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Epilogue | Kenneth Thomas Batchelder III

Tommy Batchelder, bass player and sound engineer, dies

HOLIDAY — Guitars flank a wall in an otherwise empty dining room in Tommy Batchelder's rented home. Vinyl discs are spaced higher up, and electric cords snake across a well-worn carpet which, like everything else, smells of cigarette smoke.

Mr. Batchelder — a rock guitarist better known as Tommy B Bass who opened for well-known heavy metal bands such as Lynch Mob, White Zombie and Pantera and once auditioned for Metallica — died Feb. 14 of kidney failure, his family said. He was 46.

"Tommy loved music more than anything. Even more than me," said Charlotte Higgins, Mr. Batchelder's girlfriend. Recently, she hung a photo of Paul and Linda McCartney below the records "because Linda and Paul spent every night together until she died."

She and Mr. Batchelder made sure to do the same, she said.

Higgins, 59, and Tim Batchelder, Mr. Batchelder's brother, sat on a leather couch Friday and watched some video of Mr. Batchelder playing blues at Bourbon Street Nightclub in New Port Richey. The club, once a sprawling pool hall, offers everything from karaoke to wrestling and wet T-shirt contests, and remains a magnet for rock and blues bands like Great White and Edgar Winter.

In this footage, fed to the television from a videocamera on the floor, the lean guy with the leather vest and the Fu Manchu moustache provides the musical floor with his bass playing. Both sets of Mr. Batchelder's fingers fly, pausing only to extract a lit Camel from the tuning pegs of his guitar for an occasional hit.

He makes it look easy, like dialing phone numbers.

Mr. Batchelder grew up in Chicago, where as a child he became infatuated with the bass while watching wedding musicians. He taught himself to play. In the early 1980s, while still a teenager, he moved to Los Angeles. Those were good years for Mr. Batchelder, his brother said. He played in bands, opening for some of the best metal bands of the era, including Pantera. He mingled with performers such as Janet Jackson and the members of Earth, Wind and Fire.

At one point, he attracted the attention of a scout for Metallica, which needed a bass player.

"He met those guys," said Tim Batchelder, 45. "I remember him telling me he brought beer. They joked that the other guy wasn't going to get the job because he didn't bring beer."

Mr. Batchelder moved to San Francisco and Dallas, playing in bands or working as a sound engineer.

"He always wanted to make bands that didn't sound too good sound better, and he usually did," Higgins said.

While in Texas, Mr. Batchelder was diagnosed with leukemia. Blood transfusions led to hepatitis C, Higgins said. The cancer went into remission, and the hepatitis had been dormant for 20 years.

Mr. Batchelder moved to Florida in 1993 and met his girlfriend while playing at Bourbon Street.

"I robbed the cradle, but I didn't care," said Higgins, who was 13 years older than her beau.

Besides music and Charlotte, Mr. Batchelder cultivated a third love affair — with beer. After responding to a noise complaint Aug. 6, Pasco County sheriff's deputies found him in his van, in his driveway. According to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, when the deputies tried to get Mr. Batchelder to step outside the van, he sprayed a fire extinguisher at one of them.

In December, Mr. Batchelder pled guilty to assault on a law enforcement officer, a felony. He was sentenced to 18 months' probation.

"He was kind of a crazy guy," Tim Batchelder said. "A fire extinguisher is not a dangerous weapon."

Mr. Batchelder and Higgins might have married — "He asked me 10,000 times," she said — but he spent a lot of energy staying ahead of the bills. On Feb. 12, Mr. Batchelder did a side job cleaning someone's chimney.

He came down with a fever Feb. 13 and was taken to Community Hospital New Port Richey. True to her wish, Higgins was at his bedside when he died.

"My baby," she said Friday, smoking a cigarette and watching the video of Mr. Batchelder playing bass. "I'm going to miss him."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

>>Biography

Kenneth Thomas Batchelder III

Born:
March 1, 1963.

Died:
Feb. 14, 2010.

Survivors: Companion Charlotte Higgins; father Kenneth Batchelder II and his wife Patricia; mother Jacqueline Ryan; brother Tim Batchelder; sisters Tara Dixon and Tisa Batchelder; one niece; and one nephew.

Service: 2 p.m. today; Dobies Funeral Home, 701 E Tarpon Ave., Tarpon Springs.

Tommy Batchelder, bass player and sound engineer, dies 02/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 20, 2010 8:26pm]
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