Billy Guy, one of the original members of the Coasters, has been dead since Nov. 5, but his body has not been claimed. Local entertainers and friends held a fund-raiser last night (Nov. 20) in Las Vegas so the singer won’t have to be buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave. “That’s a shame if it comes to that,” original Coaster Carl Gardner told the Las Vegas Sun. “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.”
Guy, who sang baritone on the hits “Searchin”‘ and “Yakety Yak” as part of the 1950s vocal quartet, died suddenly of heart disease at age 66. Friends hoped to raise $3,700 to $5,000 for funeral and burial expenses that include a headstone.
Veta Gardner, Carl’s wife, turned to disc jockeys at oldies stations and others to help. Friends are trying to locate Guy’s estranged children, Peter and Lisa, to persuade them to either claim his body or give Garden Memorial mortuary permission for cremation, 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 lacked the money to claim the body. Guy’s girlfriend of more than 30 years, Vanessa Van Klyde, can’t claim the body because they were not married.
The Coasters combined doo-wop rhythm-and-blues with an upbeat rock sound and were best known for comedic, narrative songs such as “Charlie Brown,” nearly all of them penned by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Guy wrote some songs, including “Wake Me, Shake Me.” A spokesperson for Leiber and Stoller said the songwriters would make a donation to help offset Guy’s burial costs. Artists Rights Enforcement Corp., a New York-based company that collects royalties on behalf of Guy and other musicians, said they will match Leiber and Stoller’s donation.
Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.