Ethan James, a member of the '60s heavy metal band BLUE CHEER who shifted in the 1980s to a behind-the-scenes role as producer and engineer on dozens of recordings, has died, the Los Angeles Times has reported. He was 56 years old.
James died June 19 in San Francisco after an eight-month battle with liver cancer, said a longtime friend, Lisa Mitchell Silverman. "Very few people knew he was ill," she said. "He didn't want people to worry."
After leaving BLUE CHEER, James became a trusted mentor of a younger generation of emerging punk, alternative and roots-rock bands before changing careers yet again in the late 1980s to focus on playing and promoting medieval music.
James was born Ralph Burns Kellogg in 1946 in Pasadena and moved with his family in 1957 to Sacramento, where he taught himself to play piano, guitar, bass and drums. To pursue a life in music, he moved to San Francisco after high school and became a member of the band MINT TATTOO. He later joined pioneering heavy metal band BLUE CHEER just after the group charted its biggest hit, a remake of EDDIE COCHRAN's "Summertime Blues".
James is survived by a brother and a sister.