Skip to main content

Former Survivor bassist Stephan Ellis has died

Survivor in 1982, with Stephan Ellis, far left (Image credit: Ron Wolfson/Michael Ochs Archives - Getty)

Former Survivor bassist Stephan Ellis has died.

The news was confirmed by guitarist Frankie Sullivan on the band’s Facebook page in a statement which reads: “We are devastated to hear that Stephan Ellis has passed away. 

“Steph was the guy who was only interested in the music. He absolutely had a special charm with the fans and within the band. I loved much when it came to Steph.

“What I remember most and clearly recall is the day when we cut Keep It Right Here. The bass part and lines in the intro just folded into the mix and it was the bass part that inspired me to reach higher on my guitar. We cut our tracks together, live in the studio. Steph’s runs on the neck of that blue bass are as memorable as the song itself.

“The guitar player/bass player vibe has been around for a long time and Stephan and I had our thing as well. We fed off each other a lot and I think it was simply his calm ways that not only presented him to me in the beginning, it was also Steph’s calm ways that often helped most. 

“He was always good for some adventurous storytelling that the censorship of today has removed, never to be told by this band reporter. But I learned a few things, we all did!

He absolutely had a special charm with the fans and within the band

Frankie Sullivan

Sullivan says he will miss Ellis and adds: “We can talk for years about how much he’d cause us to laugh and most importantly to a rock’n’roll band at that time, the infamous ‘ice’ lesson he passed on to us all one day that stuck for a long while.

“This was Stephan Ellis to me: Underrated yet never dated. Well dressed and on a consistent basis. Gargoyles and all and he was cool enough to pull off. Stephan was well-coifed, always ready and Stephan Ellis lived his own life in his own way and on his own terms."

Ellis joined Survivor following the departure of Dennis Keith Johnson in 1981 and appeared on the band’s second studio album Premonition that same year.

He went on to play on Survivor's next four albums: 1982’s Eye Of The Tiger, 1983’s Caught In The Game, 1984’s Vital Signs and 1986’s When Seconds Count and was also on bass for the Rocky IV track Burning Heart.

Ellis was replaced in the lineup during pre-production for Survivor’s seventh album Too Hot To Sleep by Bill Syniar but rejoined in 1996. He left again in 1999, only to return briefly for a handful of live shows in 2005.

Reacting to the news of Ellis’ death, original Survivor vocalist Dave Bickler said on Twitter: “Just heard the sad news that Stephan Ellis has passed away. A great musician and a great band mate. One of a kind.”

See more
Scott Munro

News editor for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog and Louder. He’s been at the news desk since 2014 and when not writing, he can be found watching baseball and visiting whisky distilleries.