Long Ryders Bassist Tom Stevens Dies at 64

Long Ryders
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Long Ryders on the street in Chicago on March 14, 1986. Left to right, Greg Sowders, Stephen McCarthy, Sid Griffin, and Tom Stevens.

Tom Stevens, bassist for the Los Angeles rock band the Long Ryders, has died at age 64 of undisclosed causes.

"To all our friends, fans and family… it is with heavy hearts that we share the sad news our brother Tom Stevens has left us quite suddenly," wrote bandmates singer/guitarists Sid Griffin and Stephen McCarthy and drummer Greg Sowders in a statement.

"We ask you all to keep Tom, his loving wife Elaine, Sarah, Zach and James in your thoughts. Tom loved you all so much. Play his beautiful song “Let it Fly” and be grateful for the time we all had together. We are. Peace, love and Tom Stevens to you all."

The Long Ryders were part of the psychedelic-tinged alt country "Paisley Underground" movement of the early- and mid-1980s that included such bands as The Dream Syndicate, Green on Red, The Three O'Clock, Rain Parade and The Bangles.

Indiana-native Stevens' first band was the hard rocking Magi, which released one album before he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his musical dreams. The Long Ryders formed in November 1981 in Los Angeles when Griffin left his 1960s punk band The Unclaimed and joined up with former Boxboys drummer Sowders during a jam session at the ON Klum in Silverlake, with country-loving guitarist McCarthy signing on after answering a "Musicians Wanted" ad in a local free Korean newspaper.

After cycling through bassists Barry Shank and Des Brewer and releasing a locally popular EP, Stevens signed on in time to record the band's debut album for Frontier Records, Native Sons.

The band toured the U.S. and Europe extensively in 1984-85, landing a deal with Island Records that resulted in their second full-length, 1985's State of Our Union, which spawned the raging punk-meets-alt-country college rock radio hit "Looking for Lewis & Clark."

More overseas touring was followed by the Ed Stasium-produced album Two-Fisted Tales and opening slots for U2 on their Joshua Tree tour. But after Stevens and McCarthy left the group, it dissolved, with the bassist moving back to Indiana in 1988 to raise a family and get a degree in computer science, during which time he also released a series of solo albums, including 1991's Last Night, 1995's Another Room, 1997's Points Revisited, 2007's Home and a 2009 EP, Sooner.

They would periodically reunite over the years to play shows and benefits, with Stevens, Griffin, McCarthy and Sowders reconnecting in the studio in 2017 to record their first new music since 1987, "Bear in the Woods." A new full-length album, Psychedelic Country Soul, was released in February 2019.

Listen to "Looking for Lewis and Clark" below.