Ex-Heartbreakers Bassist Dead at 47 – Report
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Rock musician Howie Epstein, bassist for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers for 20 years until ousted from the band last May, has died in a New Mexico hospital, Billboard magazine’s Web site reported on Tuesday.
Epstein, who was 47, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the veteran rock band in 2001. He had battled legal and drug problems in recent years.
Although the cause of the musician’s death on Sunday night was not immediately known, a female companion who took Epstein to a Santa Fe hospital told authorities he had been using heroin and also had been taking prescription antibiotics for an illness, according to
“We are deeply saddened at the news of Howie’s passing,” the online report quoted Petty & the Heartbreakers as saying in a statement. “It’s difficult to put into words how much we loved him and will miss him. The world has lost a great talent and a kind … soul. We can only take solace in knowing he is now at peace. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his many friends.”
The veteran rock band fired Epstein in May of last year, citing his “ongoing personal problems,” and he was replaced on tour by Ron Blair, the original band member Epstein subbed for in 1982.
Epstein and his then-girlfriend, Carlene Carter, daughter of country music icon June Carter Cash, were arrested in New Mexico in 2001 while driving a vehicle that was reportedly stolen. Inside, state troopers found three grams of black tar heroin and drug paraphernalia. Carter was charged with heroin possession, and both with receiving or transferring a stolen vehicle, but the cases ultimately were dismissed.
Epstein, a Milwaukee native who previously played with John Hiatt and Del Shannon, joined the Heartbreakers in 1982. In addition to playing bass, he sang harmony.
In an interview with Reuters last fall, Petty said no one had heard from Epstein in many months.