It was with great sadness that I read this morning that Tony Sly, the singer, guitarist and principal songwriter for the San Jose, California punk rock band No Use for a Name passed away at age 41. The band's label, Fat Wreck Chords, announced the news, but no further details about his passing have been made available.
I was privileged to have known Tony personally, and to have had the pleasure of touring with his band throughout the late '90s and early 2000's, a relationship that continued even after I got off the road. Whenever he was in town, usually to play a show at El Corazon, I would show up early so we could catch up on whatever had happened since we were last in touch. We shared many long and thoughtful conversations about touring, fatherhood and the struggles of being an aging punk. But Tony loved music most of all, and in recent years, when touring had slowed with No Use for a Name, he began a solo career, releasing a handful of records that showcased his songwriting in a new light. The solo records began to cultivate a following outside of his work with his band, which I know validated his work as a songwriter.Music was the only job Tony had ever had, and he spoke often about how grateful he was to have built a life around it, even though the touring frequently took him away from his family. He was always gracious to his fans as well. The last time we hung out was after a solo show of his in the lounge at El Corazon, and he made himself available to fans long after his set had ended, signing autographs, posing for pictures and chatting with anyone that wanted to say hello. As he packed up his merch that night, we both laughed about the T-shirts he was selling, which bared only his name and not his band's, which I know he found a bit awkward.
Tony Sly was one of the good ones, and he leaves behind a strong legacy of music. No Use for a Name were an important piece of punk's resurgence in the '90s and there are countless bands who were inspired by Tony's craft, his dedication to punk rock and his affable spirit. I will miss him and his music terribly.
Update: Our sister paper, The OC Weekly, spoke with the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner's Office, who said:
"It appears to be a natural death, but the body hasn't been examined at this time."