By Michael Jackman and Brett Callwood
When Bootsey X, real name Robert Mulrooney, died after a four-year struggle with brain cancer in November at the age of 59, he left a huge hole in the Detroit rock ’n’ roll scene. Best known as the leader of his own band, Bootsey X & the Lovemasters, he also played with the Ramrods, Dark Carnival, Coldcock, the Sillies and Rocket 455, among others.
Mulrooney was a true rock star, the “Pusherman of Love” and a “Genius from the Waist Down.” He may not have received the attention that he deserved outside of Detroit, but here in the Motor City he was and is adored.
Bootsey X will be remembered as a tremendous front man and an absolute gentleman. “Bob and I talked often in later years about how rock 'n' roll can frequently end up being a loser's game,” said former MT music editor Bill Holdship. “The tragic thing is that in a more just world, and with better guidance and choices, he could have been a star. But in the end and in the wake of his death, it's obvious that no one who leaves behind that much love, respect and grief could ever be considered a loser. Not even close. Almost everyone whose life he touched loved Bob. Even though we weren't in touch much this last year except via email and Facebook, I will miss him dearly. Just the fact that there's no longer a Bootsey in the world is an overwhelming thought. He was one of the best friends I've ever had, always thinking of ways he could help me, even when he was going through his own horrible pain. Not just the Detroit music scene but Detroit itself is a much darker place without him.”
Holdship wrote a cover story on Bootsey X
back in 2010, in which he said that, “Bob's always seemed to view his role as a rock 'n' roll educator of sorts, be it bringing punk and funk shtick together in one band or testifying as a hairstylist and record store clerk to willing patrons.”BC
Another musician we lost this year, though not the best-known, or even very well-known, was drummer Edward Albert Altesleben. Known as “Fast Eddie,” Altesleben had been in more than a dozen Detroit-area bands. He died Sunday, Oct. 13 this year, at 32.
The various bands Altesleben participated in included the Tonsil Boxers, the Electric Lion Sound Wave Experiment, the Pizazz, the Valentinos, the Red Orchestra and, most notably, the Clone Defects
. Altesleben had recently performed in a 10-year-anniversary show with the Defects, and was making efforts to get his life back in order.
Altesleben’s longtime friend and bandmate Eric Villa spoke to us, telling us how he had spent that final Sunday with Altesleben.
“He came over at 11 a.m. and he was in great spirits, and we had some beers he was hanging out in the studio we were playing records on my radio show [Villa hosts a Sunday show on local low-power station 1610 AM] and insisted we play a record of ours. He wanted to borrow it and I was like no dude I’ll never get it back. And I was right.
“He came over for band practice after the show, and we were walking arm-in-arm and slapping fives the whole way there.
“I’ll never meet a kinder, sweeter, gentler soul who was also an extreme maniac at the same time. Things’ll never be the same.”
Altesleben was found dead at home later that night, which Villa attributes to “an overdose of life.” MJ
Grammy-winning jazz musician Yusef Lateef died on Christmas Eve at 93. Lateef was a respected tenor saxophonist and flutist, as well as jazz soloist on the oboe and bassoon.
Far from being a jazz traditionalist though, Lateef made it his mission to introduce western jazz audiences to instruments from all over the world, including many woodwind instruments.
"I believe that all humans have knowledge," he said in a 2009 interview for the National Endowment for the Arts (care of the Associated Press
). "Each culture has some knowledge. That's why I studied with Saj Dev, an Indian flute player. That's why I studied Stockhausen's music. The pygmies' music of the rain forest is very rich music. So the knowledge is out there. And I also believe one should seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. With that kind of inquisitiveness, one discovers things that were unknown before."
2010 saw Lateef named an NEA Jazz Master, the highest jazz honor that the USA offers, and he also earned a bachelor's degree in music and a master's degree in music education from the Manhattan School of Music. From 1987-2002, he was a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. He was awarded a doctorate in education by that institution.
Yusef Lateef was born William Emanuel Huddleston in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 1920, though he moved to Detroit in ’25 and it is here that he made his home. He would go on to perform with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, Charles Mingus’ Band, and Miles Davis among others. He created his own label, YAL Recordings, in ’92.
Writing about Lateef for before a tribute concert in 2012
, Charles Latimer wrote that, “Since the '70s, Lateef has called his music autophysiopsychic, which means music from one's physical, mental and spiritual self and includes music from all parts of the world. And for that matter, particularly since the 1980s, he's played a good deal of music that would lead a narrow-minded fan to agree he wasn't playing jazz. (Call out the jazz police, as they say.)”
