Howard Norman Epstein (July 21, 1955 - February 23, 2003), was a musician best known for his work with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Epstein was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and grew up in a musical household, but didn’t start playing the bass until a couple of years before joining the Heartbreakers. His father, Sam, was a top local record producer who worked with various Rock and Soul groups in the 50s and 60s. Howie got to hang around the studios watching his father work, as well as do a little recording under his dad’s watchful eye at a very young age.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Howie played in a number of both rock and roll and country Milwaukee bands that were regionally popular, like MHG Experience, Egz, Winks, Forearm Smash, and The Craze. When he’d gone as far as he could go in Milwaukee, Epstein decided to move to New York, but before he could pack his gear, he was lured to the West Coast by a drummer friend to play bass in a new band that singer-songwriter John Hiatt was forming in LA. He stuck with Hiatt for two years and two albums (Slug Line and Two Bit Monsters) and also toured briefly with Cindy Bullens.
Epstein played bass on recordings by Eric Andersen, Bob Dylan, Carlene Carter, Johnny Cash, John Hiatt, Stevie Nicks, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, John Prine, Linda Ronstadt, Del Shannon, The Textones, The Village People, and Warren Zevon.
He earned acclaim as a songwriter and a producer. Epstein produced two albums for John Prine, including 1991’s The Missing Years, which won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Recording, and Eric Andersen’s Memory Of The Future (1998).
Epstein died on February 23, 2003 at the age of 47 due to complications of drug use.
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