Blues Traveler dodged tragedy earlier this year when frontman John Popper underwent successful angioplasty surgery, but the band was blindsided this morning when bassist Bobby Sheehan was found dead in his New Orleans home. He was thirty-one.
"Bobby was an original, founding member of Blues Traveler. From the very beginning of that band, there was never a change of personnel. This is a very large loss," Steve Karas, the band's publicist at Interscope/A&M, said late Friday afternoon.
At press time, Karas said he did not yet have information to pass on regarding the cause of death. The New Orleans coroner's office would not disclose details, but a spokesperson for the New Orleans Police Department said an autopsy was pending. According to a police department press release, Sheehan had apparently gone to sleep at 4:30 a.m. and was discovered in an unresponsive state in his bed at 11 a.m. by two friends who had been spending the night. Police and medics were summoned, but he was pronounced dead at the scene. The statement said there were no signs of foul play or trauma.
Blues Traveler have been on hiatus since canceling their annual Fourth of July show at Denver's Red Rocks Amphitheater due to Popper's heart condition. In a recent interview with Rollingstone.com, Popper said he had been wanting to take time off before that to work on a solo album. "It just seemed like what we needed was time to do something else," he said. According to Karas, Sheehan had recently begun working on his own solo album. "I think that John's side project probably had him looking think about that as well, but by no means was Blues Traveler not going to be looking towards doing their sixth studio record in the late fall," he said. "That was always part of the plan."
Popper said the band was scheduled to reconvene in November after his solo tour to begin writing the next Blues Traveler album, and the group was set to play a New Year's show in Reno, Nev. The status of those plans now remains up in the air. "I think beyond everybody being there for each other, there's probably no dialogue at all about those issues at this point," said Karas. "I don't know what the status of that appearance for Blues Traveler on New Years Eve is. All further information about where the band is going to go from here will be coming at some time in the future."
Written by RICHARD SKANSE for RollingStone.com News