Cinderella Guitarist Jeff Labar Dead at 58

It’s a sad week for the rock music scene with the passing of Jeff LaBar, best known as guitarist for Cinderella, one of the standout acts on the mid-80s Philly rock and roll scene. He was 58 years old.

The band, which also featured singer/guitarist Tom Keifer, bassist Eric Brittingham and drummer Fred Coury, were notably discovered by Jon Bon Jovi at the long-shuttered Empire Rock Club and went on to be an MTV staple with hits like “Nobody’s Fool,” “Shake Me” and “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone).” Pigeonholed as just another hair metal outfit on the musical landscape dotted with the likes of Warrant and Poison, Cinderella were actually a more blues-based rock group, due in no small part to the swagger of LaBar’s playing.

Night Songs, the triple-platinum selling 1986 debut by Cinderella, exploded on radio and television, though the band were no strangers to the latter, having appeared in a 1983 commercial for Pat’s Chili Dogs, which was located on MacDade Boulevard. At the time, LaBar was still two years away from joining the lineup.

Cinderella followed up ‘Night Songs’ with Long Cold Winter in 1988 and then Heartbreak Station in 1990. Unfortunately, they were railroaded by the burgeoning grunge movement and never replicated the success of their first two efforts. The group were inactive for much of the early 90s, but rebounded as the decade wore on and the early aughts saw nostalgia kicking in.

Recent years saw Keifer embark on a solo career while LaBar and Brittingham linked up in Naked Beggars. The singer remarked in one 2017 interview that Cinderella was, for all intents and purposes, finished.

“There’s been a lot of issues over the course of decades and build-up that is beyond repair at this point,” he told All That Shreds. “So there won’t be any reunion.”

The year prior, LaBar copped to the fact that his alcoholism was the cause of friction and ensuing split and that he had a long history of substance abuse including cocaine and heroin. He added that Keifer wouldn’t even return his phone calls.

“I can only speculate, but I believe it’s all my fault,” LaBar said. “It’s no secret that I’ve had a drinking problem. And it showed its ugly face on (a Monsters of Rock Cruise Cinderella did in 2014). I guess that’s what caused a rift.”

The news of LaBar’s death was revealed by his son, Sebastian, who followed in his father’s footsteps and currently plays guitar for the post-grunge unit Tantric.

“So I just got the call…Jeff LaBar, my father, my hero, my idol, passed away today,” Sebastian wrote on social media. “I’m currently at a loss for words. I love you pop!”

Like many musicians who came to prominence in the 80s, LaBar had relocated to Nashville and released a solo LP, One for the Road, in 2014. Through it all, he remained a die-hard Philly guy, huge Eagles fan who never forgot his roots. Late Wednesday, his former bandmates expressed their condolences.

“Heavy hearts cannot begin to describe the feeling of losing our brother Jeff,” they said in a collective statement. “The bond between us over decades of creating music and touring the world is something that we as a band uniquely shared. Those memories with Jeff will be forever alive in our hearts. It’s unimaginable that one of our band brothers has left us. We’re sending his wife Debinique, his son Sebastian, family, and friends our deepest condolences. Jeff’s memory and music will be with us forever. 

We all… band, family and management appreciate the overwhelming outpouring of love.”

A version of this article appears in this week’s print and online editions of my syndicated Rock Music Menu column under the title “Cinderella guitarist Jeff LaBar, an Upper Darby native, dies.”

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