The Most Bizarre Rock Star Deaths Ever

As fans of rock stars are well aware, being a great musician, successful, and loved by millions does not necessarily add up to a long life. It's not uncommon for rock stars to die far too young for any number of reasons. What with the type of lifestyle many musicians lead and the pressures of fame, it's not surprising that many times these premature deaths are down to substance abuse or doing not-so-smart things while under the influence. Then there are the tragic accidents or health problems that can befall anyone. 

But occasionally, rock stars die in such a way that goes beyond being simply tragic into bizarre territory. These are the deaths that have that one extra detail (or sometimes, many of them) that are just so odd it makes you think about the sad event again and again, wondering just how it could have happened the way it did. Some of the deaths are mysteries that may never be solved, while others seem pretty straightforward at first but get weirder the more you learn about them. And as befits the tragic end of a musician, several even occurred on stage in front of live audiences. 

While every death is sad, you have to admit, these ones are also pretty weird. Here are some of the most bizarre rock star deaths ever.

This article contains references to addiction and death by suicide.

Bobby Fuller's death was strange enough for 'Unsolved Mysteries'

Bobby Fuller had been playing music since he was a kid in Texas, and by 1966, he and his band, The Bobby Fuller Four (pictured, with Fuller at far left), had a Top 10 hit with "I Fought the Law." They were famous and going places, although this was marred by annoyance at their manager and his many strange publicity stunt ideas. Otherwise, according to Fuller's loved ones, he was happy.

But on July 18, 1966, Bobby Fuller was found dead in his car, covered in gasoline. He was 23. Witnesses say he had injuries like he'd been in a fight, and that his car hadn't been in the parking lot where it was found just minutes before, even though he had been dead for hours.

If this wasn't weird enough, officials didn't seem to agree on why Fuller ended up dead. While several obituaries in major newspapers implied that he had died by suicide, assumedly getting their information from the police, who clearly felt that was the cause of death, the official report determined it was accidental. But even that wasn't conclusive, as the report also had a question mark next to the box for suicide, the same thing the coroner put by the box for accident. The debate about what happened — suicide, accident, or murder — has raged for decades. Fuller's strange death was even included in the October 18, 1996 broadcast of "Unsolved Mysteries," and although at least one person connected to him contacted the tip line afterward, it remains one of the biggest mysteries in classic rock still unsolved today.

Mike Edwards died in a freak hay bale accident

A cellist trained at the Royal Academy of Music doesn't sound like your standard rock star. But Mike Edwards was an original member of the Electric Light Orchestra (pictured, with Edwards at far left). He played with them from 1972 to 1975, a period that encompassed four albums and two Top 10 hits on the U.K. charts. Edwards was a big hit with fans, standing out for his kooky outfits and the bits he did on tour where he played the cello with a piece of fruit and pretending to play his cello before it exploded. He eventually left the band but continued to play music.

His death fit right in with his strange ELO stage persona. On September 3, 2010, the 62-year-old was killed in a freak accident, when a 1,300 pound hay bale rolled off a tractor and into a road, where it slammed into Edwards' car, crushing it.

At the time of his death, Edwards was playing with a local group called Devon Baroque. Fellow member Jasper Solomon told BBC News, "Mike's talent was his musicality. He could range over all genres from classical to jazz, modern to medieval renaissance. He lived for his music and it showed." The chairman of the music group, Angus Gordon, said, "He was simply the nicest guy and a brilliant musician. ... He taught the cello and his incredible patience and encouragement – even with the slowest of students – made him a very good teacher."

Terry Kath thought he was playing with an unloaded gun

When Chicago was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016, original member Terry Kath wasn't there but was not forgotten. "Through the years, his guitar playing has been overlooked," Chicago co-founder Lee Loughnane told the Metro, "Probably because [he was] in such a large band, but if Terry had been in a trio, he probably would have been right up there with Jimi Hendrix, who idolized Terry."

