written histories of American music.   He co-wrote one of the biggest hits of the 1950s --- "Earth Angel," a hit for The Penguins in 1955 --- and his recording of "Goodnight My Love" was used by Dick  Clark as the closing theme for "American Bandstand" for several years. 

Belvin was a golden-voiced crooner who could be a Nat King Cole clone on Tuesday, singing "Guess Who?" and "Old Man River," only to out-Elvis Presley himself  on Wednesday, with tunes like "By My Side" and "Just To Say Hello."

In fact, it was that very talent for his emulation of Presley and Little Richard that caused RCA Records to sign Belvin and begin a unique promotion in 1959. 

It would be a few years before the civil rights movement built up momentum, and RCA wanted badly to tap into the segregated South, by offering a "Black Elvis." This was ironic, indeed; early promotional material for Presley often called him "The White Soul Singerm" or "A White Little Richard."

The fatal car crash came less than four hours after Belvin had performed the first integrated concert --- that is, to an integrated audience --- in Little Rock.   It had been an ugly scene: White supremacists managed to halt the show twice, shouting racial epithets and urging the white teenagers in attendance to leave at once.

There had been at least six death threats on Belvin. So,  speeding away from Arkansas was truly a relief, and a cause for celebration.

Belvin's wife, JoAnn, died from her injuries at the Hope Hospital, while his driver --- like Jesse --- died at the scene.

As word reached the black community in Belvin's hometown,  Los Angeles, there were immediately rumors of foul play.

One of the first state troopers on the accident scene stated that both of the rear tires on Belvin's black cadillac had been "obviously tampered with."  He gave no more details, causing even more speculation.  The fact that Belvin had phoned his mother twice in the last three days, every time telling her about the hostile receptions he received, made suspicions stronger:  He rarely called home from the road, and never more than once a month.

Belvin's two children were left orphans, until their paternal grandmother agreed to assume legal custody.

In passing, Belvin left behind a legacy of brilliant songwriting as well as a plethora of doubts and confusion.  It seems unlikely his story would go untold until the end of the century, even as Holly and Valens were resurrected and immortalized as Rock Gods. Yet, of 500 people surveyed, only one knew who Belvin was,  while just seven thought they had heard his name before.

The scorched earth on the highway at Hope was still visible in 1980, leaving us with a sad and painful vacuum, close to the heart of rock and roll.

It is obvious Belvin has been relegated to the end of the rock legend line ... but the quest to make his story known is ever-thriving. We only hope it will one day be told.    ~Copyright 1992, 1998  ~by Eric Lenaburg








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