Fund-raiser for Guy´s burial
Las Vegas Sun Obituary
Guardian Unlimited Obituary
Billboard Daily Music News
Reno Gazette Journal on the funeral
Note: Guy´s funural was held November 26th, 2002
Fund-raiser to help pay costs of singer's burial
Guy died suddenly of heart disease on Nov. 5 at age 66. Van Klyde, a graveyard shift cage cashier at the New Frontier, never married Guy so she could not claim his body, which remains unclaimed. Despite the popular success of the Coasters, Guy, who provided the deep baritone for the legendary rock 'n' roll group, could wind up in an unmarked pauper's grave. Local entertainers and friends on Monday said they won't let that happen.
At least one local fund-raiser is scheduled this week, and friends from across the nation say they will contribute money to defray an estimated $3,700 to $5,000 for funeral and burial expenses that include a headstone. When told that Guy died without the funds to have himself buried, friends were not surprised, but dismayed. "That's a shame if it comes to that," original Coaster Carl Gardner said Monday from his home in Florida. "Billy didn't take the best care of himself, and he didn't save his money. Still, he should be buried and left in peace."
Veta Gardner, Carl's wife, said she is informing disc jockeys at oldies stations and others of the situation to help with fund-raising efforts. Friends are trying to locate Guy's estranged children, Peter and Lisa, to get them to either claim his body or give Garden Memorial mortuary permission to cremate him, which would reduce costs by about $2,000. Jerry Copija, the mortuary's director, said Guy's sister from Los Angeles came forward Monday but could not claim the body. "She said she did not have the financial resources," Copija said. "She is trying to locate other family members, including Guy's children, but does not know where they are."
On Monday Van Klyde recalled her life with Guy, whom she met in the early 1970s at a pancake house in Hollywood. "We just got to talking," she said. "He never mentioned during that conversation he was a member of The Coasters. He wasn't one to blow his horn. "It was difficult for us at first, him being black and me being white. The looks of disapproval we would get from people -- it was a big thing in those days." Van Klyde said at that time Guy would go out on the road for months at a time and bring home a lot of money that they routinely spent on life's pleasures. The couple moved to Las Vegas in 1985.
Guy, who received 25 percent of royalties from the sale and commercial playing of The Coasters records, saw those checks gradually shrink over the years. "I was surprised in recent years that any money was coming in at all," Van Klyde said. "It wasn't much -- about $1,500 every three months. They're not selling too many Coasters records anymore." Van Klyde said in the 1990s Guy would spend a lot of time writing new music "and trying to get something going," but all his public wanted to hear was the old Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller classics such as "Yakety Yak" and "Charlie Brown." "It frustrated him," Van Klyde said, noting Guy last performed with a version of the Coasters in 1999 at the Sahara Hotel. "All those years we were together, I only went to a couple of his shows -- one at the Four Queens and the other in California, I believe."
In his final months Guy would spend his days watching television or would frequent the
Barbary Coast to bet football and other games. A simple man, his earthly possessions were
few -- four bags of clothes, two music awards and a photo album that fit in the palm of
his hand. The awards were a trophy commemorating his 1987 induction into the Rock 'n' Roll
Hall of Fame and the 1994 Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. The few
photos he kept were snapshots of fellow Coasters after the Rock and Roll induction
ceremony, a 5-by-7-inch high school photo of his daughter, Lisa, and severalshots of his
Two local organizations Grace Ministries and The Cast Inc., have joined forces to hold a Wednesday fund-raiser to help pay for Guy's burial. "We already had set the date for our November fund-raiser, so we invited The Cast to join us and split the proceeds," said singer Leslie Anders said. "We are pooling our efforts and resources to get Billy a decent sendoff," she said. "We feel he should not be stacked three caskets deep in an unmarked grave." Randy Poe, spokesman for Leiber and Stoller, said Monday the songwriters will help with efforts to bury him. Chuck Rubin of Artists Rights Enforcement Corp., a New York-based company that collects royalties on behalf of Guy and other musicians, said his organization will match Leiber and Stoller's donation.
"We have an obligation, a moral responsibility, to get involved," Rubin said. "Billy entertained millions of people with a beautiful expression of Leiber and Stoller's music, giving it a voice that will live forever." Copija said he will attend Wednesday's fund-raiser and will discount his fees for Guy's services and burial. Guy's distinctive baritone voice can be heard as the lead on "Searchin'." The group's other hits include "Young Blood," "Along Came Jones," "Poison Ivy" and "Little Egypt."
November 15, 2002
Billy Guy, who as a member of the legendary rock 'n' roll group The Coasters entertained millions with his baritone lead on "Searchin' " and sang backup on many other hits, could wind up in an unmarked pauper's grave in Las Vegas. Guy died Nov. 5 at his Las Vegas apartment and no one has claimed the body of the 66-year-old performer, who for five decades performed with the quartet that was formed in 1955 and enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 as one of the Cleveland museum's original inductees.
"After seven days we usually apply to Clark County for a Social Services burial, but because he was an entertainer, we have waited a little longer hoping some kind soul would step forward," Jerry Copija, director of Garden Memorial mortuary, said Thursday. "But regardless of a person's celebrity, we really want to find family or friends who will give every person a decent farewell."
Local entertainer Nelson Sardelli, founder of The Cast Inc., a charitable organization of Las Vegas entertainers, was informed by a Sun reporter Thursday of Guy's death and said his organization would do what it can to defray the estimated $3,700 to $5,000 it would cost to bury Guy in a marked grave. "We recently started this organization because there was nothing in Las Vegas to address situations like this," Sardelli said. "If we cannot pay the whole cost for the burial, we can help with part of the cost and maybe start a fund so that others can donate."
The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame Foundation in New York has a fund to assist down-and-out musicians, but spokeswoman Elizabeth Freund said Thursday she did not know whether the fund also helps defray burial costs for indigent rockers.
The Clark County Coroner said Guy died from heart disease. Guy's death marks the third time a Coaster has died in Southern Nevada:
On Feb. 26, 1990, Cornell Gunter, longtime frontman and the first of several replacement members of the group, was shot to death at age 53 while getting into his car at the corner of Berg Street and Bourbon Way in North Las Vegas.
On April 7, 1980, Coasters bass singer (actually Cornell Gunter´s Coasters), ed. note) Nathaniel "Buster" Wilson was shot to death and his hands and feet were cut off. In 1984, former Coasters manager Patrick Cavanaugh was convicted of first-degree murder following a Las Vegas trial where his wife, ex-Las Vegas stripper Diane Cavanaugh, was the state's star witness who linked her husband to Wilson's slaying.
The New York Times in an obituary in its Thursday editions said Guy's survivors include a female companion, a sister, a brother, a son and a daughter. Copija said the local coroner provided him no such information about potential kinfolk, and he said no one has called claiming to be a relative of Guy.
The Coasters long were known as the clown princes of rock 'n' roll with comical vocals and humorous onstage antics. They hit it big in the late 1950s with a string of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller collaborations, including "Yakety Yak" and "Charlie Brown." Historically, they were at the birth of rock 'n' roll in 1956, becoming one of the first black groups to successfully cross over from rhythm and blues. In their prime, Guy and his "hoodlum friends outside" -- an endearing lyric from "Yakety Yak" -- appeared at every major rock 'n' roll venue and on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" and "The Ed Sullivan Show."
Born June 20, 1936, in Ittasca, Texas, Guy was 19 years old when he met up in Los Angeles with two ex-members of The Robins, Carl Gardner and Bobby Nunn. Leon Hughes, formerly of the Four Flames, rounded out the original members. The name Coasters refers to the group's West Coast origin.
The Coasters had several rhythm and blues chart toppers including "Young Blood" and "Searchin"' in 1957 before hitting the top of the pop charts with "Yakety Yak" in 1958 and "Charlie Brown," which reached No. 2 in 1959. "Along Came Jones" and "Poison Ivy" also were Top 10 hits in the late '50s. Their other million-sellers included a doo-wop version of "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart," "Little Egypt" and "Love Potion No. 9."
Guy was considered the comedian among the comics, keeping the other members of
The Coasters amused backstage and on tour bus rides with raunchy jokes and stories,
according to a biography on the All Music Guide website.
"In 1972, he issued his only comedy effort (that) stands alone as one of the nastiest comedy albums ever released," the website says, referring to Guy's comedy album "The Tramp is Funky."
Although the group underwent several changes with Gunter, Wilson (actually Jones
and later Bright; ed note) and former Earl "Speedo" Carroll replacing original
members, Guy stayed with the group until it disbanded in the mid-1970s. Over the years,
many former members formed their own versions of the Coasters. Guy performed as the
frontman of The World Famous Coasters and in more recent years toured with his group
billed as Billy Guy's Coasters. In 1988, Guy joined Gunter, Will "Dub" Jones and
Tom Palmer to perform as The Coasters for Atlantic Records' 40th Anniversary concert in
New York city. Guy occasionally performed in Las Vegas in R&B revues, one at the
Sahara's Congo Room in 1999 with one of the latter-day versions of The Coasters.
Cedric Cade, a Garden Memorial employee assigned to pick up bodies as part of a weekly rotation system by local mortuaries, was dispatched to Guy's apartment on Nov. 5. "On this job you can't get too emotional," Cade said Thursday, noting he was a fan of The Coasters who early on inspired him to sing in his church choir.
"But I looked at him and saw a man who had entertained so many people and realized he had his time, and I hoped he had lived his time to the best of his ability. What's real sad is that no one's come to claim him."
