Friday Jun 23
Feb
22/15
Happy 47th Birthday to Bradley Nowell

Bradley James Nowell was born on February 22nd, 1968. Today, he would have been 47 years old and we at The Pier had the opportunity to speak with some of his old pals, including a letter a 20 year-old Brad wrote to his sister while at UC Santa Cruz in April of 1988. Join us in celebrating Brad’s birthday by enjoying some great stories by those that knew him…

Whats there to say about Brad, or Sublime, that hasn’t already been well documented? Aside from the brilliance of his music that we continue to celebrate everyday, all that’s left are the stories from those that knew Brad and if you’re a fan like myself, we hang on to every word hoping to know & understand a bit more about who the man behind the music was.
Youngbradleynowell
In celebrating Brad’s birthday we wanted to continue sharing great stories about Brad. By preparing for this article, I was able to find out how much of an avid reader that Brad was who had an appetite for knowledge. I also learned that he’d give his own shirt off his back if it meant negotiating a gift for a friend. Bert Susanka of The Ziggens recalled a time Brad got him a new t-shirt from San Francisco… Well it was new to Bert anyway: “Brad stopped a guy on the street in San Francisco who was wearing a Bert from ‘Bert and Ernie’ t-shirt to ask him if he could have his shirt,” Bert reflects. “The guy agreed and Brad gave the guy his own shirt, literally off his back as a trade. Then a few days later back in Long Beach, Brad proudly presented the Bert shirt to me as a gift.”

Todd Forman, who played horns with Sublime and can be found in early videos performing alongside Brad at house parties spoke to the kind of person Brad was. He gives a detailed description from his perspective at the life of the man he played music with:
“Nothing about Brad was contrived. He never apologized for his fashion choices, although at times (before Sublime grew) he seemed to emulate a Turkish American yuppie surfer. Nonetheless, his choices were always carried out with 100% of his soul. You can see it in how he approached the mic, how he used his arms and hands to emphasize what he was singing, how he rocked and swayed while playing guitar, how he stretched out his neck to sing out those ‘Whoa’s’ and glissando phrasings. Never compromising. Obviously, we all can appreciate that in his songs and performances. One thing that always struck me about Brad was how freed up he was musically… Whenever we would jam, it was like an open mic jazz combo… Let’s start a groove and just go. We would jam out for hours busking in Belmont Shore, sitting around a piano, whatever. He was the consummate listener. He really did distil and integrate everything he heard and never tried to control too much… He wanted to hear your soul in the music too, not just his own. Happy Birthday to one of the great collaborators and communicators. Brad and Sublime’s legacy is one of a shared communal experience, Jah know. And it flows on…”


I had a chance to speak with Jon Phillips, co-owner of Silverback Music Management, who first came to know Sublime in late ’93 while working as an A&R rep for Gasoline Alley. Jon became the groups manager, eventually signing them to Gasoline Alley, becoming a key role in Sublime’s music reaching the masses. Over a 45minute phone-call, Jon remembered and shared old stories of Brad. These stories include evading Dog-Catchers through the neighborhoods of Belmont Shore, CA in his pick-up truck while Brad guided him through the streets as Lou-Dog stood in the bed of the truck without a leash. Or the time when Jon had Sublime play at his 1930 Sycamore address in Hollywood Hills to impress some industry people with the hopes of getting Sublime signed. Sublime played, but without a mic-stand as they improvised by stealing a stop-sign to hold up the vocal mic, while a ’70’s Tracy Lord porno played on the TV in the background.

The more touching story that Jon reflects on, is when he first met up with Brad after he became a father. Jon describes the beginning of a legacy that lives on today: “I remember when Brad came to my office, about a week or so after Jakob, his son, was born. He came up with (his wife) Troy and the newborn baby cradled in his arms. I recall him seeming like such a natural dad, the way he was holding little Jake. I got the chance to see Jakob, recently, because he’s got a great little band called LAW.sublime6 So I was kind of telling him some of his Dad’s stories and how Brad brought him to the office when he still had a little infection in his belly-button where it looked like some of his umbilical cord was still attached. So I was telling Jakob, who’s 19 now and has so much of Bradley’s characteristics & energy, and I was looking at him in the face, telling him: ‘Hey man, I met you when you still had your umbilical chord partially attached, and now you’re 19!’ It’s such a trip that almost 20 years has gone by. I’m talking about birthdays & time that – to me is the most surreal part of everything – it’s been 20 years! Celebrating Bradley’s birthday 20 years after he’s passed, it’s interesting to see how life progresses and now his son is practically 20 and is looking, in a very natural & organic way, to carry on the legacy of that music. It just made me think about how much time has passed. It was just really satisfying to see Jakob smile at the wonderment of these stories – he’s just so happy to be filled in on certain things that he’s only going to find out from other people because he didn’t get the chance to know his dad. But in the sense of thinking about someones birthday and remembering them and not being here is just that Bradley left a really special legacy and he also has a kid who seems to have the same special qualities in nature. How that seed that Bradley planted is still growing. I feel that that’s something, for me, that puts it all into context and gives you a greater perspective of how fragile, and also how beautiful life is. As time goes on, this music really does live on and continues to influence so many people. But Brad has a son that can help carry on the tradition of his music. Hopefully in the future, we’ll hear a lot more from Jakob, and that continues the Sublime story more than anything – celebrating the birth & life of his father. I look up into the heavens everyday and I thank God for Bradley Nowell. There’s no single bigger influence for me, or something that was as impactful or changed my life more so than Bradley & Sublime. There’s no denying that.”