“I want people to know that after all these years I'm still in love with Detroit," Lateef said. BC
The news hit a little closer to home than we’re used to this May when we learned that former Metro Times cultural editor Sarah Klein died in a car crash in California. Statuesque and voluptuous with platinum blond hair, Klein cultivated the look of a 1940s movie star or pinup girl — a quality that, along with her sense of humor, served her well onstage, where she performed under the name Sparkly Devil.
Klein, 36, was a writer who was attracted to the offbeat and the edgy. In a December 2006 story she wrote for MT
as she was preparing to leave for California, Klein noted: “I’ve been writing about the cultural underground of Detroit for Metro Times for nearly seven years. In that time, I’ve seen a lot: the good, the bad, the beyond ugly, the touching, the profound, and the tragic. I’ve ridden shotgun with designer kidnappers in vinyl catsuits, dived into the Detroit River in the middle of December, and crawled around in the woods with a bunch of geeks hitting each other with foam rubber swords. I’ve knocked around the dive bars, soaked up live music, crawled through urban ruins, met the people and shared their stories.”
Former editor W. Kim Heron pointed out that Klein had a real knack for penning stories that attracted a huge audience. As measured by Web hits, some of her work remains among the most popular ever published in MT. Heron noted: “Sarah was a cut-up, no way around it. I don’t know what she was like in school, but I can imagine her holding fort at the back of the class. If you were back there near her, your grades would go down, but you’d learn a thing or two.”
During the last seven years in California, Klein’s prominence as a burlesque star only grew, she married the love of her life, Raul “Bones” Padilla and continued to write and network with the West Coast’s burgeoning fringe performance scene.
Then came May 26. Klein, 36, was a passenger in a red Honda coupe driven by her husband, Raul “Bones” Padilla, 43, when the car was involved in a collision with a party bus on Highway 101 south of San Francisco, according to news reports. Klein was not wearing a seat belt and was killed; Padilla was placed in critical condition.
A spokesman for the California Highway Patrol told reporters that Padilla was driving southbound on Highway 101 when the vehicle spun out of control near Burlingame and crashed into the middle divider. After the vehicle came to rest facing northbound, a party bus carrying 18 people crashed head-on into the Honda Padilla and Klein were in. She wasn’t wearing a seat belt, and both she and Padilla had reportedly been drinking. It is not yet known if alcohol was a contributing factor. No one in the party bus was seriously injured.
Klein had performed earlier in San Francisco, and the two were on their way home to San Mateo when the crash occurred. MJ
Elmore “Dutch” Leonard, one of Detroit’s best-known novelists, died at the age of 87 on Tuesday August 20 at his home, surrounded by his family.
Leonard, of course, wrote Get Shorty
, Out of Sight, Mr. Majestyk
and Rum Punch
, the latter filmed by Quentin Tarantino as Jackie Brown
In March of 2011, Dutch welcomed Metro Times staff into his home to interview and photograph him for what would be a cover feature called The Dickens of Detroit
. We remember him as a charming man, eager to share stories of his early struggles as well as his later successes. The fact that there wasn’t a computer in his office, and that his leap from a typewriter to an electric typewriter was ‘techy’ enough, will make us smile for years to come.
Speaking of his love for the city of Detroit, and the fact that it provides the perfect backdrop for his crime fiction, Leonard told us, “The Detroit News
asked me if I'd do a piece on the homicide division, Squad Seven. I went down and spent three weeks with them. They would call me when they had a homicide. I would meet them at the scene and watch them investigate. Back to the police headquarters on Beaubien, I would watch them interrogate witnesses and suspects. That was fun. I'd sit in when a guy finally gives up and is confessing, making his statement.”
Leonard was a wonderful writer. He will be remembered for always making sure he got his facts right regarding street names, newspapers, etc, and often including Detroit bands, like the Howling Diablos, in his stories.
Speaking to PSFK.com
, Elmore’s son Peter Leonard said that, “Elmore was the coolest guy I knew. He wore sleek Italian loafers and drove a Fiat in Detroit, a city where the Big Three [General Motors, Ford and Chrysler] were revered. When he wrote, Elmore wore jeans and Birkenstocks, Nine Inch Nails and Drive-by Truckers T-shirts. He was friends with Steven Tyler, and invited Aerosmith over to his house to swim and play tennis.” BC