Eric Van Sutton, 25, soulful singer, songwriter, percussionist with band

January 21, 1999|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

There was little Eric Van Sutton couldn't do musically. He had a soulful, mellow voice, penned meaningful lyrics and played a variety of musical instruments skillfully. Perhaps his greatest asset was the energy and vibrancy he brought to each piece of music.

"That's what set him off from others. He was always upbeat and always happy. That came through in his music," said Hazelene Chase, who managed Kaliche, the reggae, jazz and fusion band in which Mr. Sutton played.

Mr. Sutton, 25, was killed early Saturday after he stopped his car on the shoulder of Interstate 97 near Millersville to examine its tires. He was struck by an oncoming vehicle when he stepped into the road to flag help.

The Columbia resident suffered multiple injuries and was declared dead at the scene. The driver of the other car was not injured. No charges have been filed.

For the last three years, Mr. Sutton was lead singer and percussionist for Kaliche, a seven-member Howard County-based group that was formed about four years ago.

A solidly built man with shoulder-length dreadlocks that he usually kept tucked under a knit cap, Mr. Sutton put his all into every performance and tried to keep other band members enthused.

"The band was just Eric's life," said Ms. Chase, adding that he was killed while returning from an event at which he was promoting the group. "He put everything into it, because he loved the music and performing. He was pure energy on the stage."

The group had recently recorded a compact disc, "Kaliche Vibes," and Mr. Sutton was excited about Kaliche's future, friends said. Ms. Chase called the recording "the best thing to happen in his career."

Kaliche members said Mr. Sutton brought a fresh, positive approach to the group.

"He was just starting out in music, and he liked the way things were going," said Merv Harris. "He was new in music and hadn't seen the setbacks other people had seen, so he was really happy about the way the group was going."

A Baltimore native, Mr. Sutton moved to Columbia with his father as a teen-ager and graduated from Wilde Lake High School in 1990. He later attended West Virginia State College on a football scholarship.

"But he was really good at swimming," said his father, George Sutton, of Columbia. "He was an accomplished swimmer and won a lot of meets."

He joined Kaliche three years ago and performed several gigs a month, although the band was busier from May to September. Mr. Sutton also attended a culinary school and was a cook at several Howard County restaurants in the last few years.

At the time of his death, he was a chef at Sonoma's Bar and Grille in Columbia -- and brought the same vibrancy to cooking as he did to making music.

"He was always in a good mood," said Steve Heintzelman, owner of Sonoma's. "When I'd get stressed, he'd say, `Dude, dude, relax, it'll be OK.' All he wanted to do was make sure the people around him were in as good a mood as he was in -- and that was always."

Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. today at March Funeral Home, 4300 Wabash Ave.

Mr. Sutton is survived by his father.

Pub Date 1/21/99

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