Bradley Nowell formed Sublime in 1989, but in April of 1988, he was going to UC Santa Cruz. When I reached out to Brad’s sister, Kellie, she didn’t have any stories to re-tell, but was kind enough to share an amazing letter that a 20 year-old Brad wrote her before moving back to Long Beach from Santa Cruz, CA. Much of how Jon Phillips described Brad’s son, Jakob today, Brad was actually about the same age as Jakob is now when he wrote this letter to his sister. Sublime had not yet been founded and you get to experience a peak of who Brad was, in his own words, at the age of 20; even asking his sister for suggestions on a new band name! Enjoy:

4-26-88
Dear Kellie,

Howz it goin’ down there? Life up here is just swell! The waves haven’t been so good so I’ve been doing a lot of mountain bike riding & weight lifting – that is, when I’m not in the library studying…RIGHT!!? Well anyway, I wanted to thank you for the beautiful card you sent; it really meant BradNowella lot to me. I want you to know that I feel the same way about you. It’s important to have people believe in you – but, of course, you must first believe in yourself. ‘Tis the same way w/ love! Anywho, I’m looking forward to coming home very much. I’m more than ready to get the _ _ _ _ out of hippy town! (Even though it is a beautiful place.) I find myself wishing more & more that I was back in L.B. I can’t wait to jam again w/ da boyz. It gives me great joy, even if they are a couple a freaks! I’m trying to come up w/ a name for our band – something nice – so I’m quite open for suggestions. (Sloppy 2nd’s simply will not do this time around!) Oh – I’m not sure if I told you or not but Spike is VERY pregnant right now. I’d give her another 2 weeks max! I think the gestation period of cats is around 60 days. I’m not sure. Needless to say (or maybe not so needless), we have stopped indulging in “kitty flips,” much to her amazement & delight! Well actually I think she kind of like them, even though she did always run & hide. Nevertheless, the cat who knocked her up really sliced her up bad with his claws. (She was no easy catch… that’s my girl!) I’m almost positive it was that fat piece of shit Earl from down the street… I’ve seen the way he leers at her!

I hope all is well down there w/ you & your homegirls. Please give my love to our darling mother & Kirk – & our loving father & Janie. About moving back down – I’m pretty sure I can fit all my stuff in my truck. (If not I’ll call.) I’m hoping to sell my mountain bike right before I leave so I can start to raise enough cash to purchase a PA. There’s really no place to ride it down there anyway. Well, I love & miss you very much. Can’t wait to see you again! As they say up here:

May your beer waves & women never be flat! (Or something like that!)

Brad”

  • Click HERE to view Page 1 of the Letter
  • Click HERE to view Page 2 of the Letter


  • These stories don’t have to be limited to just those that knew him. Brad touched all of us with his creativity and his punk-rock soulful approach to the music. Share with us in the comments below how Brad and Sublime impacted your life. We find that the best way to honor the man and his music, is to continue to celebrate it at the highest possible volume to reach the heavens where he rests. Today, we celebrate his birthday as much as we celebrate his music – Thank you and Happy Birthday Bradley!

    Special thanks to Kellie Nowell O’Reilly, Bert Susanka, Todd Forman and Jon Phillips for taking the time to contribute to this feature spotlighting Brad’s birthday!


