Wednesday, September 10, 2008


About a year ago I did a list covering the top tragedies of musicians in plane crashes and a list concerning those famous musicians who died at 27. Now, as the list of deceased musicians is ever growing with more and more different and sad ways of shuffling this mortal coil, I present you the top 10 motorcycle deaths involving musicians. Share in the desperation.

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This post is from a 1999 obituary: January 25, 1999

Dear Friends,
I'm sure many of you have already heard. We have very sad news. Jimmy Domengeaux was killed early Monday morning, January 25th, in a motorcycle accident here in southwestern Louisiana. For the past four years as guitarist with Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, he was featured in performances and recordings heard around the world. His music career stretched back some 38 years, perhaps most notably with the band "Black Dog." He also performed with Warren Storm, Cajun Heat, The Gumbo Cajun Band, Cheryl Cormier, amongst others.

Jimmy was a gifted guitarist and a happy spirit. His smile and his high voltage solos lit up the stage wherever he played and his dynamic style was an integral part of our sound. He was also a caring friend and a brother on the road. We speak not only for the band, but also the music community, and fans around the world, in sending our deepest condolences to his family in this sad time. He will be sorely missed.

Jimmy was 44 years old. He is survived by his mother and father Mr. & Mrs. Murphy Domengeaux, sisters Letty Darbone, Judy Theriot and Nancy Baham, brother Jackie Domengeaux and daughter Javen Domengeaux, age 9.


Although he only recorded one significant hit, "Sweet Mother," in 1976, which sold more than 13 million copies (and which is recognised as one of Africa's greatest songs), Mbarga played an important role in the evolution of African popular music. With his soulful vocals set to the light melodies of his acoustic guitar, Mbarga created a unique hybrid of Igbo and Congolese guitar playing and uplifting highlife rhythms. He formed his own group, Rocafil Jazz, to perform regularly at the Naza Hotel in the eastern Nigerian city of Onitsha. Prince Nico Mbarga was killed in a motorcycle accident on June 24, 1997, leaving behind "Sweet Mother" as the most popular song amongst Nigerians. Sweet Mother is sometimes called Africa's anthem and has been voted Africa's favourite song by BBC readers and listeners.


Spheeris primarily composed on the guitar and piano. His musical genre was generally in the folk music and singer-songwriter traditions, although later work explored jazz, rock music, jazz-rock fusion and new wave music.

With few exceptions, Spheeris’ guitar compositions employed the use of open tunings, also referred to as alternate tunings. Johnny Pierce (November 30, 1953 – December 12, 2005), worked with Spheeris as a recording session and touring artist from 1973 to 1980, and wrote extensive guitar tablature regarding the tunings Spheeris used throughout his career.
Spheeris died at the age of 34 in Santa Monica, California, when his motorcycle collided with a van at 2 a.m. on the morning of July 4, 1984.


Formed in the late eighties by Wales-born guitarist Haggis (a.k.a. Stephen Harris), who had been a touring bassist for The Cult and member of Zodiac Mindwarp, the Four Horsemen were based out of Hollywood, California, and featured Frank Starr on vocals.

Their first release was a self titled four track EP in 1989, which generated enough interest to get them a full album record contract with Def American.

The second album, Nobody Said it Was Easy was produced by Rick Rubin, and was by far their most popular. The album produced the title track as a single and the hit "Rockin' is Ma Business."
In November 1995, lead singer Frank Starr was hit by a drunk driver while driving his motorcycle down Sunset Strip and was left in a coma suffering from severe head injuries.


Newsboys' original core members, bassist Sean Taylor, vocalist John James, and drummer Peter Furler, formed the band in Mooloolaba, Australia in 1985 along with Furler's guitarist school mate, George Perdikis. The band's original name was The News, but once in the US they changed it to The Newsboys to avoid conflict with another US based band. The band came to the United States in late 1987 after getting signed with Refuge Communications, and released the album Read All About It in 1988. Kevin Mills joined later as a temporary bassist. Mills (1993–1995) — Left the band to join White Heart; Died in a motorbike accident on December 3, 2000.


The Amboy Dukes were an American rock music band of the late 1960s and early 1970s from Detroit, Michigan, best remembered for their hit single "Journey to the Center of the Mind", and for launching the career of Ted Nugent. Nugent's old friend from his Amboy Duke days, bassist Greg Arama was killed in a motorcycle accident on September 18th, 1979, at the age of 29.


