Kiwi rocker Rick Bryant was likely selling drugs to supplement his meagre income as a musician, a bandmate says.
Bryant, 63, was sentenced yesterday to two years imprisonment for possession of cocaine and ecstasy, and dealing cannabis.
He has been in the music industry for 30 years, performing with bands including Rick Bryant and the Jive Bombers, The Jubilation Gospel Choir, Blerta, and the Windy City Strugglers.
Windy City Strugglers member Geoff Rashbrooke said yesterday he believed Bryant was dealing drugs to make a living more than for any other reason.
''I guess he has to have known what he was doing but it's a bit tough for musicians. It's pretty hard to make any form of living out of it,'' he said.
''I don't approve of it at all but I guess this is the way he was supporting himself to make music. I think that's pretty much it.''
Rashbrooke, who has known Bryant since 1968, said despite being renowned and well-loved in the New Zealand music scene, Bryant hadn't made a fortune from his craft.
''He's not somebody who's ever made a lot of money at all out of music. But he's toured the country, took music all over the place. The more you think about it the sadder it is.''
Rashbrooke said he thought the sentence was harsh given Bryant's age.
''Two years does seem a little bit tough. He is going to need a bit of support to get through it.''
Isolde Grunwald, who sings in the Jubilation Gospel Choir with Bryant, said his absence would leave a big hole in the group.
''I think it's pretty tough really and it will be very tough for him. He will be missed in the choir and he will be missed by lots of friends. The Auckland music scene might be quite plain without him.''
She said the choir would cope without him and welcome him back with open arms after he was released.
''It's obvious that it's a criminal offence and it's serious but at the same time his friends and family know what he's like. He's a very educated, kind generous person.''
She said Bryant's health wasn't great, and prison would be tough.
Bryant was caught on February 23 with 400g of cannabis, small amounts of ecstasy, cocaine and cannabis oil and $4000 cash, which he admitted he had received from selling cannabis.
He pleaded guilty to possession of the drugs and possession of cannabis for sale.
Bryant had 14 previous drug convictions from 1973 to 1999.
His defence lawyer Paul Wicks argued Bryant had never dealt to anyone other than friends.
He said there was ''modest commerciality'' but Bryant was mainly dealing to help out friends, make ends meet and manage chronic pain he experienced.
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