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Coroner: Overdose killed rocker; Tests reveal heroin, coke, Valium in body
by Bob Ussery
The New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Orleans, LA
Oct 21st, 1999



Orleans Parish Coroner Frank Minyard has ruled that a combination of drugs killed Bobby Sheehan, the bassist for the rock band Blues Traveler who immersed himself in the New Orleans music scene and received a warm reception from local musicians.

Sheehan, 31, found dead two months ago in his Garden District home at 1537 Sixth St., had heroin, cocaine and Valium in his system, toxicology tests showed.

At the time of his death, friends said he suffered from sleep apnea, a disorder that disrupts breathing during sleep and suspected that caused his death. But Minyard classified Sheehan's death as an accidental drug overdose.

"He lost his life at a very early age. It's very sad," Minyard said. "This guy had a bright future. This is too bad, but there's a lot of people in the entertainment field who do drugs. A lot of people in all fields. It's brought out when someone of his stature dies. A lot of other people die like that, lots of people do. It's too bad our society creates this kind of situation."

Sheehan and three high school friends formed Blues Traveler in New York in the mid-1980s. Led by harmonica virtuoso John Popper, they built up a national following, touring heavily, giving improvisational performances and appearing frequently on "Late Night With David Letterman." The catchy hit single "Run-Around" catapulted sales of the band's 1995 album four past the six million mark.

The four were ardent fans of New Orleans, and Blues Traveler performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1992, 1995 and 1997. Sheehan performed at this year's Jazzfest with blues guitarist John Mooney's band.

Sheehan moved to New Orleans in 1996, and bought the Sixth Street house last December. He worked with and befriended numerous local musicians.

Sheehan had installed recording equipment in his home, and the night before his death, he recorded a song with local drummer Carlo Nuccio. Sheehan went to bed Aug. 20 about 4:30 a.m. Several hours later, two friends who were spending the night checked on him and found him dead, police said.

Several years ago, Sheehan had been arrested on a charge of cocaine possession at the Canadian border while on tour with Blues Traveler.

Blues Traveler frontman John Popper said recently that he and the other two surviving members of the band plan to carry on without Sheehan.