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Bradley James Nowell (February 22, 1968 – May 25, 1996) was an Americanmarker musician who served as lead singer and guitarist of the popular Californianmarker band Sublime. He died at 28 from a heroin overdose shortly before the release of Sublime's self-titled major label debut.


Early life

Young Bradley Nowell performs with his band.
was an integral part of Nowell's upbringing. Brad's father, Jim Nowell, was fond of Jimmy Buffett and often played guitar during family gatherings. On holidays, Brad often played guitar and sang with his father and uncles for hours. Brad was often able to play a song on the guitar after hearing it only once. He developed a love for reggae music when his father took him on a trip to the Virgin Islands.

Career with Second Sight

In 1982 Nowell had joined a band called Second Sight in the 9th grade at Wilson Classical High School in Long Beach, Californiamarker, with singer Roger Topp, bassist Dave Hegstrom, and drummer Andy Troy, Bradley played the guitar. Roger and Dave then kicked Nowell out of the band in the middle of '80. Shortly after, they also kicked Andy out and Dave changed to guitar; Bud Gaugh then joined the band as the drummer. Second Sight didn't make any albums. Bradley took guitar and singing lessons and three years later Eric, Bradley and Bud formed Sublime. Nobody quite knows what happened with Roger, but Dave ended up starting an unsuccessful skateboard company with his life partner, Dennis D.

Career with Hogan's Heroes (a.k.a. Sloppy Seconds)

In the 1980's, Nowell played in a punk band called Hogan's Heroes which was started in 1982 by Eric Wilson, later the bassist of Sublime. The band later changed their name to Sloppy Seconds, which went on to release several albums on the label "Triple X." In 1988, Nowell met Bud Gaugh, a long time friend of Eric Wilson. The three of them began to play together and decided to form their own band, Sublime.

Career with Sublime

In 1988, Nowell founded Sublime with bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh, whom he had met while attending Cal State Long Beachmarker. Sublime eventually became one of the most popular bands in Southern Californiamarker. Specifically, they were the most popular band on the campus of Cal State Long Beachmarker, where they often played at parties and bars.

In 1989 Nowell and Michael "Miguel" Happoldt created Skunk Records which produced and distributed Sublime's early recordings. The band's demo tapes were later sold at shows and local record stores. A few years later, Sublime produced its first studio recording, which resulted in the popular cassette tape called Jah Won't Pay the Bills (1991).

As Nowell prepared to tour with the new material, he found that Gaugh was battling a drug problem. Gaugh soon decided to check himself into a drug rehabilitation center. Rather than tour without Gaugh, the trio decided to focus on recording their music in the studio.

In 1992, 40 Oz. to Freedom was released. Drummers Marshall Goodman and Kelly Vargas temporarily covered for Gaugh. Sixty-thousand copies were distributed and sold from the trunk of Nowell's car. Despite growing popularity in Southern California, Sublime still had not landed a record deal with a major label. Around this same time Nowell teamed up with longtime friend Gwen Stefani, of fellow Southern California ska band No Doubt, to record the single "Saw Red". The single was eventually released on Sublime's Robbin' the Hood album.

Frustrated by rejection of the major record companies, Nowell descended into a two-year heroin "experiment". Nowell claimed that his heroin use was justified and that it aided his artistic creativity, thereby increasing the likelihood that his material would attract the attention of a major label.

About a year later, Tazy Phillipz took a copy of 40 Oz to Freedom to Los Angelesmarker radio station KROQ, requesting that Sublime's "Date Rape" be added to the playlist. Soon after, MCA records picked up 40 Oz. to Freedom for nationwide distribution. The album soon entered the Billboard charts.

Attention from a major label did not curb Nowell's drug use, which sometimes led him to pawn his instruments, as reflected in his song "Pawn Shop." The song "Pool Shark" is another song which reflects his struggle with addiction.In February 1996, Sublime returned to the studio to record the bulk of their self-titled major label debut album. Production was done by Paul Leary (producer of Marcy Playground and Meat Puppets) of the Butthole Surfers at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studio in Austin, Texasmarker. Nowell's addiction, however, became increasingly unmanageable and he was flown home early from the sessions.