    Related Links:
    Exclusive Sublime Blog
    Sublime Website
    Sublime Facebook


    Article By: Mike Patti


    Watch: Bradley Nowell – “Mary” (Live at the Cattleman’s Warf in Anaheim 2/2/95)

    Watch: Brad & Eric Acoustic (8-13-1995)



    15 Responses to Happy 47th Birthday to Bradley Nowell

    1. nick d says:

      Sublime has and always will put a smile on my face and a feeling in my soul that really can’t be described in words..I, like Bradley Struggled with drugs so when I’m having a rough day I always tien to sublime and it instantly calms me down and helps me to reflect on how previous life is and to jitsu enjoy every minute of everyday.. I got into sublime at a very young age, so young in fact my dad wouldn’t let me but the cl because it had a parental advisory sticker on it, I found a way to get it though and it forever changed my life.. I’m so grateful for the music sublime put while bradley was alive.. I hope when my time comes I get to chill witj Bradley up in heaven and thank him for the music he created and let him know the effect and influence he had on my life

    2. Rodney says:

      Thank you Mikey, I’m proud of what you have become.Your article brought tears to me.
      I first met Brad and the boys in the early part of summer ’91at a club we played with them called Malarkey’s in Sacramento. As myself and several of the members of my band (Filibuster) were only 18, we had to wait outside of the loading area until it was our turn to take stage. TThat’s where Brad approached me. We shared a smoke and chatted. He wanted a Lou’s burger and complained that there were none around. I pointed to a Sac icon across the street, Willie’s burgers, and told him that was Lou’s cousin and that they shared the same recipes. From.that day forward, anytime he was in town, we would sneak there any chance we had.
      I now live 2 blocks from that said club. Every year on this date, I walk there, sit, havd a smoke, than cross the street to enjo a Willie’s burger… as I was when I finallybhad a chance to read this. Mike, and the Pier staff, and all of you reading this, thank yo for carrying that torch Bradley set afire decades ago. And Brad, thank you for all you have taught me.

      • Dub Diezel says:

        Rodney your band deserves props also for carrying the torch within this scene of music dude. I will forever love Filibuster and Half Pint’s cover of Sublime’s “Get Ready” from Look at All Love We Found Tribute to Sublime. Everything from the horn section to the skankn rhythms were awesome and unique, bringing a new flavor to the track while not straying too far away from what makes the song recognizable and known to the Sublime fans. You guys get two thumbs up and major props for that cover. I say it’s honestly one of the best Sublime covers ever and I bet you guy’s made Brad up in Heaven proud man. Of course Fishbone, G.Love, and Pennywise were also favorites from that record but Filibuster takes the cake for me on that tribute album as being the best song! Speaking of which I just thought of how cool it would be for Mike and other writer’s at the Pier to tackle doing an article on that record, ya know? Giving reader’s insight and perspective from the artists that contributed to making that record. Why they wanted to do the song they did, or were the able to choose, etc… Just anything like that would be very cool. Take care!

    3. Ryan Latocha says:

      Sublime~

      Exactly how one should feel when listening to their music. I know I do. Bradley is/was the Bob Marley of the 90’s. Growing up just when the band came out, I learned bout the awesome California style punk rock from my older brothers. Listening to them whenever I could when hanging with my brother’s was a big deal! At the age I was (eight to thirteen) first hearing the mc and composer was like opening your first beer underage and chugging it. The excitement of teen adolescents and cool rhymes catchy throughout the entire album, just brought everyone together listening. Everyone I met who was singing along to Sublime became a great friemd inside and out growing up. Still growing up with the sound of Sublime, the music had grown on me as well as in me. It was like medicine for the mind and soul. The way Bradley made a song or even a cover he made that song complete. With only three people in the band, with only Brad on acoustic or a funky track made in the studio with just a beat, the feeling you got while listening to Sublime in my opinion mattered. To put in a Sublime cd and sing along to each song. To feeling like I’m right there with Bradley. To feeling the song out from beginning to end is Sublime. What blows my mind the most is that fact that Bradley never wanted to be mainstream. Didn’t want Sublime’s sound on MTV or the Pop Charts. However when I listen, it’s simple, catchy and addictive.Exactly what the mainstream production of music wants for its listeners to hear. You just couldn’t ask Bradley ever to sell out. He would not let the sound he created to be that. It was about the partying, the free time of connection to one’s mind, body and soul. To channel that sound Sublime (Bradley) created is one of a kind. I left a lot of comment away from memories I created with Sublime’s sound. Only because there is so many more memories to make. Bradley’s soul in repeat throughout how I feel it in my experiences listening to Sublime will never grow old or die. From human to spirit; sublime I live it.