Kath seemed to be aware of this as well, since he was planning on releasing a solo album before he died on January 23, 1978. His friend and fellow musician Joe Walsh told Rolling Stone, "With that [band] dynamic [in Chicago], he needed to do a solo album. I don't know how much of it was recorded, but he was going in that direction. And it's a shame it didn't happen. He would have never remotely thought about suicide. That was a complete accident."

Suicide or accident has always been the question surrounding Kath's bizarre death, one of the biggest rock and roll tragedies of the 1970s. The musician was deep into drugs and also loved guns, which is never a good combination. When he died, he was handling guns — some say cleaning them, others that he was playing Russian Roulette — but reassured the person he was with that they were unloaded. His last words were supposedly, "What do you think I'm going to do? Blow my brains out?" (via Louder). Then the gun went off. Kath was 31 years old.

Les Harvey was electrocuted live on stage

Everyone knows there is a long list of stars who died at age 27, but Les Harvey's inclusion on the list has to be one of the strangest (no, not the most shocking — that joke is inappropriate). He was in several bands in the U.K. before joining one called Power — which was renamed one night in 1969 by Led Zeppelin's manager. From then on, the iconic Scottish band was known as Stone the Crows. Their albums are still popular re-releases many decades later.

On May 3, 1972, the group was preparing to perform at a gig in Wales. Some 1,200 people were in the audience, and according to contemporary reporting, some of them decided to take souvenirs in the form of wires out of the band's electronics before they took to the stage. This, of course, caused technical problems, which took time to fix. Harvey came on stage to explain the delay when disaster struck. "We heard this deep humming sound," drummer Collin Allen explained (via Louder). "Leslie had the microphone in one hand and his guitar in the other, they kind of went together, and then like an arc-shape appeared. I was up really quickly and kicked the guitar out of his hand as he was lying on the floor."

The accident was caused because a ground wire to the microphone had not been fixed, and when Harvey touched his metal guitar strings, he closed the circuit. He died a short time later in the hospital, aged 27.

Philip Taylor Kramer claimed OJ was innocent and then disappeared

The strange death of Iron Butterfly's Philip Taylor Kramer is one that will keep you up at night. Kramer joined the band (pictured without him in an earlier lineup) in 1974 and played bass on two of their albums. After he left the band, he went on to become a literal rocket scientist, and then an important figure in the booming computer industry of the early 1990s. But on February 12, 1995, he vanished.

Kramer went to pick up a business associate and their partner from the airport, but left before meeting them. Chuck Carter, a private investigator hired by Kramer's family, told the LA Times, "Something happened during that time — either in his head or at the terminal — that made him turn away. And I'll tell you, I haven't a clue. The guy didn't have an enemy. The guy was a dedicated family man." What we do know is that Kramer started calling loved ones to say goodbye. Then he called 911 and announced he was going to kill himself and said, "I want everyone to know O.J. Simpson is innocent. They did it." (The Debrief explains that Kramer was expected to give expert testimony at the trial.)

In 1999, Kramer's van and remains were discovered at the bottom of a canyon. It can't be proven if he died by suicide, and theories of foul play still abound. Some think he might have been threatened over one of his new software programs.

Randy Rhoads died when his pilot's prank went wrong

Ozzy Osbourne was already famous when he hired Randy Rhoads as his new guitarist within seconds of meeting him. Rhoads, who had previously been one of the founding members of Quiet Riot, played on some of the most classic Ozzy albums, including "Blizzard of Ozz" and "Diary of a Madman," and most notably the song "Crazy Train." While his accomplishments were enough to see Rhoads inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021, sadly, he was only in Ozzy's band for a couple of years before he died.

Randy Rhoads' death is an incredibly tragic story. While on tour, the band's bus stopped for a rest at a lot that held some small planes. The tour bus driver, Andrew Aycock, was also a pilot, and decided to take a couple of flights. The 25-year-old Rhoads, despite being afraid of flying, was a passenger on the final one, along with the band's 58-year-old seamstress Rachel Youngblood. On his previous flights, Aycock had flown close over the tour bus, trying to wake up the people sleeping inside it. On this flight, however, the prank went wrong, and the plane's wing clipped the bus, causing the plane to crash and killing all three of the people inside.

