Hummel, a key Big Star figure, particularly during the recording of second album Radio City, appears to have died today after a long illness.
We are awaiting official confirmation of this sad piece of news. The closest confirmation right now comes from Posies’ frontman Ken Stringfellow, who was close to the surviving members of the pioneering Memphis power-pop band. Stringfellow’s Twitter account just posted: “Another sad loss for Big Star fans as Andy Hummel passes away after long illness.”
Andy Hummel, founding bassist for the influential ‘70s Memphis band Big Star, died of cancer July 19 in Weatherford, Texas. He was 59.
Though inactive in music since the mid-‘70s, Hummel appeared with drummer Jody Stephens at a panel on Big Star and a tribute show during the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival in March; the emotional performance, at Antone’s, paid tribute to vocalist-guitarist-songwriter Alex Chilton, who died March 17, on the eve of the convention.
Hummel was raised in Memphis and after playing in several hometown teen combos, he joined the group Icewater, whose personnel included Stephens and singer-guitarist-songwriter Chris Bell. The band morphed into Big Star with the addition of ex-Box Tops lead singer Chilton in 1971…
Memphis Commercial Appeal:
Hummel had been receiving treatment for the past couple of years, but recently went in for a hip operation and was informed that the cancer had spread and that his condition was terminal.
“At that point,” said Hummel’s friend, Ardent Studios owner and Big Star producer John Fry, “Andy elected to accept hospice care and spent the last couple weeks at home with his family.”
“He was such an inspiration,” said Big Star drummer Jody Stephens, now the lone surviving original member of the band. “I’d known Andy since the 7th grade. What an impact he had on my life. He will be sorely missed.”
Hummel’s death comes during what has been a bittersweet year for the Big Star family. In the fall of 2009, the band — which reunited sans Hummel in the early ’90s — released a critically acclaimed multidisc box set and a played series of high-profile performances in London and New York. But the past 10 months have also witnessed the deaths of Big Star frontman Alex Chilton, producer Jim Dickinson, band associate Tommy Hoehn and now Hummel.
“It’s been pretty devastating” Fry said…
An interview with Hummel, from Perfect Sound Forever in 2001:
PSF: Who were your musical heroes early on?
I began listening to top 40 singles when I was in grade school. I loved surf music especially. Then along came the Beatles. I can still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first heard them. They totally blew me and everyone else away. It’s sad that so many of the younger folks interested in music these days missed that experience. The Beatles were all anyone talked about. I mean everyone, old and young, the news media, they were just the main thing happening in the world at the time. After that it was the British invasion and I loved all those bands, bought their records, etc. and just listened to Rock and Roll as much as I could. I had a little 45 record player and lots of singles.
PSF: How did you get started with music yourself?
I began studying classical piano in the third grade and continued through the ninth. I began playing in bands in the seventh. In about the eighth grade I was playing in a band in Memphis called The Chessmen. Our drummer became somewhat unreliable and our lead guitar player brought Jody over as a stand-in. He knew him from his church. That’s when I first met Jody. In the tenth grade I transferred to M.U.S., a private prep school in Memphis. Chris was a classmate and had a band called Christmas Future. They played a lot of Hendrix and Cream and stuff and just blew me away. All I had ever done was soul and white-boy punk.
When I got to the seventh grade some guys wanted to start a band. They needed a bass player. I bugged my old man until he bought me one. It was a sunburst Fender Precision bass. I took about 10 lessons at a local music store, broke the code and took off. Already having played the piano for so long once I knew which finger to put where to get the notes the rest was easy. By late in the seventh grade I was playing in the Chessmen as described above. Meanwhile I bought a cheapo creapo Sears Silvertone acoustic 6 string. The strings must be 1/2 inch off the fretboard (I still have it!). I just played it and played it. I picked out all the songs on all the records I could get…