Musicians' September survival guide

Jimi Hendrix (WENN.COM file photo)

Jimi Hendrix (WENN.COM file photo)

Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:08 PM ET

April may be the cruellest month. But September hasn't exactly been kind to musicians either.

In fact, the first few weeks of fall have proven to be downright deadly for prominent players and performers. Scores of them -- everyone from Jimi Hendrix and John Bonham to Johnny Ramone and Johnny Cash -- have left the building during the ninth month of the year. Coincidence? Well, yeah.

But that doesn't mean it can't be helped. After crunching the names and numbers, we've spotted some trends and common threads in the mix, not to mention a few things that musicians might want to avoid if they hope to make it to Rocktober. Here are a few do's and don't's in the Musicians' September Survival Guide:

DON'T be a larger-than-life powerhouse drummer with a self-destructive streak.

It certainly didn't pay off for Keith Moon of The Who, who ODed on sedatives on Sept. 7, 1978. Nor did it help Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, who died after a vodka binge during band rehearsals on Sept. 25, 1980. On the plus side, this means Ringo Starr and Charlie Watts are probably safe.

DO go easy on the booze and drugs.

Along with Moon and Bonham, substance abuse directly or indirectly led to the deaths of guitar god Jimi Hendrix (sleeping pills and red wine in a London flat, Sept. 18, 1970); Flying Burrito Brothers frontman Gram Parsons (morphine and alcohol in a Joshua Tree hotel, Sept. 19, 1973); Wings guitarist Jimmy McCulloch (heroin OD, Sept. 27, 1979); Average White Band drummer Robbie McIntosh (accidental heroin OD at an L.A party, Sept. 23, 1974); Canned Heat guitarist Alan (Blind Owl) Wilson (OD, Sept. 3, 1970); acclaimed jazz pianist Bill Evans (complications of a lifetime of drug abuse, Sept. 15, 1980); and British Invasion singer Rory Storm (sleeping pills and a chest infection, Sept. 28, 1972).

DON'T be named John or Jim.

Aside from Hendrix and Bonham and McCulloch, September has also been tough time for country icon Johnny Cash (complications from diabetes, Sept. 12, 2003); punk guitarist Johnny Ramone (prostate cancer, Sept. 15, 2004); folksinger Jim Croce (plane crash, Sept. 20, 1973); punk poet Jim Carroll (heart attack at home, Sept. 11, 2009); blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon (throat cancer, Sept. 18, 1997); Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (brain hemmorhage, Sept. 20 1957); and Austrian composer Johann Strauss (scarlet fever, Sept. 25, 1849).

DO stay off the road.

Traffic mishaps brought things to a halt for Metallica bassist Cliff Burton (tour bus crash in Sweden, Sept. 27, 1986); glam-rocker Marc Bolan (single-vehicle car crash after night out in London, Sept. 16, 1977); country singer Dottie West (complications following a car accident while speeding to Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Sept. 4, 1991); and blues pioneer Bessie Smith (car-truck collision, Sept. 26, 1937).

DON'T be a member of Weather Report.

The influential jazz-rock fusion ensemble has lost two members in September: Keyboardist and composer Joe Zawinul (skin cancer, Sept. 11, 2007) and troubled bassist Jaco Pastorius (brain hemmorhage after being beaten by a bouncer, Sept. 21, 1987). Sax player Wayne Shorter might want to lay low this month.

DO wear a bullet-proof vest or get some security.

Had they followed this simple rule, things might have turned out differently for reggae icon Peter Tosh (murdered during a robbery at his Jamaica home, Sept. 11, 1987); and Tupac Shakur (gunned down at a red light after a boxing match in Las Vegas, Sept. 7, 1996; died Sept. 13).

DON'T contract peritoneal mesothelioma.

A form of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos, it felled both American bandleader Billy Vaughn (Sept. 26, 1991) and singer-songwriter Warren Zevon (Sept. 7, 2003). The fact that Zevon hadn't seen a doctor in years didn't help. And for musicians who can't follow these handy rules, Zevon has one final piece of advice: Do enjoy every sandwich.

Some other September casualties:

Sept. 1

2005 - R. L. Burnside, blues singer

2008 - Jerry Reed, musician and actor

Sept. 5

2003 - Gisele MacKenzie, Canadian singer

Sept. 6

1984 - Ernest Tubb, singer

1990 - Tom Fogerty, CCR guitarist

1994 - Nicky Hopkins, British pianist

2007 - Luciano Pavarotti, opera singer

Sept. 9

1996 - Bill Monroe, bluegrass icon

Sept. 10

2005 - Clarence (Gatemouth) Brown, blues guitarist

Sept 15

2008 - Richard Wright, Pink Floyd keyboardist

Sept. 16

2009 - Mary Travers, folksinger

Sept. 20

1984 - Steve Goodman, singer-songwriter

Sept. 22

1989 - Irving Berlin, songwriter

Sept. 26

2003 - Robert Palmer, singer

Sept. 28

1991 - Miles Davis, jazz trumpeter

Sept. 30

1977 - Mary Ford, singer


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