Gin Blossoms: The Tragic Death of Guitarist Doug Hopkins

doug hopkins gin blossoms

Gin Blossoms: Doug Hopkins Tragic Story

Gin Blossoms rose to popularity in 1993 after the success of their 1992 record “New Miserable Experience.” Guitarist Doug Hopkins wrote or co-wrote many of the band’s hits. Check out the full story below!

“Let’s face it, Tempe, Arizona., is not
exactly a thriving rock ‘n’ roll mecca.

It seems more like one of those places that
a budding rock band leaves, then later reminisces

about for its boring but lovable qualities.”
That’s what the LA Times had to say about

Gin Blossoms during a 1993 profile they wrote
about the group. Gin Blossoms rose to prominence

in the early 90’s thanks to their second
and third records which sold quite well, but

it was a miracle that the band even released
their second and breakout album New Miserable

experience. By the end of the recording sessions
the band would lose one of their key members

guitarist Doug Hopkins whose life would end
tragically just as his old band was finding

fame.. Today lets talk about the life and
death of the guitarist.

Gin Blossoms born and raised on R.E.M., Tom
Petty, Cheap Trick, and the Replacements,

which offered a stark contrast to the other
popular bands of the early 90’s who were

fed a healthy diet of punk rock, metal and
bands like The Pixies. Gin Blossoms married

joyful sounding melodies with young adult
anxieties. Hailing from Tempe Arizona, Gin

Blossoms first formed thanks to a Tower Records
store in the city, where frontman Robin Wilson

and bassist Bill Leen both worked. The band
formed in 1987, and the first solid lineup

consisted of Wilson, Leen, guitarists Jesse
Valenzuela, ad Doug Hopkins, as well as drummer

Phillip Rhodes.
The band started playing around Tempe and

developing a name for themselves. Soon enough,
they put out their self funded debut record

Dusted in 1989. The band also started playing
outside of Tempe heading to Austin and playing

at the south by southwest showcase, while
also playing in clubs in Los Angeles lincluding

Raji’s, Club Lingerie and the Coconut Teazer.
They would eventually attract the attention

of A&M records in 1990, the same label soundgarden
was signed to.

While the band should’ve been celebrating,
guitarist Doug Hopkins was not. Having suffered

from severe depression from a young age he
was against signing with a major label feeling

pressure to deliver and also feeling like
someone else’s property. His drinking would

only escalate once the band signed wa smajor
recording contract.. According to Rolling

Stone he frequently showed up intoxicated
at gigs, while band practices resulted in

verbal screaming machines.
The band first convened in Los Angeles in

1991 to record their major label debut but
it was a complete disaster. The band spent

close to $100,000 and had nothing to show
for it and were almost dropped by their label.

Singer Robin Wilson would tell Rolling Stone
,“We were a fragile mess. We were all just

treading water trying to make the record.
We knew this was our last chance. It was an

intense experience on every level.”
During a a separate interview with billboard

magazine he also credited the band’s label
with helping turn things around letting the

band release an EP instead, and touring a
bit revealing “they gave us a chance to

succeed or fail to learn about the studio
and toughen up”. The band in the mean time

recorded the EP Up and Crumbling, which came
out in 1991.

As the band attempted to take a second stab
at their first LP for A&M they chose a different

producer and location recording New Miserable
Experience in Memphis. That’s not to say

the experience was perfect because it was
anything but. The band soon started running

into problems with Hopkins with Wilson telling
the LA Times in 1996

“It’s just a sad thing when you’ve got
somebody you love, [and] you’re just watching

them destroy themselves before your eyes and
there’s nothing you can do to stop it. And

it’s all happening while you’re making
the most important record you’ve ever made

in your life.”
Wilson remembered that one incident that showed

how checked out Doug was saying
“I came into the studio and Doug was in

there with John, and I heard John say, ‘Well,
someone is going to have to do these solos.’

Doug said, ‘I guess I’d rather Jesse do
my solos.’ I was just floored. I could not

believe that was something that Doug was considering.
He was giving up. I left the room and almost

threw up,” he’d remember.
But there was one solo that Hopkins did play

on and that was one of the songs he wrote
by himself, the huge hit “hey jealousy”.

Despite the fact that the band had not even
hit it big yet, they would fire Hopkin immediately

after recording New Miserable Experience.
His bandmates viewed his as too much of a

liability. While Hopkins wrote or c-wrote
half of the songs on New Miserable Experience

he didn’t record a lot of his guitar parts
on the album because according to his bandmates

he would usually show up to the studio under
the influence and couldn’t even stand properly.

