Tributes and remembrances poured in on social media Monday and Tuesday for renowned Austin bassist Pat Whitefield, who died Monday while recovering from recent surgery to remove a brain tumor. He was 72.
Many friends gathered on Monday night at King Bee Lounge, where Whitefield had long been an anchor of the Little Elmore Reed Blues Band's weekly Monday residency. Drummer Mark Hays, posting on Facebook, said that Whitefield "had recently weathered the removal of a brain tumor and was just starting chemo and radiation. His road ahead was going to be a long one, but he was feeling good, had a great attitude and seemed happy. I was totally shocked when the call came."
Hays called Whitefield "the undisputed chief of the blues police, co-founder of The Little Elmore Reed Blues Band and the best damn blues bass player I've ever known. Pat and I played together longer than either of us played with any other musician. I learned so much from him it's impossible to put into words."
Eve Monsees, blues guitarist and co-owner of Antone's Record Shop, posted a photo of herself with Whitefield, accompanied by the words, "I’m heartbroken to learn that Pat Whitefield has passed away. Thank you Pat for all the years of music and friendship."
Drummer Tommy Taylor, who has played with many Austin acts including Christopher Cross and Eric Johnson, wrote an extended post about how at age 10 he first met Whitefield and received guitar lessons from him. Taylor recalled Whitefield turning him on to records by Cream and Jimi Hendrix, helping to open his mind about the possibilities of music.
Taylor noted that Whitefield eventually "became a HUGE blues aficionado. Many don’t realize that he was the ORIGINAL bass player for The Fabulous Thunderbirds. We remained friends my entire life."
Born Jan. 2, 1947, Joseph Patrick Whitefield was originally from Corsicana and also lived in Longview before making his way to Austin. His music history here dates back to his tenure in the 1960s rock/pop group Sweetarts with guitarist Ernie Gammage and others.
In a Facebook post, Gammage noted Whitefield had been his friend and bandmate for 50-plus years and dedicated the Sweetarts' 1967 single "A Picture of Me" to him: "Wondering how you are at this very moment, Pat, and sending you this song you played bass on. I'm guessing you're as astounded by this turn of events as we all are."
This American-Statesman video from June 2016 concludes with a snippet of a Little Elmore Reed Blues Band, with Whitefield playing bass, on a Monday night at the King Bee Lounge: