Leroy Wofford, the blues and jazz singer known for the easy manner that contrasted with his often flashy clothes, was shot in his Larimer home Sept. 8. He died the next day from his wounds.
Police are continuing to investigate, but have little to go on. When they arrived on the scene, Wofford was conscious and told them two men walked onto his porch around 1:30 a.m. One pulled a gun and when he tried to close the door they fired through it, striking him in the chest. He was taken to UPMC Presbyterian where he died around 12:30 p.m. the next day. He was 59.
Though many in Pittsburgh’s musical fraternity are shocked that such a beloved entertainer could die this way, they are equally determined that his life and talent will be remembered.
“This is terrible. I don’t know what’s the matter with the world these days,” said James Street Gastropub owner Adam Johnston. “He was one of our favorites. We could always count on a great crowd when he played. He was a great entertainer; from his flashy get up he wore, to the way he warmed to the crowd. He’ll be missed.”
But he won’t be forgotten. Johnston contacted Nelson Harrison about holding a benefit show to raise money for Wofford’s funeral expenses.
“His family is having a tough time gathering up the funds. So I was talking to Doc about holding a benefit, and that got the snowball rolling. The outpouring from musicians around town has been amazing,” said Johnston. “People have been emailing and calling like crazy. So, we’ll have people playing music, talking about Leroy, and we’ll pass the hat.”
Johnston said the benefit will start at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 12 and will go as long as it takes.
“From what Nelson is saying, we could be here all night,” said Johnston. “When I go, I want my funeral to be a joyous celebration. That’s what I want this to be.”
Tim Stevens was just setting up for his Sunday set at James Street, when he said one of the waitresses told him Wofford had died.
“My mouth literally just dropped open I was so shocked. This violence is too close, too brutal and too frequent,” he said. “Tony Mowod told me they had just spoken Friday about him coming down to join our set. He was probably the greatest showman, in terms of blues and jazz singing, in the city. He was always a big hit at out B-PEP jazz concert. We, of course, dedicated our set to him and finished with one of his favorites: Lou Rawls version of Tobacco Road.”
Stevens said he was pleased to hear about the tribute and plans to be there.
Harrison said he expects a large crowd of performers.
“Yes, it’s really taken off,” he said. “Adam called me and we spread the word about tomorrow night from 6 until. I know his sister and niece will be there to accept any funds that anyone contributes and there’ll be a whole lot of people there to join in.”
In addition to his sister Diane Williams, and niece Zaneen Brown, Wofford is survived by daughter Charmaine Kelley; son Alan Wofford; siblings Arthur and Sandra Williams, and stepbrother William Dock, all of Pittsburgh.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made, in care of Leroy Wofford, to Spriggs and Watson Funeral Home, 720 N. Lang Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15208 to defer funeral expenses.