Jim Morrison of the Doors might be the Club 27 president. 

Ever hear of the “27 Club?” It’s not something you want to subscribe to, and given the demographics of my readership, the opportunity has long passed us by. 

The 27 Club is a list of well-known musicians who “bit the dust” at the age of twenty-seven. The term took off in 1994 when Kurt Cobain of Nirvana shot himself. The drug-addled musician was depressed and obsessed he might lose his house. 

At that point the media began to link the fact Cobain was 27, the same age as the demise of rockers Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Brian Jones. One publication stated the 27 Club is “one of the most elusive and remarkably tragic coincidences in rock history.” You suppose the author of that last line had a flair for the dramatic. 

Once the term Club 27 was established, journalists ran out of names going forward so they looked back. And lo and behold there was bluesman Robert Johnson FROM early in the 20thcentury awaiting them.  

Johnson was an enigmatic character, but not necessarily a very good guitar picker. He allegedly made a pact with Beelzebub down at a Mississippi crossroad that changed his talents and fortunes. In 1938, at age 27, Johnson made the moves on the wife of the owner of a roadhouse where he was performing. Sometime that night he drank from an open bottle and died three days later of strychnine poisoning. 

Although Johnson recorded only 29 songs in his career, many rockers covered his songs, marveling at his fret work on guitar. I often said I’d like to try some of those riffs on my guitar…if I could tune the damn thing. 

Conversely, Jimi Hendrix packed a ton of work into his 27 years on this rock and is considered the greatest guitarist ever. Played Woodstock ’69. He was drinking heavily in September 1970 and decided to take a sleeping pill. For whatever reason, he took 18 times the recommended dosage. Jimi, by the way, thought Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top was the best guitarist he had seen.  

Brian Jones, of the Rolling Stones, is a member too. Under mysterious circumstances, he drowned in his pool with a snoot full of drugs. Rolling Stone, the rag not the band, calls Jones’ death one of the “most persistent mysteries of rock and roll.” I read a book on the Stones and the author claimed Jones’ knew how to swim but that he was about to be booted from the band. 

Another member is Janis Joplin who played Woodstock ‘69. She recorded the classic “Me and Bobby McGee, a song written by Kris Kristofferson. The month after Hendrix died, Janis was feeling ignored by her fiancé, Seth Morgan.  She shot up some heroin but then fell while getting undressed, hitting her noggin’ on the nightstand. Feel free to use Kristofferson or Morgan’s names in your next bar bet. 

Jim Morrison of the Doors might be the Club 27 president. Known as a voracious drinker, he died in a bathtub in Paris of what was determined a heart attack. Journalists like to write his death at 27 was fated due to his outrageous reputation. 

Amy “Maybe I Should Have Gone to Rehab” Winehouse belongs in the club. She died in 2011 of alcohol intoxication. Supposedly, she was distraught over her boyfriend, Reg Traviss.  

Four musicians may not be as well known, or known at all, but they did make something of themselves in the music world and are labeled members of Club 27.

Guitarist Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson of Canned Heat – played at Woodstock ’69. Drug overdose death.

Ron “Pigpen” McKernan of the Grateful Dead – guitarist who was called unsightly, had major alcohol issues. Also played Woodstock ’69.

Peter Ham of Badfinger – guitarist who hung himself. Blamed his manager. Seven years later, his bandmate, Tom Evans also hanged himself. 

Gary Thain of Uriah Heep – performed at Woodstock ’69 . Died of respiratory failure due to heroin overdose. He played bass on one of my all-time favorite albums – Demons and Wizards. 

There are others, but you likely never heard of them either. 

The British Medical Journal conducted a study into the Club 27 myth. They found a small increased risk of musicians dying at age 27, but also at ages 25 and 32. There is really nothing unique about Club 27 other than possibly a few of the names. It’s their lifestyles that are killing them. 

Club 27 is a journalistic whim.