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
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
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 19501981.
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"
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"
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
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.