Chris Gaffney, R.I.P.

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Southern California roots-rock and alt-country singer/guitarist Chris Gaffney has died. In recent years, Gaffney had performed with former Paladin Dave Gonzalez as one half of the Hacienda Brothers and also, for the last nine years, in Dave Alvin’s backing band. Gaffney had been suffering from severe liver troubles in recent months and was awaiting a transplant when he passed away. He was 57.

After honing his craft in Arizona road houses, Gaffney moved for a time to Canada, where backed Webb Pierce and Ferlin Husky. By the mid-‘70s, he had moved to Southern California, and in 1977, he formed a partnership with Wyman Reese, who would serve as the producer for Gaffney’s first three albums, which he released on the HighTone label over the course of the ‘80s and ‘90s – Loser’s Paradise, Chris Gaffney and the Cold Hard Facts, and Mi Vida Loca.

Gaffney never broke through to the top tier of the roots-rock world. Dave Alvin told the L.A. Times he was too honest: "One of the things that may have hindered him commercially was that he couldn't turn it on; he was a hundred percent honest. If Chris is in a good mood, you get an amazing show; if he was in a bad mood, he wouldn't hide it." (The rest of the very well-done obit is here.)

The music of Gaffney’s whole extended crew – the Paladins, Dave Alvin and all their various projects – was just as well-received in Houston and Austin as it was in Southern California. Over the years, Gaffney recorded with a who’s who of Austin musicians, once dueted with former Houstonian Lucinda Williams, and penned a song called “East of Houston, West of Baton Rouge.”

Gaffney is survived by his wife and several siblings in Canada and California and his daughter Erika, who lives here in Houston.

Here’s to your “Yearnin’, Burnin’ Heart.”

-- John Nova Lomax

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