    4. bradley t says:

      Sweet article! I’ve been a sublime fan since I first heard them back in 96 or so. I was in high school then. Im a huge music lover, especially live music! I’ve always been bummed that I never got a chance to see bradley singing with his band. I got into lbdas, I like them! Even saw them in my hometown of Seattle. We stayed after and I got to slap hands with bud and Eric… It was the coolest thing ever!! Still not the same without bradley. Anyways I’m 34 now and have a sweet little girl of my own. I play (old) sublime for her, and sing to her, and she waves her hands in the air, its freakin rad! Keep in it going. Thanks for sharing the letter written by brad to his sis. Gave a guy like me, a better understanding of a guy who I never met was, but had so much in common with! Much love. Happy bday bradley

    5. Andy says:

      The first time I heard Bradley Nowell and Sublime, I changed my life. His music spoke to me in a way Ican never explain. I would pop in 40oz of freedom and rock the from the first track right to the last. It felt like I shared a connection with Brad. My birthday is the 21st, his is the 22nd. He’s 10 years older then me almost to the day. That and there self tilted album got me through my teens, and helped me open my eyes and see life in a way I never could before. I have a daughter, he has a son. And I to struggled with herion addiction. With a lot of hard work and a little luck, I came out the other side. I honestly say I wish he was still here. I still remember the day I heard he passed, I was crushed. My soul hurt. I had lost someone I felt an instant kinship with. His music, hell He, had a profound impact on my life. And I’m a better man for it. I’m little wiser and a lot older now. But his music will always have a speical place in my heart. Sublime was the soundtrack to my formidable years. I miss you Brad. Thank you for giving us a piece of your heart and soul. You are truely missed.

    6. Morgan says:

      I remember going on one of me and my family as many trips up and down California. I was five at the time and all my parents would play were Nirvana and sublime CDs. if you ever met a five year old to know every word to sublime it was me

    7. Garrett says:

      I was fortunate to see Sublime live Feb. 96 at the then White Rabbit Lounge in Austin, TX. Bradley came out from backstage with a big balloon filled with nitrous and gave us hits off of it and talked a little shit about 311. Then told me to watch his dog while he played. So I sat on the stage facing the crowd petting Lou dog the whole time. It was pretty much the best live show I’ve been to. Thanks for the memories Bradley. RIP

    8. Misty says:

      I first came upon Sublime the summer of 1996, right before I turned 15 and RighT before Bradley died and Sublime blew the f up. I fell in love with Bradley and his love for music, his voice, his bad habits, Louie Dog, everything! I was Hooked. Bradley was MY drug. I remember going to buy the first music that came out after he died and the insensitive asshole behind the counter who sold it to me, but not before saying “you know he’s dead, right?” I continued to love everything about Sublime, even and EspeciallY after Bradley died, so much so that I decided my first born son shall bear his name. In 2013 my baby Bradley was born. I know with a band like Sublime it’s impossible to pick a “favorite” song, but something about “Caress Me Down” always made me melt. My favorite article was always “Life After Death” in Rolling Stone. And my ONLY regret is never getting to see them in concert or shake the hand of the mother f***in man!

    9. Chris B says:

      My best friend and the most talented bass player I ever knew looked up to Bradley so much. All we ever did was jam Sublime day in and day out, just hanging out and having a good time. People were literally amazed at how accurate we emulated sublime. Kellen was his name and he may have been a reborn Bradley. Looking at these old photos of Brad, my friend looked just like him. He sounded the same when he sang, had the soul when he performed, and unfortunately had the same drug problems as Brad. Sublime was our go to music to listen to and to jam; we never learned the songs, we just played them. The good vibes from Sublime will forever remind me of my friend. One fateful day after our reunion after his rehab stints, he overdosed and died from heroin. Driving to his house immediately after i heard the news, santeria came on the radio, and i cried. Sublime brought my friends and I so close together that it is hard to describe with words. May Brad and Kellen rest in peace. I bet they’re jammin’ together right now. Peace and love to all reading this.

    10. tammy says:

      I’ve listened to sublime as long as I can remember! When I got pregnant it was the only name that my sons father and I could agree on. He just read this article with me! Living on forever happy birthday Bradley!!

    11. Miss you Bradley.

    12. Dub Diezel says:

      Mikey P and the rest of the Pier family, hope all is well out in Cali. It’s starting to get hotter than you know what again down here in South FLA. Anyway what an outstanding article man. The Pier rules. Just to be given the ability to click under the options you have to see copies of the actual pages from the actual letter Bradley wrote his sister is so cool. Pretty cool to see something personal from Brad that he wrote to one of his loved one’s and to share that with us was very cool. Big thanks to Brad’s sister also. I know she already knows the impact her brother had on music and his fans and to share an intimate and personal letter from him really gave us the opportunity to see where Brad was at that time in his life. The college years having fun, chasing girls, surfing, and drink’n beers. Perfect! Simply perfect!

    13. Timmy Pearce says:

      Beautiful article. It touched my heart enough to record Bad fish. Its pretty good too. love uou brad….

      Listen to Bad Fish Sublime cover by TIMOTHYDEWEYPEARCE #np on #SoundCloud
      http://soundcloud.com/dewey-abbott/bad-fish-sublime-cover

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