Richard George Fariña ( March 8, 1937 – April 30, 1966 ) was an American writer and folksinger. He was a figure in both the counterculture scene of the early- to mid-sixties as well as the budding folk rock scene of the same era. In Europe, Fariña met Mimi Baez, the teenage sister of Joan Baez in the spring of 1962. Hester divorced Fariña shortly thereafter, and Fariña married 17-year-old Mimi in April 1963. They moved to a tiny cabin in Carmel, California, where they composed songs on a guitar and Appalachian dulcimer. They debuted their act as "Richard & Mimi Fariña" at the Big Sur Folk Festival in 1964 and were signed to Vanguard Records. On April 30, 1966, two days after the publication of his book, Fariña attended a book-signing at a Carmel Valley Village bookstore, the Thunderbird. Later that day, while at a party to celebrate Mimi's 21st birthday, Fariña saw a guest with a motorcycle and hitched a ride up Carmel Valley Road east toward Cachagua. The bike crashed within a mile or so. According to Pynchon's preface to Been Down..., the police said the motorcycle must have been traveling at 90 miles per hour, even though "a prudent speed" would have been 30 miles per hour. He was thrown from the back of the bike and killed instantly.


Donald Eugene Ulrich, best known by the stage name Don Rich (August 15, 1941-July 17, 1974) was a country music guitarist who helped develop the Bakersfield sound in the early 1960s. Rich's guitar tone was clean and concise and, as a musician, he did not confine his listening to country music alone. Rich enjoyed jazz guitar, he was particularly devoted to the playing of jazzman Howard Roberts. Rich also had an appreciation for pop music styles like The Beatles. Rich was open to new ideas. He created the percussive licks on "The Kansas City Song" by fingering chords as Buckaroos drummer Jerry Wiggins tapped the strings with his sticks. On July 16, 1974, after finishing work at Owens' Bakersfield studio, Rich was killed in a motorcycle accident.


Raymond Berry Oakley III (April 4, 1948 – November 11, 1972), was an American bassist and one of the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band. With the Allman Brothers, Oakley was known for his long, melodic bass runs underneath Allman and Betts' furious guitar soloing. "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and "Whipping Post" from the At Fillmore East live album capture Oakley at his best. Oakley was also the band member most involved in establishing domestic unity among the band's extended family. After Duane's untimely death, Berry became the band's de facto leader onstage and was generally credited with keeping the distraught members going.

On November 11, 1972, Oakley was involved in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia with a bus, just three blocks from where Duane had his fatal accident the year before. Oakley said he was okay after the accident, declined medical treatment, and went back to Big House. Just three hours later, he was taken to the hospital and died of a skull fracture.


Howard Duane Allman (November 20, 1946 – October 29, 1971) was an American session musician and lead guitarist of the southern rock group, The Allman Brothers Band. Allman is best remembered for his brief but influential tenure in the band he helped co-found, as well as his slide guitar and improvisational skills.[citation needed]

Alongside of his work with The Allman Brothers Band, Allman was an established session musician performing with many artists ncluding: King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Boz Scaggs, and Herbie Mann. He also had a major role on the 1970 album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named Allman as number two on their list of the greatest guitarists of all time. In 1968, Gregg Allman went to visit Duane, on his 22nd birthday. Duane was sick in bed. Gregg brought along a bottle of Coricidin pills for his fever and the debut album by guitarist Taj Mahal as a gift. "About two hours after I left, my phone rang," Gregg states. " 'Baby brother, baby brother, get over here now!' " When Gregg got there, Duane had poured the pills out of the bottle, washed off the label and was using it as a slide to play "Statesboro Blues," an old Blind Willie McTell song that Taj Mahal covered. "Duane had never played slide before", says Gregg, "he just picked it up and started burnin'. He was a natural." The song would go on to become a part of the Allman Brothers Band's repertoire, and Duane's slide guitar became crucial to their sound. That same sound was later picked up by other slide guitarists, such as Rory Gallagher, Derek Trucks and Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident only a few months after the summer release and great initial success of At Fillmore East. While in Macon on October 29, during a band break from touring and recording, Allman was riding his motorcycle, named Melissa, toward an oncoming truck that was turning well in front of him but then stopped in mid-intersection. He lost control of his Harley while trying to swing left, possibly striking the back of the truck or its crane ball. He flew from his bike, which landed on and skidded with him, crushing internal organs; he died a few hours later, less than one month shy of his 25th birthday. In a bizarre coincidence, bassist Berry Oakley would die less than 13 months later in a similar motorcycle crash with a city bus, just three blocks away from the site of Duane Allman's fatal accident.


  1. From Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show, Robert Jance Garfat, who played bass with the band from 1971 to 1984, died on November 6, 2006, in a motorcycle accident.

  2. Thanks, twowheels! As you can imagine this list turned out to be a slight bit tougher than I'd originally anticipated. I appreciate the comment and will add it soon as an honorable mention!


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