Guy never sounded better than on Shoppin' For Clothes, an adaptation of a song called Clothes Line, a small hit in Los Angeles, which described the plight of a man lusting after a high-fashion suit. When the Coasters turned up at a rehearsal one day in 1960 to discover the normally prolific Leiber and Stoller suffering a temporary shortage of material, Guy began to sing a snatch of the song, which he had heard on the radio. The producers liked it, and turned it into a masterpiece of the genre. Over a cool, finger-snapping ostinato, set up by King Curtis's soft-toned tenor saxophone and Wendell Marshall's string bass, Guy acts out the part of a would-be hipster spellbound by a salesman, played by Will "Dub" Jones, the group's bass singer. Little persuasion is required to get Guy's character swooning over the "box-back, two-button western model" in herringbone tweed, with a camel-hair collar and "solid gold buttons". While Guy tries it on, Curtis produces a brief saxophone solo of devastating economy. Guy signs for the suit, but the salesman has bad news: "I'm sorry, my man, but your credit didn't go through." Guy's closing wails of grief - "Pure, pure herringbone!" ("That," the salesman retorts, "is a suit you'll never own") - complete two minutes and 40 seconds of perfectly observed social satire.
Guy was a founder member of the Coasters, joining in October 1955 when Carl Gardner and Bobby Nunn left the Robins to start a new group, which was completed by Leon Hughes and guitarist Adolph Jacobs. Based in Los Angeles, Gardner and Nunn had already collaborated with Leiber and Stoller on Riot In Cell Block No 9 and Smokey Joe's Café.
Born Frank Phillips Jr, in Texas, Guy had settled in Watts, California, and made his first records for the Aladdin label as part of a duo called Bip and Bop (he was Bip). Barely 20 when he joined the Coasters, he established his identity in 1957, when the group's third single, Young Blood, was flipped by radio disc-jockeys who preferred the B-side, Searchin'. That million-seller established Guy's hapless, but goodhearted, loser persona - a portrayal he successfully repeated with variations. "Billy Guy had a marvellous sense of timing," Leiber told Charlie Gillett, "and the dirtiest, most lascivious voice." In 1958, Guy and Gardner followed Leiber and Stoller to New York, replacing Hughes and Nunn with Jones and Cornell Gunter. Later that year, Yakety Yak became their biggest record, offering a hilarious take on the simmering war between teenagers and parents: "Don't keep giving me those dirty looks - your father's hip, he knows what cooks." It was followed by Charlie Brown ("Who walks in the classroom cool and slow?/Who calls the English teacher 'daddy-O'?") and the cartoonish Along Came Jones.
When the Mersey Sound emerged in early 1963, the repertoire of groups such as the Beatles, the Searchers and the Swingin' Blue Jeans usually incorporated something borrowed from the Coasters, probably I'm A Hog For You, Baby or Searchin'. Among the Rolling Stones' early recordings was a version of Poison Ivy, on which Guy and Gardner had originally shared lead vocal. When the novelty wore off, and Leiber and Stoller switched to other acts, the Coasters' hits dried up.
Guy left Gardner in 1973 to pursue a solo career - which included launching himself as a risqué nightclub storyteller - but, by 1982, he had joined Jones in the World Famous Coasters. In 1987 Gardner, Guy, Gunter and Jones were reunited as the Coasters and became the first vocal group to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. A year later, they played at Madison Square Garden to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Atlantic Records. Guy moved to Las Vegas in 1998, began putting together a group called Billy Guy's Coasters and unsuccessfully sued Gardner for $1m over the rights to the group's name. He is survived by his companion, Vanessa Van Klyde, and a son and daughter.
· Frank Phillips Jr (Billy Guy), singer and songwriter, born
June 20 1936; died November 12 (actually November 5; ed note) 2002
Coasters singer Billy Guy to be buried in Las Vegas
People from the entertainment industry donated about $4,000 so the legendary singer, whose body went unclaimed for weeks, could be buried, said Jerry Copija, director of Garden Memorial in Las Vegas. Guy, 66, died Nov. 5 of heart disease in Las Vegas. He could have ended up in a pauper's grave if the money hadn't been collected. Instead, he'll be buried at Garden Memorial on Tuesday evening. Family members had been located, but they didn't have the money to pay for a funeral. Guy's companion of more than 30 years didn't have a right to claim his body. "Billy Guy truly had a family,"Copija said."I believe he would have been happy to know his family of entertainers were there for him at Thanksgiving."
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who wrote the Coasters'biggest hits, provided some of the cash, Copija said. Artists Rights Enforcement Corp., which collected Guy's royalties, and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation pitched in the rest money. Guy was one of the original members of the 1950's singing quartet that topped the charts with such hits at"Yakety Yak"and"Charlie Brown."