Archive for Friday, February 23, 2007

Well-known Kansas musician dies of cancer at 38

February 23, 2007


Popular Kansas musician lost his battle with cancer today

Kirk Rundstrom died early this morning at his family's Wichita home at the age of 38. Rundstrom was best known for his work with the band 'Split Lip Rayfield.' Enlarge video

Audio Clips
Split Lip Rayfield Farewell Tour

Kirk Rundstrom kept performing, playing and touring until his death Thursday.

The well-known musician, who was frontman for the highly regarded Kansas band Split Lip Rayfield, died of cancer at his home in Wichita.

He was 38.

He died "like Thelma and Louise, pedal to the metal over the canyon wall," said longtime friend Brett Mosiman, who owns The Bottleneck, 737 N.H.

"He was an incredible free spirit," Mosiman said. "He was more full of life than most people you come into contact with."

Rundstrom and Split Lip were a well-established piece of the Lawrence music scene. Their music - a mix of bluegrass, country and rock - attracted crowds to clubs, and the band was popular at the Wakarusa Camping and Music Festival at Clinton Lake.

Rundstrom played his last local concert Feb. 3 at The Bottleneck. Since then, he and the band, which debuted in 1998, have toured throughout the country, most recently in Kentucky and Ohio.

Rundstrom was in New York with his wife, Lisa, during the past weekend, mixing songs for his soon-to-be-released solo album - the last of at least five group and solo albums - when he fell ill. He returned Monday to Wichita.

"I think he shielded everybody because he kept playing. He forged ahead," Mosiman said. "He was like that good old hound dog that never let on how hurting he was."

Rundstrom was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in February 2006. He underwent intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatment in hopes of shrinking the cancer to a level where it could be surgically removed. When doctors started the surgery in June, they discovered the cancer had spread to his heart, stomach and lymph nodes. Doctors gave him two to six months to live.

Instead of succumbing to his disease, Rundstrom went off chemotherapy and launched a tour.

Nan Warshaw, owner of Bloodshot Records, which signed Split Lip Rayfield to its label, said that Rundstrom was one of the most passionate people she had ever met.

"He got so much out of playing. That's probably what kept him alive so long," she said.

Several of the concerts in the past year were held specifically to benefit Rundstrom, who had no medical insurance. Art auctions and online appeals also helped pay for the thousands of dollars spent on his cancer treatments.

Warshaw said Rundstrom had been collecting copies of his recordings in recent times. He wanted to make sure he left copies for his family: his wife, daughters Ellie and Molly and father, Bernerd.

"Clearly, his music and recording were the utmost importance to him," Warshaw said. "He decided he was not going to stop and that he was going to fight and play to the end."

In a posting on the band's Web site, the surviving members of Split Lip Rayfield left a message to their fans and a tribute to Rundstrom: "Anybody who knew Kirk knew that he had more zest than all of us. He truly had an ethereal spirit. We have been proud and impressed with the way he went out on his own terms. It wasn't easy, it wasn't fair, and it sure as hell isn't right, but he was an inspiration."

- Kansas University journalism student Kim Lynch contributed to this report.


John Spencer 11 years, 4 months ago

See ya Kirk, thanks for the memories. You will be missed, but your music will keep you living in our memories forever.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 4 months ago

His spirit and his music made the world a better place for all who experienced it. RIP, Kirk.

naturalist 11 years, 4 months ago

Nice slide show, thanks for putting that up here. RIP Kirk.

cutny 11 years, 4 months ago

What an amazing guy. Thanks for all the great music Kirk, Rest in Peace, you will be missed. God Bless.

x96merrill3 11 years, 4 months ago

God Bless you, Kirk. You will be missed.

Porter 11 years, 4 months ago

I never met Kirk in person, bought saw several shows. It truly was an experience. Rest in Peace, Kirk.

brainfodder 11 years, 4 months ago

If there's a stage in the afterlife, I'll be there with a beer stampin to you one day, KR.

