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Big Star founding bassist dies

Hummel appeared last at SXSW Music conference

Andy Hummel, founding bassist for the influential ’70s Memphis band Big Star, died of cancer July 19 in Weatherford, Texas. He was 59.

Though inactive in music since the mid-’70s, Hummel appeared with drummer Jody Stephens at a panel on Big Star and a tribute show during the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival in March; the emotional performance, at Antone’s, paid tribute to vocalist-guitarist-songwriter Alex Chilton, who died March 17, on the eve of the convention.

Hummel was raised in Memphis and after playing in several hometown teen combos, he joined the group Icewater, whose personnel included Stephens and singer-guitarist-songwriter Chris Bell. The band morphed into Big Star with the addition of ex-Box Tops lead singer Chilton in 1971.

The four-piece Big Star lineup recorded its debut album “#1 Record” at Memphis’ Ardent Studios and released it on the Stax-distributed Ardent imprint in 1972. After a disgruntled Bell exited the band in the wake of the album’s failure, Chilton, Hummel and Stephens issued the sophomore release “Radio City” in 1974. (Bell died in a 1978 car accident.)

Stax’s distribution problems condemned commercial chances for the second LP as well, and Hummel quit the band and the music business: Returning to college, he got degrees in English literature and mechanical engineering, and worked for years at General Dynamics in Fort Worth.

“I didn’t regret leaving Big Star at all,” Hummel told journalist Rob Jovanovic in 2004.

When Big Star regrouped in 1993, Hummel’s bass chores were taken by Ken Stringfellow of the Posies.

Hummel is survived by his wife, Patti, and three children.

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