Funeral Blues

Three local music figures are cut down in one week

March was exceedingly tough on the local music community. As noted in this column two weeks ago, Texas Music News scribe Bill "the Boneman" Gonce passed away on the ninth. Since then, three more Houston music luminaries have died, each one tragically: Celtic music institution Lloyd Gibson, world music maven Julie De Rossi and young jazz guitarist Stefan Schultz.

On March 17, Gibson, a fiddler-guitarist, was killed in a car accident on the Southwest Freeway near the Mandell overpass. In addition to his performing and teaching duties, Gibson founded the local chapter of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, a group that promoted traditional Irish music and dance, sold hard-to-find Irish and Scottish CDs on his Web site, and ran a label called Abacus Records. Gibson, who was 53, came from a musical family -- his brother Zip, who survives him, was Steve Earle's bass player in the early 1980s and his lead guitarist on the Copperhead Road and Hard Way tours. (Incidentally, it was Zip -- thanks perhaps to something he learned from Lloyd -- who came up with the Irish-sounding keyboards-as-bagpipes intro to "Copperhead Road.")

"Lloyd never tried to make anything from the music," says former Clandestine piper and current solo artist E.J. Jones. "He would rather teach people who knew nothing to play guitar or fiddle. He was very self-effacing, a servant to the music."

Earlier, in the wee hours of the same day, about eight miles south along the same Southwest Freeway, 44-year-old manager-promoter Julie De Rossi also was killed in a car accident, rear-ended at the Hillcroft underpass by a speeding drunk driver. An ardent lover of world music, especially West African and Latin stuff, De Rossi ran Motherland Entertainment, and through the company managed and/or booked and promoted Buddhacrush, Drop Trio, Dubtex, Corey Stoot, the Nigerian rapper Weird MC, Grupo Fantasma and others. De Rossi was a lady of great style, class and honesty. She had a keen sense of fairness and very big ideas. Just before she died, she was plotting starting up a yearly international music festival to rival, and she hoped one day surpass, the Houston International Festival.

"She was always there for the bands she believed in," says Grupo Fantasma guitarist Adrian Quesada. "She had nonstop energy about her favorite bands. And a lot of what she did, she did out of love for the music. Sure, she got paid when she would promote our shows here, but she always took our press kits and handed them out to people for nothing."

On March 23, 27-year-old jazz guitarist Stefan Schultz was found dead in his bedroom, a casualty to drug addiction and mental illness, as his obit frankly stated. An HSPVA grad and a former student at the Berklee College of Music, Schultz toured with Chuck Mangione, was the first Berklee student ever to get a cut on a sampler CD issued by Jazziz magazine, and played locally at Helios with the Trade and at Brasil with other combos.

"It was so unnecessary," says local vibraphonist Harry Sheppard. "Oh, he had some problems, but he always had the nicest smile for you. Just a wonderful, warming smile. He used to always ask me to tell stories about the old-timers. He'd go, 'Tell me about so-and-so, did you ever come across him?' He loved that…He was just so sweet. I just cannot believe it."

And it wasn't just his disposition that was sweet. So was his gift. Whatever "it" is, Schultz had it. "God, he was some talent," Sheppard says. "And as great as he was, he hadn't even begun to develop. He had incredible chops, and his technique was far beyond his years. Far beyond his years. He was never afraid. I don't know how much he practiced, but he was never afraid to jump in over his head."

There is some good news in town. Marshall Preddy is hosting a new monthly local showcase at the Proletariat. Called the Happy Hour Invitational, the gig is, well, just that. The show starts at 6 p.m. on the third or fourth Monday of each month, and you have to be invited to perform. Preddy, whose "Custom Drinker" alter ego is the host of the show, describes the event as a cross between open-mike night and a full-on show. "It's booked in advance, but the sets are short -- 30 minutes or less," he writes via e-mail. (We can't talk at length, 'cause he has a day job.) "It's not an acoustic hour, though. Instead, we encourage local musicians to step out of their bands and do something new -- a solo show or a one-off project with other musicians -- whatever, as long as it's different."

Preddy says not to worry if you don't have a band right now. "Just get some people together, learn some songs and play them in a low-pressure setting in front of friends. Other than that, anything goes. Any instruments or no instruments, it's all acceptable, I'm willing to book anyone who puts something interesting together." To submit material, send an e-mail to

Admission is free, the musicians don't get paid, and since the event takes place during happy hour at the Proletariat, the drinks are double -- no, make that triple -- cheap. Preddy also wants to stress that all genres are encouraged to submit their music for consideration -- from the Prolo's staple indie rockers and undie rappers to blues, country and anything else, so long as it isn't your usual format or lineup.

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