Jack Hope III 11 years, 4 months ago

I remember seeing them back at Winfield this past year. In fact, I went to Winfield specifically for that show. The audience was almost reverent with their attention. I hope there is a tribute this year out at Wakarusa, because Kirk was an inspiration, and deserves all the respect in the world.

Go out and kick some s--t. Kirk did.


whatfredsaid 11 years, 4 months ago

Kirk, I never met you, but you sure gave me some good times and awesome memories. My best memory of you is of you and the rest of the guys opening for Younder Mountain String Band, they should have opened for you guys, that show, along with all the others were amazing!

Thank you for all the good times. RIP Kirk.

Jack Hope III 11 years, 4 months ago

And don't forget other Kirk related albums He had 4 solo albums, at least two with Grain and Demise, and one with Scroat Belly. Go out to your favorite record store with a selection of local artists and buy some music. I'm sure some of that money will get back to Kirk's family.

Teri Chambers 11 years, 4 months ago

we were first turned on to Split Lip and Scroat Belly by a friend giving us a compilation cd. we played the hell out of it and now i think we have all the cd's both bands issued.

i'm very thankful that i got to see the Split Lip shows at liberty hall and the bottleneck as well as the Scroat Belly show earlier this month.

Kirk went out like a meteor burning out as it entered the atmosphere-a brilliant ball of fire.

he will be missed. my condolences to his family and band mates.

blondie77 11 years, 4 months ago

I never had the opportunity to meet Kirk, but he had a large impact on my life. Some of the most fun nights of my life involved seeing him play live. My thoughts and prayers are with his friends, bandmates and family. Thank you Kirk for bringing happiness and music to so many! RIP

I was lucky enough to see the last show at Liberty Hall. Here is a link to one of my favorite SLR songs being performed that evening.

Baille 11 years, 4 months ago

I saw Split Lip at Harbour Lights a couple years back. That was a great show. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Emily Hadley 11 years, 4 months ago

Too much passion for one world.

Mkh 11 years, 4 months ago

Kirk brought immense light into the world and had the ability to make other people feel good no matter what.

We have lost a dear friend and a very special person. My heart goes out to his wife and two small girls.

Kirk was a muscian in the greatest extent of the term. He played not for money or fame, but because he Loved it, and he knew that is how he could make others happy.

We are so very lucky for having what he shared with us. Thank you Kirk.

Darrell Lea 11 years, 4 months ago

Go in peace, young man. You rocked this world, now go rock the next one.

kvshedevil 11 years, 4 months ago

Kirk was truly an inspiration for many. We were all blessed to have had him as part of our lives even if it was for 1 or 2 hr show. We couldn't get enough. My prayers go out to his family & band mates, and everyone else to loved him. @>--- ~t

Jan Brocker 11 years, 4 months ago

In the spring of 2006 I saw Jesus Christ Superstar performed by Lawrence musicians about 5 times and loved it; I grew up with the "brown album". They were also raising money for this guy named Kirk. I read an article or two about the show and the guy that had the part of Jesus (Eric), and was introduced that way to SLR (I agree, a little late). Saw the 2nd Bottleneck show in August and was hooked. Winfield, Bottleneck, Cotillion, you name it and I tried to see them. What an amazing guy Kirk was! I'd never met him before he got sick, but the energy, love and spirit that this guy displayed will be forever engraved in my soul. You don't encounter people like him very often, but when you do the feeling is incredibly powerful. Luckily we still have his music; sadly we don't have him anymore. My thoughts go out to Lisa, the kids, family, friends and of course the band. Rest in peace Kirk; you won.

camilladillo 11 years, 4 months ago

I first saw SLR play at SxSW in '98 at the Bloodshot BBQ. They blew me away then and continued to do so the dozens of times I saw them play. Wow, Kirk, godspeed... maybe in the afterlife, guitar strings are unbreakable!! Much sympathy to his family and friends.

erod0723 11 years, 4 months ago

I had the privilege of hearing this band play once, and I must say, it was one of the best live concerts I have ever seen, surpassing the Stones, Elton, and the Eagles. You will be sorely missed buddy.

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