Anyone who listened to FM rock radio at the end of 1976 couldn’t help but air drum along with Sib Hashian during a classic percussion moment: two drumbeats with both sticks and a quick cymbal crash that threw open the door to the soaring guitar solo in Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time.”
Those three beats fall not quite two and half minutes into a song that stretches for more than seven and a half minutes on the band’s self-titled first album, which sold some 17 million copies in the United States alone, becoming one of the most successful debuts in history.
That brief indelible passage for Mr. Hashian – who was just as unforgettable visually in those days because of his expansive Afro – was also a memorable moment for the classic rock genre.
“He was a legend, and I don’t think there’s a day that goes by today that I don’t hear his drumming on the radio,” said car magnate Ernie Boch, a longtime friend who played alongside Mr. Hashian for several years, beginning in 2004, in the band Ernie and the Automatics. “I listen to classic rock all the time, and if you listen to classic rock, you hear Sibby Hashian play every day.”
Mr. Hashian, who went from playing in North Shore bands to touring the world while drumming for Boston’s first two albums, collapsed and died Wednesday night as he performed on the Legends of Rock Caribbean cruise. He was 67 and lived in Lynnfield.
His son, Adam, told Fox News that although a cause of death has not been determined, “we think it might be a heart attack.”
In a statement issued Thursday, Mr. Hashian’s wife of 38 years, Suzanne, announced his death “with deep and profound sadness,” and said he died at 11 p.m. while performing on the cruise. She added that funeral and service arrangements will be announced.
Also on the cruise was Barry Goudreau, a guitarist who was part of Boston’s debut album lineup with Mr. Hashian.
“It’s with a very heavy heart that I have to announce that my musical partner of 50 years, Sib Hashian, collapsed during our set on the Rock Legends Cruise last night,” Goudreau said in a Facebook posting. “Despite efforts to revive him, he did not survive. Sib was one in a million, never to be replaced.”
The two had played in bands together as teenagers and through music they met their future Boston bandmates: guitarist and songwriter Tom Scholz, bassist Fran Sheehan, and singer Brad Delp, who took his life in March 2007.
According to the Legends of Rock website, the cruise departed from Miami Saturday. The ship stopped in St. Maarten Tuesday, in Puerto Rico Wednesday, and was scheduled to be at sea en route to the Bahamas Wednesday night when Mr. Hashian died. The ship is due to arrive in Nassau at noon Friday.
John Thomas Hashian was born Aug. 17, 1949, according to funeral information posted on legacy.com. He grew up on the North Shore and for a time played with Sheehan in a lounge act.
“I got Sib in the band for a little while,” Sheehan said in an interview with Michael Hill that is posted on www.thirdstage.ca. “He goes, ‘I’ll join you for a little while because you’re making so much money. We’ll make a bunch of cake, we’ll buy ourselves some great equipment, and we’ll do a band.’ So we did that for a while.”
Eventually, the five band members – Delp, Goudreau, Scholz, Sheehan, and Mr. Hashian – came together for a debut album whose sales success they would never match.
Before parting ways with Boston, Mr. Hashian played on the band’s second album, “Don’t Look Back,” which was released in 1978 and sold several million copies. He also played on Goudreau’s self-titled 1980 album, to which Delp contributed vocals. “I started playing with Sib back in Lynn English High School, and he’s one of the only drummers I’ve worked with,” Goudreau told the Globe in 1980, explaining why he turned to his Boston bandmates while preparing a solo outing.
From about 2004 to 2011, Mr. Hashian played with Ernie and the Automatics, and he also had owned a record shop and tanning parlor businesses in Greater Boston. For a time, he was a host for the TV show “Scorch’s PFG.”
The members of Ernie and the Automatics included Boch, Goudreau, and Michael “Tunes” Antunes of John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band. The band performed in venues that ranged from “tiny little bars that you could barely fit a drum set in to massive stages,” Boch recalled, and Mr. Hashian was always a cheerful presence.
“No matter if we were playing in a chicken coop or a giant theater, he was always positive,” Boch said. “Sibby did it for the love of playing. When we first started out, we were playing these absolutely small stage dives, and he would be so excited about it.”
Backstage, Mr. Hashian might share stories about performing for crowds of 60,000 fans, “and we’d walk out and there would be 12 people,” Boch said with a chuckle. “It did not matter if it was two or 20,000 – he had a professionalism about him that was inspiring. We called him the engine room because he was like an engine. He never skipped a beat. His timing was impeccable.”
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Hashian’s survivors include his daughters Aja and Lauren, who has a daughter with actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
In a late-1970s profile of Boston for Rolling Stone magazine, writer and film director Cameron Crowe captured Mr. Hashian in unguarded moments that included racking up some 28,000 points on a pinball machine. “It’s all about the extra ball, my friend,” he told Crowe. Mr. Hashian also joked about what it’s like to go from playing in North Shore bands to performing worldwide.
“I am the same man today, even after the success” Mr. Hashian told Crowe for that profile, which is posted on theuncool.com. “And, as Joe Namath says,” he added, invoking the former New York Jets quarterback, “I can’t wait till tomorrow cause I get better looking every day.”