Kelly Lancaster

Monday, February 18th, 2013 - Blog Posts.

I only met Kelly Lancaster on three occasions. Two were at a small venue in the Heights area of Houston, whose name I don’t remember. The third was at the Last Concert Cafe. I could never presume to call Kelly a friend of mine, we barely knew each other, but he had a lasting impact on me.

For those who didn’t know him, or never experienced his musicianship, let me say that he was without question the finest mandolin player and one of the best guitar players I’ve ever met. He was astounding.

To wit:

Kelly Lancaster at JP Hops House

South Caster Moon – Chump Man Blues

He was also an eccentric. The first time I met him I had just finished playing a set and he said I reminded him of Randy Newman. He only ever called me Randy after that. When he played he’d duck his head and look out from around his eye glasses in a strange, upside-down way. He’d make odd noises from time to time. He could make you uncomfortable in the way he spoke and the way he failed on some basic social levels. No one who knew him would have called him charming, which is probably what kept him from achieving more acclaim. Everyone who knew him would have called him magnetic.

He drew others to music and to new ways of appreciating music. When he played, your hair would stand on end. In the few hours I spent with Kelly he introduced me to a whole new genre of music called Hot Club, he made me understand how important music like bluegrass was to rock n’ roll, he redefined what it meant to fit into an ensemble. When Kelly wasn’t soloing, he was working to make you sound better. When he was soloing, he was making you fall in love with music all over again.

Kelly is the type of person that makes us wish for an afterlife. We have to hope that a talent such as his does not fade into nothingness. That beauty can last forever in some other realm.

I did not know him well, but I’m glad I got to know him at all.

Kelly Lancaster died yesterday at age 45.


–Grant Dawson

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One Comment to “Kelly Lancaster”

  • Marjorie Lancaster
    22 May 2013 at 12:08 am #

    Thank you for your insightful post about my husband Kelly. He was precious to all who knew him and the world is much quieter now that he’s gone. If you ever get the chance to hear his solo CD “High Lonesome Gypsy” I recommend it. Kelly redefined
    music for a lot of people and proved a hard act to follow.

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