There are other theories on the accident, however. Witnesses say Aycock might have been trying to crash deliberately and Rhoads was attempting to stop him, or that Youngblood had a heart attack and fell on the controls, causing the plane to nosedive. Unfortunately, the true reason will never be known.

Bruce Hampton collapsed and everyone thought it was a joke

The year before he died, "Colonel" Bruce Hampton told Arts ATL, "I never plan anything — good, bad or ugly, I just go with it. I must say that I've always just wanted to play music — not work music, not earn music, just play music and make joyful noise. And I don't know if it's good or bad, but I keep doing it — show up and play." According to CNN, Hampton was known as the "granddaddy of the jam scene," and the respect other musicians had for him was clear by how many showed up to jam with him at his 70th birthday concert on 2017. 

It was the very end of the performance when Hampton dropped to his knees, then laid on the stage. The audience just thought he was playing around, as did the other musicians, who kept playing as Hampton lay there, suffering a massive heart attack. It took several minutes for anyone to realize something was very wrong. Hampton isn't the only performer to die in front of their audience, but he is probably the only one who died during their own birthday party.

According to his friends, it's exactly what Hampton would have wanted. Rolling Stone keyboardist Chuck Leavell, who was on stage with Hampton at the time, said (via CNN), "A poetic exit. And I'm sure if he had written the script himself, that would've been the last page of the last chapter." And Hampton's former bandmate Jeff Mosier posted on Facebook (via NPR) that he "could have never imagined a more joyful departure."

Three members of the Miami Showband were massacred during The Troubles

In the U.S., "the day the music died" was the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper. But in Ireland and Northern Ireland, that phrase refers to July 31, 1975, when three members of the popular group The Miami Showband were murdered. Showbands were huge on the island at the time; they would travel around playing concerts and regularly cross the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland (which is part of the United Kingdom). But this was the 1970s, smack in the middle of the sectarian violence known as The Troubles.

When the band van was pulled over, they thought it was a checkpoint, a common occurance at the time. What they didn't know was it was a fake Army patrol made up of Ulster Defence Regiment and Ulster Volunteer Force members. What took the event from purely tragic to bizarre is that the Ulster men didn't plan on killing the band — the goal was to place a bomb on their bus that would explode once they were across the border in Ireland. But it exploded while it was being attached, killing two of the Ulster men. The remaining ones then started shooting at the band, killing three of them: lead singer Fran O'Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty, and trumpeter Brian McCoy. Two other members were injured but survived the massacre.

The incident effectively put an end to Irish showbands crossing the border to play in Northern Ireland. 

'Dimebag' Darrell Abbott was murdered onstage during a concert

"Dimebag" Darrell Abbott was a founding member of Pantera, the incredibly popular metal band. They formed in 1981, but in the 21st century, the band split up and Abbott started a new band, Damageplan.

In 2004, Damageplan was playing a gig in Cincinnati, Ohio, when a man named Nathan Gale jumped on stage. He damaged thousands of dollars in equipment and fought with security before being removed. The police were called, but no charges were filed because the band thought it would be too inconvenient to return for the court date. 

Eight months later, Gale showed up at another Damageplan concert in Ohio, this time in Columbus. Some people present noticed him as soon as he entered the venue from a side entrance and raced towards the stage. "The dude was way determined," said Volume Dealer lead singer Billy Payne (via Rolling Stone). "He was on a mission. He looked angry. He was walking like he was going into battle." Gale got on stage, pulled out a gun, and confronted Abbott. Joe Dameron, Volume Dealer's bass player, said, "I saw him open his mouth to yell something, but I don't know what it was. He just looked determined." Gale shot Abbott, but at first, it wasn't clear how serious the situation was. Security guard Ryan Melchiore said, "I thought they were playing a big gimmick. People were pumping their fists, thinking it was a hoax." When people finally started to intervene, Gale shot and killed three of them. Abbott did not make it either. He was 38.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, is struggling or in crisis, contact the relevant resources below: