Long Beach PT - May 27, 1996
By all indications, Long Beach singer Brad Nowell had a bright future.
From his new marriage to the burgeoning national reputation of his band Sublime, the East Long Beach native had a good deal to live for, not the least of which was an apparent victory in his battle with drugs.
Sadly, he lost that battle Saturday, just a week to the day after marrying longtime girlfriend Troy Dendekker in Las Vegas. Nowell, 28, was found dead in a San Francisco motel room, the apparent victim of a drug overdose.
Alan Pringle, an investigator with the San Francisco Medical Examiner's Office, said it will take weeks to confirm what family members say is obvious: Nowell, who had been clean and sober for two months, had stumbled, this time fatally, in his quest to conquer a five-year drug addiction.
"He had been doing really well," said Jason Westfall, one of Sublime's managers and a longtime friend of Nowell's.
"He was probably the happiest he'd ever been in his life. He got married a week ago to the day of his death, and he was excited about touring. He just finally succumbed to his addiction. This is as much of an accident as this sort of thing can be."
Sublime was in the midst of a five-day swing through California cities in preparation for a summer tour of Europe to promote the band's new album. The San Francisco show, scheduled for Saturday night, was canceled after Nowell's death.
Westfall, who was in San Francisco with the group, called Nowell's overdose "a sort of one-night thing, like a 24- to 36-hour sort of relapse." Nowell's father, Jim Nowell, said his son has been in and out of rehabilitation facilities since 1992. His most recent stay was in 1994, when Sublime's recording company provided several weeks of personal medical help, hoping to wean the singer from drugs, his father said.
Jim Nowell said the family believes Brad's death was due to a combination of drugs, possibly heroin, but said he would have to wait for the coroner's report to be certain.
Family, friends mourn:
Family and friends of the singer, guitarist and composer gathered in his father's Long Beach home Monday, comforting one another and reminiscing about Brad, a graduate of Wilson High School who had recently bought his first home in Surfside Colony, just south of where he'd grown up.
"He could lay in bed and look at the ocean and tell whether the waves were up," Jim Nowell said of his son, a surfing enthusiast.
With the July 30 release of their new album, Sublime, whose exotic mix of punk spiced with ska, reggae and hip hop had long been a favorite in local alternative circles, was poised for the big time.
Signed by Gasoline Alley, a subsidiary of MCA Records, in 1994, the band first gained wide recognition last year when KROQ-FM 106.7 began playing an early single called "Date Rape." Westfall said the release of the new album will be delayed at least until August to allow surviving band members Eric Wilson and Floyd "Bud" Gaugh time to recover before promoting their new work. But Westfall said this is the end of Sublime.
"I don't think Bud or Eric have any interest in making anything in the future with the name Sublime in it," Westfall said. "We will go on in music and do other things, but just like Nirvana, Sublime died when Brad died."
KROQ interrupted programming to announce Nowell's death Monday. KDEO-FM, an Oahu-based station, played blocks of Sublime songs Sunday and opened up phone lines to callers. Nowell, who had several relatives in Hawaii, made it a point to perform there, said KDEO disc jockey Kathy Nakagawa.
"He was just really cool when he came down," Nakagawa said. "It wasn't an act for them, being friendly, and talking to kids after the show about music. They weren't doing it because it was expected of them."
Nowell is survived by his wife, Troy; an 11-month-old son, Jakob; his father and stepmother, Jim and Jane Nowell; his mother, Nancy Watilo; brother, Cory; and sisters, Kellie, Katie and Kristin.
Memorial services are scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at Westminster Memorial Park in Westminster. A private graveside service will be held Monday. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Jakob James Nowell Trust Fund, 275 Redondo Ave., Long Beach, CA 90803.