Rest in peace, Lee.
Lee Crystal, drummer for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts from 1981-1986, has passed away. I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends, and fans.
From Loud Wire:
Crystal was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1993 and his death is reportedly due to complications from the disease.
Although not many details have been revealed just yet, a post on Kayos Production’s Facebook page revealed the sad news, simply saying, “My heart is very heavy right now-our dear friend and Blackheart drummer Lee Crystal just lost his valiant fight with MS.”
Fans left loving comments in response which promoted Kayos Productions to share, “Thank you all-Lee was such a sweetheart-humble, funny, loving, generous not to mention a great drummer. Our memories are many and happy. Please keep his wife Maura and their boys in your prayers tonight.”
Before playing with Joan Jett & the Blackhearts Crystal played with former New York Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain and would go on to play with Crash Conference and Secret Chiefs.
When forced to give up playing drums due to his illness, Crystal’s passion for music lived on as he started teaching music classes out of his home.
Lee Crystal’s life as a Blackheart
The Blackheart Records 1983 press kit for Album has some great stories about Lee – he bought his first drum kit after it had been used by Carmine Appice during a Ludwig Drum Clinic in Brooklyn. It’s the same set he played on “I Love Rock ‘N Roll.”
Through some luck and ingenuity, Lee got his first real drum kit at 17. “A car hit me when I was on my bike, and although I wasn’t badly hurt I got a settlement of $350.00.” But even added to the $150.00 Lee had saved, it wasn’t enough for the kit he wanted, until Lee saw Carmine Appice play a Ludwig Drum Clinic in Brooklyn sponsored by Sam Ash Music. The next day Lee went into Same Ash, made them an offer for the set they’d loaned Appice, and walked out with a “slightly used-for-one-day-by Carmine Appice set of Ludwig drums–the same drums,” he explains, “I played on the song ‘I Love Rock ‘N Roll’.” After a year studying jazz history at C.C.N.Y. (“pretty boring” he recalls), Lee started playing C.B.G.B and Max’s Kansas City with the band he formed, The Boyfriends, who recorded a single on Bomp Records, “I Don’t Want Nobody, I Want You” and opened the shows for local stars like The Ramones and The Dead Boys. The Boyfriends also acquired a national following by “piling into a ’69 Plymouth with an old trailer and setting out across the country, all of us, and one roadie who we promised a meal a day–usually cinnamon toast.”
In Los Angeles, The Boyfriends headlined a Bomp Records week at the Whisky A-Go-Go. Living on toast and eggs with no money in their pockets, Lee and the band were in a local Safeway shoplifting one day. “I was standing there with a bottle of One-A-day vitamins in my gut and I ran into Joan Jett buying hamburger buns, and wearing a leather jacket even though it was 90 degrees out.” One night Lee’s motel room at the Tropicana was invaded for a post-gig party, where the guests were the band X and “this little punk rocker–Gary Ryan.” [Note: Gary Ryan became the Blackhearts' bassist. -- JJElektric]
Read more about Lee in the 1983 press kit HERE.
Also check out Lee’s Modern Drummer interview from 2006 here: http://www.moderndrummer.com/site/2006/09/lee-crystal/#.Unrlk-LEslQ
Mourning Lee Crystal
Joan Jett had this to say about her friend and former band mate today: “Lee Crystal was a gentleman and a gentle man. He was a Blackheart during some magical times. We love him and will miss him.” – Joan Jett*
"Lee Crystal was a gentleman and a gentle man. He was a Blackheart during some magical times. We love him and will miss him." – Joan Jett*—
Joan Jett (@joanjett) November 06, 2013
Original Blackhearts drummer & my roomie on the road in the early days Lee Crystal has lost his battle with MS… a sweetheart of guy RIP—
Ricky Byrd (@Byrdman20) November 06, 2013