This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.
The Rousers, a rock band formed by a couple of high school buddies from Connecticut, once veered close to stardom when a young Madonna opened for them at Max’s Kansas City in 1981, right before that incubator of downtown Manhattan cool closed.
That same year, the band released a single, “Party Boy.” “Psychedelic rockabilly” is how the critic Robert Palmer of The New York Times described it.
After the release the band switched out their drummer for Sal King — born Salvatore Michael Capozucca — a handsome, powerful player with a sparkly 1960s-era Ludwig drum kit and a florid, swing-inspired style. Like his new bandmates, Tom Milmore, the lead guitarist, and Bill Dickson, the bass player, Sal had been playing since he was a child. In his case, since age 3, when an uncle gave him a drum set.
Fame may have eluded the band, yet as the decades wore on and their hair turned gray, the Rousers continued playing. They rehearsed every week and performed year round, though some years less than others as family responsibilities and day jobs demanded more of their time.
Mr. Capozucca — or Mr. Cappi, as he called himself at work — became a successful real estate broker, with a specialty in Brooklyn brownstones. He married his longtime girlfriend, Veronica Griffith, in 1983. She had spotted him across the dance floor at Club 82, a storied drag bar on East 4th Street, 11 years earlier. On that night, Mr. Capozucca — always a flashy dresser (David Bowie was his hero) — was peacocking in blue satin pants and a white satin scarf.
Mr. Capozucca died on May 13 at N.Y.U. Langone Health hospital in Manhattan, where he had spent the last two months being treated for Covid-19, his wife said. He was 65.
Mr. Capozucca was born on April 28, 1955, in Brooklyn. His father, Tony Capozucca, was a salesman, his mother, Betty Jean (Gibbons) Capozucca, a legal secretary.
As a teenager, Sal played at proms, weddings and street festivals. He loved Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, and made sure to work a drum solo into his performances. In addition to his wife, Mr. Capozucca is survived by his daughter, Victoria; his brother, John; and his sister, Vera.
“Things happen for a reason,” Mr. Capozucca told The New York Times in 2017, in an article about a new New York City club scene for aging rockers and their sometimes arthritic fans (early sets!). “It wasn’t meant to be. That life, that rock ’n’ roll life, is a life of heavy partying. So being famous might have led to my early demise.”
In late February, the Rousers played a gig at Bowery Electric, with a set that featured songs like “Old Man Band,” a sendup of the Rousers’ demographic (sample lyric: “older and slower than we were before/you should listen as we rock some more”). They played so well, said Mr. Milmore, they surprised themselves. “Sal called me the next day and said, ‘What the hell happened to us? How come we were that good?’”
Less than a month later, Mr. Capozucca was hospitalized.
“The band was always a celebration of our friendship and our long time together,” Mr. Milmore said. “We were just brothers, and it was always about that before anything else. Of course, Sal was always mad we weren’t famous.”