Ten months after The Relatives mourned the passing of frontman and founder Rev. Gean West, the funkiest, sweatiest and God-fearingest group from West Dallas has lost a second member -- singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tony Corbitt.
Earnest Tarkington and Tommy West -- who formed The Relatives with Rev. Gean, Tommy's brother, in 1970 -- say Corbitt died Sunday morning. He suffered a heart attack as he prepared for church. Corbitt, they say, was in his early 50s.
It's been a rough year for The Relatives -- "rough," says Tarkington, "rough. But God is good. And ya gotta keep going, spreading his goodness."
West says he found out just as he was preparing to step onto the pulpit Sunday morning at his No Walls Ministry on E. Ledbetter. His daughter called to tell him they'd lost another member of the group.
"And it was devastating when we heard about it," says West. "I was getting ready to preach. And it was mind-blowing, devastating. It hit us all."
Corbitt joined The Relatives in 2009, shortly after Austin DJ Noel Waggener released the band's first-ever full-length record Don't Let Me Fail on his Heavy Light label. (The album contained vintage recordings, cut in the early 1970s, some of which had never before been issued.)He was introduced to the Wests and Tarkington by Tyron Edwards, who'd signed on to play keyboards in the new iteration of old favorites who suddenly needed a stage band after decades playing only to the true believers in their respective congregations.
"He was very, very talented," says Tommie West. "Plus, he was a minister."
"God sent him when we got back together," says Tarkington. "We were asking God to send us people who knew Him and who could help us spread the world. He was an awesome keyboard player, and he was a great asset."
"He was just an awesome guy," adds West." An all-around man. Whatever the position, he could fill it. Tony was lots of fun, a great guy with a great sense of humor. And he was a great songwriter. He'll be a great loss."
But this is far from the end for The Relatives: The band has a new record coming next year -- Goodbye World, so named for an old song that appears on Don't Let Me Fail. A single is due for release in February; the full record, sometime in April. Rev. Gean and Tony play big roles on the record, which was one song short of being completed before West's death to begin the new year. Tommie and Tarkington say the band will carry on.
"We'll get through it," says Tommie. "We'll miss him and Gene. We'll get through it through the grace of God."
"We're gonna have to get through it some kind of way," Tarkington says. "Maybe God will send us someone just as awesome."
"They may not be with us in person," says Tommy. "But they're still with us in spirit. "