Gulf Coast Rock Legend Jerry LaCroix Dies at Age 70
Jerry LaCroix, a singer and saxophonist whose career included stints with Edgar Winter‘s White Trash, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Rare Earth, has passed away after succumbing to complications related to congestive heart failure he suffered in 2010.
The Beaumont Enterprise quotes LaCroix’s brother Julian as saying he was admitted to a local hospital earlier in the week, and although it initially appeared as though doctors could stabilize him, he “never went back.” Continued LaCroix, “I can’t believe this is going so fast across the country. It hurts. It hurts a lot. This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.”
Although he was never a household name in his own right, LaCroix’s soulful vocals made him a favorite performer for those in the know — a group that, early in his career, included Columbia president Clive Davis, who not only presided over White Trash’s deal with the label’s Epic subsidiary, but ended up playing matchmaker between LaCroix and Blood, Sweat & Tears after White Trash fell apart. Although he’d just released his own solo album, 1974’s ‘The Second Coming,’ he decided to abandon promotional efforts because, as he put it, “Blood, Sweat & Tears was going on a world tour and I hadn’t seen the world.”
Staying with the band long enough to contribute to their 1974 ‘Mirror Image’ album, LaCroix soon left because, as he told Swampland, “they weren’t really a kick-ass band like White Trash was and I wasn’t happy.” But just as quickly as he left one band, he joined another: Rare Earth’s manager soon came calling, and as LaCroix recalled in the same interview, “He flew me out to L.A. and we talked a little bit and he said, ‘Oh, by the way, tomorrow we’re going to be on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. You want to sing with us?’ No rehearsal, no nothing. I just got on live TV and sang ‘Get Ready.’ He said and then, day after tomorrow, we’re going on tour. So I had to learn all of their songs in two days.”
While LaCroix continued to enjoy local legend status in the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast region, he turned his back on the music industry after the ’80s; at one point, he told Swampland, “I was living up in Oregon cutting wood. A guy had a 2000-acre ranch. It was just pristine but it wasn’t music.” Returning to Texas to care for his ailing father, he started a new band, but he harbored no delusions of grandeur regarding that stage of his career. “I’m doing a compilation tape of things I’ve recorded in the past. A little package to give more or less as souvenirs to people who come to see us. Demos, if somebody wants to hear something,” he mused in one late interview. “I’m also working on an anthology. I’m getting my own CD burner so I can make my own CDs and do them out of the back end of the Winnebago.”
After the turn of the century, LaCroix dedicated himself to caring for his elderly mother, but in the summer of 2010, his own health took a turn for the worse. Local musicians banded together to help raise money for his medical care after he suffered congestive heart failure; he recovered enough to perform at his induction into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in January of 2012, but over time, his condition continued to deteriorate.
Although LaCroix’s solo recordings are sadly out of print, copies still seem to be for sale through his official site; you can also sample his output — and watch some more recent live performances — via YouTube.