Big Star by John Fry

Founding Big Star bassist Andy Hummel died yesterday after a two-year struggle with cancer. He was 59.

The bassist’s death comes just four months after Big Star frontman Alex Chilton died of a heart attack. Drummer Jody Stephens is now the sole remaining member of the classic Big Star lineup.

Hummel co-founded Big Star in 1971 and appears on the group’s seminal releases, # 1 Record and Radio City. The bassist left Big Star in 1973 to complete his senior year of college and retired from performing. The remaining members of Big Star completed work on a third album, Third/Sister Lovers, before formally disbanding. Chilton and Stephens reformed Big Star in the ‘90s with members of The Posies filling in for Hummel and guitarist Chris Bell (who died in 1978).

“It was time for me to go register for my senior year [of college], and the band was getting ready to go off and try to do some serious touring, and the two couldn’t go together,” Hummel told Relix of his decision to leave Big Star this past October . “I couldn’t do it and still finish college. It doesn’t seem like a long time now, but for nearly four years, none of us had made any money. We were all still living with our parents except Alex, who had money from his life as a Box Top. We didn’t have jobs except playing music at Ardent and that didn’t look like it was gonna sustain us. So I left—which at the time seemed like the obvious choice—finish college and see if I could make a living doing something.”

Hummel was in Austin, TX at the SXSW Music Conference this March to speak on a panel about Big Star when he heard about Chilton’s death. He sat in with the current version of Big Star a few days later and joined the members of the band at a memorial gig for Chilton in Memphis this past spring. Stephens has not announced the band’s future plans.

“I don’t wanna sound bigheaded or pompous, but I think we were our own scene,” Hummel recently told Relix. “Most people in Memphis were doing rockabilly or stuff that had evolved from rockabilly, or R&B and stuff that had evolved from R&B. There were a few of us who were really into British Invasion stuff, and I’m not sure a whole bunch of people in Memphis really were, [but] I don’t think it’s something where we consciously thought, ‘We’re different from the guys at Stax,’ or ‘We’re different from the guys at American.’”

Please click here for a recent Relix interview with Hummel.