Stephan Ellis, the former two-time bass player from rock legends, Survivor, has died, the band said in a Facebook post on February 28. The band’s statement was written by guitarist Frankie Sullivan.
Sullivan wrote in tribute to Ellis, “What I remember most and clearly recall is the day when we cut “Keep It Right Here.” The Bass part and lines in the intro just folded into the mix and it was the bass part that inspired me to reach higher on my guitar. We cut our tracks together, live in the studio. Steph’s runs on the neck of that blue bass are as memorable as the song itself.” Ellis’ cause of death was not made public.
Frankie Sullivan Said Ellis Was ‘Underrated Yet Never Dated’
The tribute concludes with the words, “I will miss Stephan, we all will. We can talk for years about how much he’d cause us to laugh and most importantly to a rock n’ roll band at that time, the infamous “ice” lesson he passed on to us all one day that stuck for a long while. This was Stephan Ellis to me. Underrated yet never dated. Well dressed and on a consistent basis. Gargoyles and all and he was cool enough to pull off. Stephan was well-coifed, always ready and Stephan Ellis lived his own life in his own way and on his own terms.”
Ellis Had Been Suffering From Dementia
In a Facebook tribute, one of the bass legend’s friend, Will Clausen, wrote that Ellis had been suffering from dementia. Clausen said, “we would get together and watch science shows…he loved them…I went to visit him a couple of weeks ago and said my goodbyes…when I started singing Elvis “Blue Suede Shoes” he snapped out of the dementia for a minute before slipping back in…Stephan was a joy…Godspeed Stephan.”
Ellis Last Left Survivor in 1999
Ellis first joined Survivor in 1981 and left for the first time in 1988. During his first run in the band, he played bass on the band’s major hit, “Eye of the Tiger,” the lead song for Rocky III. Ellis would return to the band in 1996 before leaving again in 1999. Ellis also played bass on David Glen Eisley’s 2000 album, “Stranger From the Past.”
Ellis Joined Survivor After the Other Band Members Saw Him Performing at Roller Rink
Another former Survivor member, Jim Peterik, paid tribute to Ellis in a Facebook post, writing that he had felt Ellis was “bulletproof, immortal.” Peterik added, “Stephan was the genuine rock ‘n’ roll article. He had the look, the attitude and his aggressive style on his Fender Precision bass that helped define what would become the signature sound of Survivor.”
Peterik went on to tell the story of how Ellis had joined the band following the loss of their original bass player. The other members of Survivor had decamped to Los Angeles to audition new members. After seeing Ellis play with a band named Baxter at a roller ink, they approached him about a formal tryout. Ellis showed up promptly at 9:30 a.m. the next morning for his successful audition. Shortly afterward, the band began working on the album “Premonition,” which would lead to their presence on the soundtrack for Rocky III as the album made Sylvester Stallone a fan.