Troy-SandsWilliam Troy Sands, 48, died in his home in Oak Cliff on Sept. 18. His partner of 12 years, E. Morgan Millican III, and their dog iPod were at his side.

Sands was raised in West Palm Beach, Fla. In high school, he was involved in track and field and wrestling and was a member of the West Palm Beach Youth Orchestra. He lived in Washington, D.C. before moving to Dallas in 1985.

Sands worked for a number of employers, including Bruce Flint Attorneys, American Express Corporate Travel and, his favorite, the Apple Store in Highland Park as a Mac specialist.

He was an expert in music software, technologies and components. He was also an accomplished composer and played piano, organ and violin.

For 25 years, Sands was a DJ in Dallas. He learned his skill from his friend, the late DJ Buc. He worked for the remixing companies Hot Tracks, Direct Hits and Roadkill Records, recording and remixing dance, progressive, trance, house and vocal anthems and progressing from vinyl to CDs to computer. For a decade, he was the house DJ at the Brick. He became a circuit DJ and spun at clubs across the country.

Sands had been battling lung cancer with gusto and an unwavering determination for five years. Despite his recent chemotherapy, he was back in the DJ booth at Dallas Eagle and performed just a week before his death, which he found therapeutic and exhilarating. He said, “Music is a journey and on that musical journey, everyone is welcomed. That is what DJs do. They entertain people with words, sounds and emotions.”

Sands is survived by his partner, Morgan Millican III; his mother, Judy Sands; his grandmother, Louise Crotts; his sister, Theresa Marshall; his brother-in-law, Jim Marshall; his niece, Jackie Marshall; his nephews, Bryan and Brett Wilson; his aunts and uncles, Willene and Ron Burch, Bill and Carol Crotts and Phyllis and Skip Steckley; countless wonderful cousins; Millican’s supportive family; and friends, old and new, around the world.

The family said a special thanks to Brian Husbands, Dan Shupert, Bobby Barron and the Hampton Hills Neighborhood Association. Sands always said he had the best doctors and hospital in the world and ended every visit by saying, “thank you.”

Sands wished to be cremated and plans for a remembrance celebration in the next month will be announced. He also wanted a dance party fundraiser to be held in his name, which is also being planned. Donations in his name can be made to Amelia Court at Parkland Hospital, Resource Center Dallas or a charity of your choice.


Richard-Potter-Obit-picRichard Michael “Rick” Potter, 56, died Saturday, Sept. 10, at Heritage Gardens Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in Carrollton.

Potter was born in Heidelberg, Germany on June 8, 1955. As a child growing up in Denison, Potter attended Parkside Baptist Church from the age of 5 until he moved to Gainesville. He held a perfect attendance record for 14 consecutive years at Parkside.

Potter graduated from Denison High School in 1973 and continued his education at Grayson County College to become a licensed vocational nurse after he graduated in 1974. His love for nursing started at Madonna Hospital in Denison where he worked as an orderly, and he worked in a variety of medical facilities in places such as the state school in Gainesville, the Louisiana State Prison in Angola, La., and the Dallas County Jail. He continued his nursing education at Tarrant County Junior College where he studied nursing home administration.

Potter worked as a nurse in the Vocational Counseling & Rehabilitation Services in St. Louis, Mo. He also worked in Boca Raton, Fla., and at Savoy Nursing Home, Savoy, Texas. He did a lot of private duty nursing for many of his friends.

Potter also loved landscaping and he worked in Dallas for many years as an independent landscaper and as an employee for Noel David Pullam Garden Design. He also loved to travel and collecting matchbox cars and antiques. He touched many lives during his short life and he will be missed greatly.

