Kid Rock Sidekick Joe C. Dies

Joseph Calleja, best known to music fans as Kid Rock's undersized sidekick Joe C., died in his sleep on Thursday evening at his home in Taylor, Michigan, according to a statement issued by Kid Rock's label, Atlantic Records. Calleja was 26.

"We have lost part of our family," Kid Rock said in a statement Friday afternoon (November 17).

"Family and friends are everything," Kid Rock said in the statement, on behalf of the pair's Twisted Brown Trucker bandmates. "Without them, all of the fame and fortune means nothing. ... Joey gave us and the world his love. He brought a smile to everyone who has ever known or seen him.

"In a world full of confusion, Joey made all of us laugh," Kid Rock's statement continued. "No matter what color, religion, race, or beliefs we have, he made us all smile. He gave us the gift of joy. Joey, thank you. We will never forget you. We love you."

Reached on Friday, police officials in Taylor indicated that the death was being

ruled as due to natural causes and that the local medical examiner had already released the body to the funeral home without performing an autopsy.

Calleja's short stature was the result of a lifelong illness, celiac disease, a digestive disorder that required him to take more than 60 pills a day and be monitored by a machine at night.

Joe C. described his daily routine during an interview with MTV News' John Norris this summer.

"I'm doin' good, man," Calleja said. "I'm stickin' to my diet and takin' my medicine on time. You know, it's ridiculous. I take 60 pills [a day]. Right off the bat, when I wake up, [I take] two pills. An hour later, 10 pills. Three hours later, I've got the tube [in my stomach], and I shoot something through there three hours later. Two hours later, I take two more, and then an hour later, 10, then shoot the tube three hours later [again]."

Joe C. made his musical debut by providing backing vocals on Kid Rock's multiplatinum 1998

album, Devil Without a Cause, and also contributed a solo version of "Kyle's Mom's a Big Fat Bitch" for last year's "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" soundtrack.

Prior to his death, Joe C. was said to be working on a planned solo album that he jokingly told "Entertainment Weekly" in October 1999 would be titled Enquiring Size Wants To Grow.

Joe C.'s battle with celiac disease forced him to leave Kid Rock's tour in November 1999, although he made a brief return to the road for several dates of the recent Summer Sanitarium tour featuring Metallica, Kid Rock, Korn, Powerman 5000 and System of a Down.

Korn's Jonathan Davis phoned in to MTV's "TRL" on Friday afternoon to express his condolences to Calleja's family as well as to Kid Rock and the Twisted Brown Trucker band.

"He had a really positive energy about him," Davis recalled. "For such a little guy, he really

lived big and walked big, and he's going to be missed. ... He did bring happiness to a lot of people." [RealAudio]

"TRL" host Carson Daly, who spoke with Kid Rock before going on the air, said that Kid Rock was visiting with Calleja's family.