Bradley Nowell's headstone.
Seven days after Nowell's marriage to Troy Dendekker, Sublime embarked on a five-day tour through California cities in preparation for a summer tour of Europe. The European tour was intended as a means of promoting their upcoming major label debut album. On May 25, 1996, after a show in Petaluma, the band was scheduled to head up north. That morning, Bud woke up to see Brad half in bed, with his feet on the floor. At first, Gaugh assumed he had been too intoxicated to get into bed; however, further inspection allowed him to notice a green film around his mouth, and it became obvious that he had overdosed. He called for paramedics, but Brad had been dead for hours, and was pronounced dead at the scene. Nowell's last performance took place at the Phoenix Theatermarker in Petaluma, Californiamarker.Nowell was cremated and his ashes were spread over his favorite surf spot, Surfside, California. A headstone was placed at Westminster Memorial in Westminster, Californiamarker in his memory.

A few weeks after Nowell's death, fellow Southern California band No Doubt headlined a "cautionary" benefit concert in tribute to Nowell. Nowell's widow and the various bands who performed wanted to make it clear that they were not glamorizing the way that Nowell died, but that they wanted to celebrate his life as well as establish a college fund for his son, Jakob.

In a January 11, 1997 Los Angeles Times article titled "Cautionary Concert in Rocker's Memory", writer Jerry Crowe quoted No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal as saying: "Obviously, it's going to be very emotional because you're there playing a show to commemorate a good friend who died and died for very wrong reasons. But you're also there to change things for the future and prevent stuff like that from ever happening again. A lot of times we hear about musicians using drugs and it's so blasé and cliched. You just kind of say, 'Oh, he'll be fine. Somebody will take care of him.' But that's not true. It's important for every single one of us to stand up and say, 'Enough of this shit.' It's time to make a difference".

Jason Westfall, one of Sublime's managers, was quoted as saying that the surviving members of Sublime had no interest in continuing to perform and record under the "Sublime" name. "Just like Nirvana, Sublime died when Brad died", Westfall said.


The cover of Sublime's major label debut album.
In light of Nowell's death, record executives considered not releasing Sublime's major label debut album. After some debate, the album was eventually released, though the album's original title, Killin It, was substituted with an eponymous title. Sublime's major label debut album Sublime was released on July 30, 1996.

By 1997, the album entered Billboard's Top 20, and its first single, the largely acoustic hip hop-influenced "What I Got", soon became the number one song on the Modern Rock chart. Throughout 1997, the album produced three more radio hits: the ballad "Santeria", the anthem song "Wrong Way" and the George Gershwin-inspired song "Doin' Time". The accompanying music videos from Sublime for radio hits including "Santeria", "What I Got", and "Wrong Way", received heavy rotation on MTV, with previously filmed footage of Nowell performing live interspersed into the video, completely naked, which was highly controversial at the time.

To the surprise of many, Sublime became arguably the most successful posthumous American rock act of 1997. The album Sublime has since sold over 5 million copies. Danin says of Nowell, "he will live inside all of us and will influence the music careers of many."

In early 2009, the remaining members of Sublime reunited for a February 28 performance at Cantina Los Tres Hombres in Sparks, Nevada with frontman and guitarist Rome Ramirez, who is filling in for Nowell. Following positive response, the band decided to reunite properly in August 2009 for a possible tour.




