Bobby Sheehan Died From Overdose, Coroner Reportedly Rules

Doctor quoted by Associated Press cites heroin, cocaine, Valium for Blues Traveler bassist's demise.

A combination of heroin, cocaine and the sedative Valium killed Blues

Traveler bassist Bobby Sheehan in what the New Orleans coroner has ruled

an accidental overdose, according to the Associated Press.

Sheehan, who was 31, died at his New Orleans home Aug. 20. Dr. Frank

Minyard, the Orleans Parish coroner, made his ruling Wednesday (Oct.

20), based on toxicology tests, the AP reported.

"It's very sad," Minyard was quoted as saying. "This guy had a bright

future."

Minyard could not be reached for comment Thursday (Oct. 21). An

investigator who worked on Sheehan's case would not comment. Spokespersons

for Blues Traveler could not be reached for comment.

Sheehan, described as an ardent partyer and fun-loving guy by friends,

pleaded guilty in January 1998 to possessing less than a gram of cocaine

after he was arrested in September 1997 at an airport in Winnipeg, Manitoba,

while on tour with Blues Traveler.

Buddy Arnold, president of the Musicians' Assistance Program, a Los

Angeles group that works with record labels to oversee and pay for the

treatment of drug-addicted musicians, said Sheehan contacted him shortly

after his arrest.

When Sheehan "called me from out of town ... and said he was staying on

the road," Arnold recalled Thursday, "I said, 'Please call me as much as

you can.' And he was supposed to get in touch ... wherever he was going

to be. He did nothing."

Arnold, 73, is a jazz saxophone player who used heroin from 1950–1981.

He has run MAP since its inception in 1992.

The surviving members of Blues Traveler — singer/harmonica player

John Popper, guitarist Chan Kinchla and drummer Brendan Hill —

announced earlier this month they would continue as a band. No decision

about replacing Sheehan has been made, according to a band spokesperson.

"We thought it would be useless to compound the tragedy by letting something

we all, including Bobby, worked so hard for, to fall apart," Kinchla said

in a statement released Oct. 6 through A&M Records.

Popper, in a September interview with MTV News, said he suspected

drugs might have played a role in his bandmate's death. Popper has performed

an acoustic rendition of Blues Traveler's 1991 song "Sweet Pain"

(RealAudio

excerpt) as the nightly encore on his current solo tour, which

resumed Wednesday at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, Calif.

"We heard some very disturbing rumors that he was getting into stuff that

we never knew about. And that's always a bad sign, when somebody's keeping

stuff from you," Popper said.

"It's such a stereotypical story," he continued. "And I really thought

that we were all smarter than that. But [the story went,] 'Fat guy has

a heart attack, guy does drugs and dies.' "

Popper, who released his first solo album, Zygote, Sept. 7, underwent

angioplasty — a procedure for unblocking arteries — in July,

after experiencing chest pains.

Blues Traveler formed in Princeton, N.J., in 1988. They organized the

annual Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere tour and have released three

platinum albums, including the six-times platinum Four (1994).

That album included the top-10 pop hit "Run-Around" (RealAudio

excerpt), which broke several months after the album's release.

With Sheehan, the group's music was characterized by his groove-heavy

bass, Popper's harmonica solos and the band's onstage jams, during which

Kinchla and Popper would trade riffs between the former's guitar and the

latter's harmonica.

Sheehan moved to New Orleans with his girlfriend last year and was working

on a solo album at the time of his death. Chris Robinson, singer for the

Black Crowes, which toured as part of H.O.R.D.E. in 1992, said last month

that he hung out with Sheehan in New York a month before he died.

"He was kind of telling me how much he was digging New Orleans," Robinson

said. "He seemed to be in a really good place."

Arnold said that if anything good comes from Sheehan's death, it will be

the potential benefit to other drug-using musicians.

"If somebody of his stature [dies of an overdose], then everyone, especially

the area in which we work, the music business, hears it, listens [to] it,

notes it and does something about it," he said.

(SonicNet is a division of MTV Interactive.)

(An earlier version of this story ran at 5:10 p.m. EDT Thursday, Oct.

21, 1999.)