Potter was reunited by telephone in 2007 with his birth mother, Irmgard Walter, and found out about his eight brothers and sisters and his huge extended family in Germany. Shortly after the telephone reunion with his birth mother, he flew to Heidelberg, Germany, and was reunited with his mom and met his brothers and sisters for the first time. Each of his brothers and sisters loved him and accepted him with open arms, and Potter made several more trips to Heidelberg to get to know more about his family and German heritage.
Potter was preceded in death by his adopted mother, Hilda Potter of Denison, and his birth mother, Irmgard Walter, of Heidelberg, Germany. He is survived by his adopted father, Jesse C. Potter Jr. of Denison; his sisters, Linda Thomas and her husband Charley Thomas of Denison, and Angelika (Geli) Wind, Dorle Gand, Engrid Zimmerman and Rosie Discher, all of Heidelberg; his brothers, Tomas, Udo, Helmet and Heiner Zimmerman, all of Heidelberg; his niece, Allison Lee-Anne Essin, her husband, Sam Essin, and their daughters, Ella Grace, Kimber Faith and Logann Hope of Sherman; Linda’s sister, Angie Dennis of Pittsburg, Kansas; his aunts Christa Murgida of Beverly, Mass., Irene of North Carolina, Jessie Mae and her husband Bob of South Carolina, Carline of  Georgia, Hannelor Hildebrand and Renada, both of Heidelberg; his uncle Dieter of Heidelberg; numerous nieces and nephews in Heidelberg, and a host of very close friends and extended family in the Dallas, New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Raleigh, Mo., areas.

The family extends a special thank you to all of his friends that helped to take care of Potter while he was sick at home, in the hospital and at the rehab center. They were all a blessing and an answered prayer.

A memorial service honoring Potter’s life was held Tuesday, Sept. 20, at Bratcher Funeral Home in Denison, with Dr. Chet Haney officiating. A second memorial service will be held Saturday, Sept. 24, at 3 p.m. in the Interfaith Peace Chapel on the campus of the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas for those unable to make the journey to Denison.

To honor Potter’s lifelong commitment to helping those in need, the family asks that donations in his name be made to the Resource Center Dallas Food Pantry, The Callie Clinic  Food Pantry of Texoma  in Sherman, The Interfaith Peace Chapel Project at The Cathedral of Hope, Dallas and the Grayson County Shelter.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

After debilitating fight with cancer, DJ Troy Sands is staging a comeback on the local club scene

COMPLETELY REMASTERED  |  Sands found strength in his partner, Morgan, and his colleagues to make a return to DJing after fighting cancer, and he found a residence at the Dallas Eagle. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

After performing for thousands of people, you wouldn’t expect DJ Troy Sands to get nervous easily. But his nerves are a jumble as he gets ready for his close-up.

Back in the day, he was quick to shed his shirt for a little beefcake snapshot. Not so much anymore. Sands is re-learning to be comfortable in from of the camera after a bout with cancer that affected his mouth and face, including a complete bone replacement of his jaw. But Sands compensates with a renewed vigor that is about to put him back in the game after a five-year absence.

“I really was about to throw in the towel,” Sands says. “But the things that are happening now tell me it’s for a reason. I’ve been given a gift and I’d be foolish to waste it.”

For most of the last decade, Sands has been virtually invisible in the club DJ scene. He built a name in Dallas spinning regularly at the old Brick and had high-profile gigs such as opening for legendary DJ Junior Vasquez at Club One and hosting T-dances at Liquid. He developed a reputation as a guest DJ nationally before that trend had really taken off, remixing and producing music for the Hot Tracks and Direct Hit labels. In dance music circles, the Dallas-based spin doctor was a pretty damn big deal.

Sands’ DJ career had hit its stride by 2005, with him on the cusp of achieving his personal goals. Working with high profile artists and keeping his nationwide gigs regular, Sands was getting the name recognition he wanted and even needed for a long career as a DJ — it was also wearing him down.

Then came Christmas 2006.

Sands felt something inside his mouth that seemed off. He dismissed it, but his partner, Morgan Millican, ended up taking him to get it checked out.

HEY MR. DJ | ‘I wanted to make sure I left a mark so people can say I was here,’ he says about his music. With a new lease on life, Sands is anxious to take audiences on musical journeys again.

“The day after Christmas, I got news that squamous cell carcinoma showed up on my biopsy [in his mouth]. It was devastating,” he says. He had had two previous cancer diagnoses, but that was 10 years earlier. And this was a lot more serious. (It is similar to the cancer than has afflicted Roger Ebert, though Ebert’s is more severe, Sands says.)
Sands was in good physical shape and health, despite being HIV-positive, but with his compromised immune system, this cancer was back with a vengeance.