  • Dan MacDonald Custom Electric Guitar - Body based on a mix of a 1960s Vox Hurricane and a G&L 100 guitar - Ebony Fretboard - Fitted with a Floyd Rose Vibrato System
  • Ibanez S-470 Electric Guitar - Smoke Black - Flame Top


  • Boss DD-3 Digital Delay
  • Boss OS-2 Overdrive Distortion
  • Whirlwind A/B Selector


Marriage and fatherhood

While on tour in the mid-1990s, Nowell met Troy Dendekker. Dendekker grew up in Southern California, in a home with a drug addicted mother and a father who was also a drug user and a member of a motorcycle gang. In an interview, Dendekker, who has considered a career as a drug and alcohol counselor, stated that she loves addicts because they are ultimately kind people. Dendekker has also said she does not have anger towards her parents regarding the way she was brought up because, as she phrased it, her parents were "real".

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Dendekker said that Nowell was very happy and pleasant to be around when he was under the influence of substances, but added that he could be very difficult when not under the influence. The goal, Dendekker said, was to try to have Nowell be as happy sober as he was when he was high. To that end, Nowell attempted detoxification and drug rehabilitation several times, but such treatments usually had short-lived success which usually disappointed Nowell's family and friends. Bandmate Bud Gaugh tried to be supportive of Nowell in his recovery, and occasionally in his usage. Gaugh has said he tried to be Nowell's "conscience", and in some cases Gaugh tried to be Nowell's "drug buddy."

On June 25, 1995, Dendekker gave birth to their son, Jakob James Nowell.

Lou Dog

Named after Nowell's grandfather Louie Nowell, Nowell's King Louie, or "Lou Dog" as he was often called, was Nowell's pet Dalmatian who became something of a mascot for the band Sublime. Lou Dog was often allowed to wander the stage during live Sublime concert performances. Louie was also often featured on the cover of Sublime albums, and was often referred to in the lyrics of Sublime songs. The first lyrics Nowell sings on Sublime's major label debut album are, "We took this trip to Garden Grove/It smelled like Lou Dog inside the van". In Sublime's most successful radio track, "What I Got", Nowell sings, "Livin' with Louie Dog's the only way to stay sane." He also mentions his Dalmatian in the song other times, like in the lyric "I got a Dalmatian, and I can still get high" as well as "I don't cry when my dog runs away." The song "Doin' Time" also refers to Lou Dog in the line "L.B.C., G, me and Louie, run to the party...".

In the early 1990s, Lou Dog disappeared for a week. In a video directed by Josh Fishel of Bargain Music Sublime — Stories, Tales, Lies, & Exaggerations, Troy Nowell (Bradley Nowell's widow) says that for the week during which Lou Dog was lost, Nowell spent a great deal of time lying on the couch crying in response to the loss of his dog. Lou Dog was eventually returned to Nowell, who, in response to the situation, later covered the Camper Van Beethoven song "The Day That Lassie Went To The Moon" and changed it to "Lou Dog Went to the Moon" ; this song is available on the Nowell bootleg "Firecracker Lounge" [32034] [32035]. While Lou was missing, Nowell also recorded this song to his home answering machine as a sort of audio lost dog poster.

Following Nowell's 1996 death, Lou Dog was cared for by Miguel. Lou Dog died on September 17, 2001.

References in popular culture

Hed P.E. a popular underground band on the Suburban Noize label is known to cover at least one Sublime song at almost every live show they play, if not at every show they play.

Bradley is also the main subject of a song by French Canadian ska punk band Subb, that mentions Sublime, their musical style, and also Brad's dalmatian, Lou Dog.

G. Love & Special Sauce have dedicated two songs to Nowell: a remake of the Sublime song "Greatest Hits," and a song called "Dreamin'," which begins, "This song is dedicated in loving memory of Brad from Long Beach, California."

American hip hop artist Murs has often integrated cuts of "Santeria" and other Sublime tracks in his live performances, and states that Sublime is one of his major influences.

Beatsteaks has often sung Sublime songs in their live performances.

In the movie Grind, the main characters walk into a skate shop and Tom Green is behind the counter with a couple of turn tables trying to remix "Smoke Two Joints" unsuccessfully.

Bad Fish is a sublime tribute band.

See also


External links

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