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Former Canned Heat frontman Robert Lucas, R.I.P.

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Robert Lucas with Canned Heat

Robert Lucas with Canned Heat

Photo by Pat Johnson Studios, courtesy Canned Heat

Former Canned Heat frontman Robert Lucas, a skilled slide-guitarist and harp player, died on Sunday, November 23rd, 2008 from an apparent drug overdose, according to his manager Skip Taylor. The Long Beach, California native was just 46 years old.

Lucas first became known to blues fans as a member of guitarist Bernie Pearl's late-1970s band, originally playing harmonica behind artists like Big Joe Turner, Lowell Fulson, Percy Mayfield and other West Coast blues and R&B singers. Lucas worked on his skills for years before launching his own band, Luke & the Locomotives, in 1986.

It was with the 1990 release of his self-produced cassette tape, Across The River, that Lucas began to make a name for himself as a solo artist. After receiving a complimentary newspaper review, Lucas came to the attention of the L.A.-based AudioQuest Records label, which signed the young blues prodigy to a deal.

The label quickly released an acoustic-blues collection, Usin' Man Blues, a mix of original songs and classics from Robert Johnson, Son House, and Sonny Boy Williamson, in late-1990. Lucas would go on to release seven solo albums throughout his career.

Lucas hooked up with boogie-rock kings Canned Heat in 1994 as singer, guitarist and harp player, and would first appear on the band's 1996 Blues Band album, the last featuring founding member and guitarist Henry Vestine.

Between 1994 and 2008, Lucas served two stints as the band's frontman, touring the world in front of the band and contributing songs, instrumentation and vocals to recordings like 1999's Boogie 2000 and the band's 2007 Christmas album.

Lucas recently left Canned Heat to pursue his solo career, and for a relatively young blues artist, he had endless possibilities in front of him. In a statement to the press, Taylor said of Lucas that "his unequaled fury and stage presence, together with his earth-shattering vocal delivery, gave him the ability to channel many of the blues masters through his words, songs and musical ability.

Continuing, Taylor says, "He [Lucas] has been recognized by blues fans and critics worldwide as one of the most inspired singer, player and songwriter talents of the past decade."

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