“I knew something was wrong and I had to do something,” he says. “I hadn’t been taking any antivirals and I didn’t have insurance, so I got scared. I didn’t think I had any choices, but Morgan kicked me in the ass to look into it.”

Initially, doctors at Baylor Hospital decided severing his tongue to eliminate the cancer was the only option — and even with that, they gave Sands only a 25 percent survival rate. But the doctors who had treated him for cancer in 1997 stepped in and moved him to Parkland.

“I was hesitant to get into their system, but I found out that people shouldn’t be afraid of Parkland,” he says. “I didn’t have any choices. They became my saviors. I almost died in 2007. I normally weigh about 165 and had lost 45 pounds. But if you look at me today, it’s thanks to Parkland.”

Still, it was the hardest road he has ever taken.

Sands worked his last gig in February 2007 in Akron, Ohio, at the Hearts on Fire circuit party before undergoing chemo and radiation treatment on his face and neck throughout that spring. Although he kept his day job at the Knox-Henderson branch of the Apple store through November 2008, the radiation took its toll — and was also liquefying his jawbone.

“I worked through my treatment, and I was very happy at Apple,” he says. “But I had to leave to get focused on my health. It wasn’t until almost a year later, that I was diagnosed with osteoradionecrosis, where the jaw bone is dead.”
Sands had jaw replacement surgery in May 2009. You could literally say his leg bone’s connected to his head bone: A medical team connected a portion of his fibula to replace the missing mandible. Then he learned that the cancer had been incubating in his lungs.

“I thought I was cancer free, but it was found in the upper left lobe of the lung and I had to have that removed [last] October,” he says.

Sands had a long tenure at the Brick when it was located on Maple Avenue, building up his name there. When the club was closing and regular DJs returned for a big farewell bash, it broke his heart that he could not attend. He did return eventually to the club in the new space last September, but his optimism was outweighed by self-imposed pressure.

“I was depressed not to be part of the closing party, but I look back and it would have been foolish to do it,” he says. “When I played the Brick this last time, I had mentally gone to a dark place. My skill was rusty and I was nervous. I was trying to be what they remembered and tried too hard.”

Local DJ Blaine Soileau stepped in to help get Sands back on track, but in his eyes, he was merely returning a favor.

“Troy was my inspiration to move forward with my DJ/production career and into the circuit realm,” Soileau says. “The face of music and touring has changed dramatically since his departure from the scene.”

Sands was there helping Soileau get his career off the ground and he credits him with lighting a fire under him to now get back into the game. Soileau loaned him equipment to tinker with and pushed to have him play at the Dallas Eagle, only this time, Sands feels ready.

“Blain told me that the Eagle was interested in talking to me,” Sands says. “I used to be the one trying to help people and now Blaine was working to help me get back. The crowd and staff seem excited and [owner] Mark Frazier has been awesome. What they are going to hear from me is not your typical circuit fare, but definitely appropriate for the club. This is giving me my life back and I have Blaine and Chris to thank for that.”

Chris refers to famed DJ Chris Cox, who owned the Hot Tracks label Sands worked on and who has now gone on to international fame. To Sands, Cox has been an inspiration and hero. That was reaffirmed when Cox performed at the 2010 Austin Pride in front of thousands and requested Sands as the opener.

“I think his passion for music is partially responsible for his fight to live,” Cox says. “I knew he still had it in him but he needed to be sure. When he was on at Pride, he totally nailed it. I’m so happy to see he’s come back. This is beyond surviving the cancer. He’s living again.”

Sands now finds himself with a resident gig at the Dallas Eagle twice a month, calling the night “Troy Built.” He loves the name, but is more in tune with the shirt he has on from Apple. Across his chest is blazoned the motto: “Completely remastered.”

“It’s a magical feeling when you connect to the crowd and Dallas has allowed me to take them on a musical journey,” he says. “I’m lit again and figuratively and physically, I do feel remastered.”

As only a DJ would say.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2011.

—  John Wright