According to a 1994 Rolling Stone he would
be and i quote “.Doused in aftershave and

mouthwash to cover the signs of a multiday
drinking binge, Hopkins was put back on a

plane to Arizona.” following his firing.

After Hopkins departure, the group shrunk
to a quartet with Robin Wilson doing vocals

and rhythm guitar. But after a few rehearsals,
the band decided that they should get a fifth

member and they soon enlisted Scotty Johnson
who the members knew from a band who was also

from Tempe.

To make matters worse according to rolling
stone, the band withheld $15,000 of Hopkins

royalties until he signed away half of his
publishing. The guitarist reluctantly agreed

since he needed the money and the half of
the publishing he signed away would be transferred

to his replacement.

New Miserable Experience would be released
in August of 1992 and it wasn’t a big success

initially. The band toured extensively behind
the album going on the road alongside Toad

the Wet Sprocket and the album within it’s
first year of release sold around 80,000 copies..

Then things would change as Wilson would tell
the LA Times

“Then the label and our manager got together
and decided it was a much better record than

that, and they came up with a strategy to
relaunch the record with a new cover and a

new video, It was basically just a matter
of the label deciding that they wanted to

make it a hit–‘OK, we’re really gonna do
it this time.’ ”

And surprisingly hey jealousy wasn’t a big
hit when the single was released and the label

had to relaunch the single three times to
get any traction. Wilson would tell Rolling

“One day we get a call from the label that

they were going to try ‘Jealousy’ again
and make another video for it,” “The budget

for the first was five grand; the second was
10 grand; and the third was 40 grand. That’s

when I was like, ‘Holy man, they’re serious.’
At that point we had been in the van for six

months, just a blur of college cafeterias,
interviews and opening for whoever we can”

he’d remember.
Then MTV did it’s magic and the song exploded.

At the end of the day Gin Blossoms would sell
4 million copies of New Miserable Experience

and produce two massive hits with Hey Jealousy
and Found out about you both of which would

be top 40 hits.
The timing seemed perfect because by the summer

of 1993 music fans were indated with an onslaught
of alternative rock artists & their record

label saw it as an opportunity telling the
LA Times

“Not all the young kids belong to that style
of music or are represented by the angst of

that message. There are other kids who see
life a little bit simpler. . . . It’s not

kids who don’t see a future. The Gin Blossoms
are a little more uplifting, and I think they

strike a chord with those kids” they’d say.
By October of 1993 the album was a huge hit,

but Doug Hopkins felt betryaed. He even attended
a gin blossoms gig and attacked Robin Wilson

before being kicked out of the venue.
Following his dismissal from the band, Hopkins

went back to Tempe and played in a new band
called The Chimeras. Once Hey Jealousy became

a monster hit Hopkins received a gold record
for the song, but his former Chimeras bandmate

Lawrence Zubia would recall to Rolling Stone
it only stayed up about two weeks. When Doug

destroyed the gold record, it was the end,”
“That was when the fear came to me.” Almost

ten days later on December 4, 1993 Hopkins
would enter a Phoenix Hospital where would

do an initial consultation in attempt at geting
sober. Following the consultation he left

the hospital and he would head to a gun store
to buy the very weapon that he would take

his life with the following day. .He would
be found in his apartment at the young age

of 32 and sadly when he was found he only
had $500 in his pocket, which was all the

money he had to his name.
The same month he died New Miserable Experience

just moved into the top 25 on the billboard
album charts.

Robin wilson would tell Forbes where he was
when he heard the tragic news. : “I don’t

remember exactly when and where I was, but
it was both shocking and also it wasn’t

surprising. Doug had been telling people for
months and months that he was going to do

this. We knew there was a chance. Actually,
there were times back when he and I were friends

that the subject of it came up. Doug always
seemed to think he was going to die young,

go out in a blaze of glory.
According to people magazine who published

an article on the guitarists death they would
write.” At his memorial service the Blossoms

were approached by a woman bearing what she
said was a message from Hopkins. Did they

remember when someone poured sugar into the
gas tank of their tour van back in 1992? Well,

the woman said, Hopkins had instructed her
to tell them that he was the culprit. “Hearing

that at the funeral sorta made me feel good,”
said Wilson. “Doug was always good at getting

the last laugh, that’s for sure” he’d say.
In 2006 it was rumored that a biopic was going

to be done on Hopkins life that potentially
starred Ethan Hawke but it so far hasn’t come

to fruition.That does it for today’s video
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