Many local musicians, family and friends were in mourning Tuesday following news that one of their own had apparently taken his own life in the Bakersfield Police Department parking lot Sunday.
Some who shared their thoughts Tuesday wondered whether there was something they could have done to help Kerry Pierce, 58, of Bakersfield, who police believe died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound as he sat in his black SUV.
"My heart is really aching over this. I just wish I had been able to talk to him," said John Hollins of the John Hollins Band.
The trumpet player and band leader had last spoken with his old friend at the memorial for a former bandmate of both men, Sonny "California" Lackey, who died in April.
"We reminisced about old times," recalled Hollins, who described Pierce as "very warm-hearted," a man whose kindness was an integral part of who he was.
"I felt really privileged to be his friend," Hollins said.
On Tuesday, Artie Niesen, owner of Front Porch Music, sat in the shade in front of his store on 19th Street in downtown Bakersfield and wondered why he did not recognize that Pierce needed help.
"You don't know how many people love you until something like this happens — and then you never know," said Niesen, a fellow drummer.
Niesen recalled how Roy and Wanda Pierce supported the musical interests of their musically inclined sons, Bill "Fish" Pierce, Rob Pierce and their younger brother, Kerry. The garage at the Pierce family home in the Oleander neighborhood was converted to a rehearsal studio where countless practice sessions took place.
"Kerry was the little brother," Niesen recalled. "He was 10 or 11 and wasn't in the early bands — but he had his own drum set."
Niesen noted that on the day he died, Kerry Pierce updated his Facebook profile picture, which showed a photo of his beautiful drum kit, cymbals gleaming and a pair of sticks at the ready.
"But the drum set is empty," Niesen said.
Another fellow drummer, Tanner Byrom, said he was heartsick after hearing the news Monday of Pierce's passing.
"I loved Kerry," said Byrom, who has performed in numerous Bakersfield bands, including Big House and the Byrom Brothers.
Pierce was about three years older, and Byrom said he looked up to him.
"He could play 'Wipeout,'" he remembered. "He was the baddest drummer in the world as far as I was concerned. I wanted to be like Kerry."
When longtime local bassist Larry Valladares heard the news Monday, he said he was so distraught he had to leave work.
"We had a longtime relationship with the family Pierce," Valladares said. "I had the privilege of watching Kerry grow up."
Bill Pierce did not respond to a Facebook message Tuesday, and family friends said the Pierce family indicated they were not yet ready to speak publicly about their loss.
But for many of Pierce's friends and fellow musicians, the chance to talk about the magnitude of their loss was a welcome outlet.
"Kerry was kind to a fault," Valladares said. "A joy to be around.
"This loss has overwhelmed me. I had to leave work and I went to church and lifted him up in prayer."