Sleepy LaBeef, a beloved rockabilly veteran died on December 26 at the age of 84. According to an article in Rolling Stone, “He died at home, in his own bed, surrounded by his family who loved him, and whom he dearly loved,” his family said in a Facebook post. “He lived a full and vibrant life, filled with the excitement of much travel and experience, the contentment that came from being able to spend his life doing what he loved best, and the fulfilling love of his wife, children, and grandchildren around him.” No cause of death was given.
Born Thomas Paulsley LaBeff, in Smackover, Arkansas, the artist known as Sleepy LaBeef broke out in the late ’50s with small hits on labels including Mercury, Columbia and, in the ’70s, Sun and was known for his live shows. By the second half of his career, LaBeef was a fixture of roots festivals in the States and Europe, having enhanced his cult with a role as the Swamp Thing in the 1968 B-movie, The Exotic Ones. In 2013, he was immortalized in the documentary/concert film, Sleepy LaBeef Rides Again filmed in Nashville and produced by bassist Dave Pomeroy.
LaBeef was known for tracks like “Every Day” and “Blackland Farmer.” His most recent album of original recordings was 2008’s Roots, a stripped-down collection of songs that shaped his approach to music. Sun Records popularized the rockabilly sound, in the Seventies, and in the Eighties released a handful of albums for the roots-minded Rounder Records. LaBeef kept a busy touring schedule up through the present, playing roots-music festivals in Europe and the United States. In August, he was among the performers at Blues to Bop 2019 in Switzerland. His live shows continued to be a draw for fans, offering a high-octane mix of his originals and covers from his extensive repertoire, delivered fast and loud and sung in his signature booming voice.