Had he not drugged himself to death, Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley would have turned 50 this coming Tuesday. Instead of continuing to lead one of the great Seattle bands of the 90s into the 21st century, he died a junkie, alone in his condo, a needle in his arm and another fully-loaded spike in the other.
His mother, Nancy McCullum, had police break down his door when accounts noticed that Layne hadn’t touched his bank account in two weeks. Imagine finding your son, dead and decomposing. It sends shudders.
McCullum recently gave an interview to the Seattle Times in which she recounts that horrible day.
On the very day that Nancy McCallum and I were meeting to talk about the Layne Staley Tribute concert next weekend, King County announced there had been a record number of drug-related deaths last year — two-thirds of them opioid-related.
McCallum didn’t need the numbers to know that things had only gotten worse since Staley, her son and the gifted lead singer of Alice in Chains, died of a heroin overdose in April 2002 at age 34.
Fifteen years later, McCallum still hears from people who are addicted to heroin or love someone in its throes. They want her perspective and advice.
“I don’t have any magic answers,” McCallum told me. “I just try to console people. It’s heartbreaking and overwhelming and unnecessary. But I know it’s coupled with a proclivity for habitual behavior.
“I will never be able to understand even trying something that is so dangerous,” she said of opioids. “I’m as bewildered as the next person, because I see a beautiful world.”
Some of that beauty unfolds at the annual Layne Staley Tribute concert, to be held Aug. 19 at the Moore Theatre. It will be the 15th year that McCallum has celebrated her son’s talent with his family, friends and fans.