Johnny Thunders, AKA John Anthony Genzale, Jr, was a popular guitarist made famous during the seventies in the New York punk rock scene as a member of the New York Dolls. After the break up of the Dolls, he formed another band, The Heartbreakers. The Heartbreakers toured throughout the early eighties in America and the U.K. recording their last album in 1984. Eventually the band relocated to England and became much more popular there than in the U.S. Johnny Thunders continued a solo career touring, recordingand writing music throughout the remainder of the eighties, but much of his work became sporadic due to his struggles with alcohol and heroin addictions.
When Thunders arrived in New Orleans in April 1991, he hadn’t used heroin for some time, rather obtaining prescriptions for methadone from his physician in the U.K. Mystery enshrouds the death of Johnny Thunders. His body was found in the ransacked hotel room lying on the floor under a coffee table in a fetal position. There are no reports of how long it had been before someone found him, but when authorities discovered the body, rigor mortis had well set in indicating that some time had passed.
There existed various opinions of what really happened to the punk rocker. A fellow band member, guitar player Stevie Klasson, made the statement, “They told me that Johnny had gotten mixed up with some bastards… who ripped him off for his methadone supply. They had given him LSD and then murdered him. He had gotten a pretty large supply of methadone in England, so he could travel and stay away from those creeps – the drug dealers, Thunders’ imitators, and losers like that.”
Other reports claim a coroner’s report indicated an overdose of heroin caused his death. Yet some claim that the report reflected that his drug levels were not lethal. While the rumor on the streets pointed to accidental overdose or even suicide, the murder theory makes more sense. His room had been completely torn apart and his personal belongings stolen. No doubt a robbery had taken place. The family, convinced of foul play, pleaded with local police to reopen the case for further investigation. Police refused their requests and closed the case; ruling it an overdose.
According to one source, family members accused the New Orleans Police of losing portions of the original case file. The case is closed on the books of NOPD but remains open and unsolved to friends and family.