In what's already been a bummer of a week for local music after the recent passing of local folk guitarist Andrew Duncan Brown, we have more sad news to report. Amy and Derrick Ross, the Bisbee couple behind popular folk/Americana duo Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl, have died.
Amy Ross, 40, died Monday. According to the Arizona Daily Star, the vocalist and keyboard player, who performed as "Whiskey Girl," passed away at Tuscon Medical Center from a "blood infection brought on by ongoing dialysis." She also suffered from Lupus. Derrick Ross, 39, who was "Nowhere Man" in the act and played acoustic guitar, reportedly committed suicide sometime Monday.
News of both of their deaths came via social media, albeit in a peculiar fashion, wherein Amy Ross seemingly announced the couple's deaths from beyond the grave.
An update to Amy's Facebook page on Monday evening stated the following:
Hey kids! Bad news! I died this morning and Derrick didn't know how to tell you. I love you all and hope you go out and be nice to someone. Funerals are a bore so hopefully I don't have one. Give Derrick some space... He stinks at this stuff so leave him be for now. Thanks for all the kindness... Please spread it around.
Reaction to the post was a combination of shock, surprise, and disbelief from her nearest and dearest. One person claiming to be a family member stated it was a hoax and that she was alive.
Earlier today, a second update was made to Amy Ross' page that suggested her husband had taken his own life.
Sorry to bring more bad news but Derrick decided to join me at some point in the night last night. I thought it best you heard it from me. Enjoy every sandwich. We love and will miss you all. Go be nice to someone for us.
Stand-up comic Doug Stanhope, who lived next door to the couple in Bisbee and was both their landlord and close friend (as well as featuring them at some of his gigs), confirmed via Twitter within minutes of the second Facebook post that Derrick Ross had taken his own life.
No more need to donate. Nowhere Man killed himself last night. Two of our favorite people in the world in 24 hours. Stunned.
— Doug Stanhope (@DougStanhope) October 15, 2013
It's unknown who made the Facebook updates.
UPDATE: It's been reported by Tucson media outlets that Stanhope had access to Amy's page and was the one who made the updates.
Up on the Sun reached out to Stanhope, who currently is on tour in New York, for comment about the couple. The comedian understandably was at a loss for words but said that the Rosses were "just two of the best people I've ever known."
Reaction from current and former Arizona musicians and artists -- as well as a wealth of friends and fans -- has been that of a stunned nature. Many comments serve as elegies both of the Rosses' music and their affable and generous personalities.
Tucson-based singer-songwriter Carlos Arzate stated on Facebook that the couple's deaths were a "tremendous unfathomable loss."
"RIP Derrick Ross [and] Amy Ross two of the kindest souls I ever met. I will miss your smiles and generosity [and] talent," Arzate wrote.
Guitarist and vocalist Jim Dustan, whose bands World Class Thugs and Psycho Square Dance have performed at many gigs with Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl around the Valley and elsewhere, posted the following on Facebook.
I remember the early days and the bisbee days. We shared some treasured moments growing up. I will always cherish the way your music made me smile and how it inspired me. RIP Amy (whiskey girl) and Derrick (nowhere man), may you both find peace. Until we meet again someday.
Without a doubt, they were one of Arizona's best acts in the Americana vein, offering a sometimes-joyful/sometimes poignant pastiche of down-home lonesome, rootsy touches, and indie quirk that was made even more emotional by Amy's meanderingly dulcet vocals.
The husband-and-wife duo, who were married for more than a decade, were self-described as a "couple of wanderers" who previously resided in Oregon and Tennessee. They formed the act in 2003, drawing its name from the Gillian Welch country song "Whiskey Girl."
Although based in Bisbee (where they were regulars at the Copper Queen Hotel's lounge), Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl were musical vagabonds who exhaustively traveled throughout Arizona for performances in Tucson, Flagstaff, and Phoenix. In 2009, they even participated in an episode of our now-defunct Sun Session series.
Singer-songwriter Brodie Foster Hubbard, a former Valley resident who shared the bill with Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl on several occasions, says that he hopes that the couple's fans will "honor the spirit of what Derrick and Amy shared and the joy they put into their music," instead of just focusing on the weird circumstances involving their deaths.
"The whole situation is surreal. With Amy, it's not so shocking, because she has had health issues for a long time. It's still very saddening, of course. But with Derrick, that's shocking," Hubbard says. "You can follow the logic, anyone in a deeply committed relationship would probably say they couldn't go on without their partner. And other folks who have experienced that loss, I'm sure that option has crossed their mind. So it's not unthinkable. It's no less horrible, though."
He also hopes the couple's friends and fans will able to cope with their loss.
"The best-case scenario in these situations is that we bond and listen to our favorite songs, and cry and laugh over our memories, and we make pacts to stay in better touch and be there for each other," Hubbard says. I'd really like to see us all see that through."
Note: This blog has been updated from its original version.