Random thoughts, or Dead Man Playing

There’s a saying that if you live every day as if it were your last, then eventually you will actually be proven correct. There is no permanence in life, as every living creature is merely a temporary vessel on this great planet Earth.

Arthur Alexander

Yesterday was one of those days where I reflected on the temporary nature of life itself. Early in the day, I received my monthly email newsletter from Ace Records. The first release mentioned in the newsletter was a new compilation of music by singer-songwriter Arthur Alexander.

Like many other people of my generation, my first exposure to Arthur Alexander‘s music came from re-interpretations by the Beatles. “Anna (Go To Him)” was the most popular Arthur Alexander song recorded by the Beatles, but they also covered “A Shot of Rhythm and Blues” and “Soldier of Love,” which was more recently covered by Pearl Jam. The new Ace Records release, entitled simply “The Greatest” is an upgrade from a 19-year old CD of the same name, with expanded liner notes and photos.

On the Ace Records official webpage about this new release, Tony Rounce shares a poignant memory of seeing Arthur Alexander perform at a small stage at a Nashville music festival, only to die a few days later of a heart attack. This was the type of reminiscing that seemed so darned familiar- struggling with one’s schedule to see a favorite musician, only to discover later that the very show attended turned out to be the very last performance of that particular musician. It’s happened to me more than once, and it’s a bittersweet feeling to have experienced. Worse yet is the anticipation of seeing a musician, and missing the opportunity, only to discover that the musician died soon after.

Split Lip Rayfield

Last night, I had an opportunity to experience something similar to that. I attended a show by Split Lip Rayfield at the Attic in Santa Cruz.

Split Lip Rayfield is high-energy bluegrass band from Kansas. Performing with guitars, a banjo, a mandolin, and a one-string bass made from an automotive gas tank, this group plays their music loud and fast, performing a mutant mix of bluegrass twang with a punk rock attitude. They’ve opened for such musicians as Del McCoury, Dolly Parton and Nashville Pussy.

Back in January, front man Kirk Rundstrom was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. In June, Rundstrom underwent surgery to remove the cancerous cells when doctors detected cancer in the lymph nodes surrounding his aorta. It was considered inoperable, and it was at that time that doctors predicted he would survive “two to six months.” Rather than undergo chemotherapy for a terminal condition, Kirk Rundstrom decided he would go out doing what he loved. He assembled his band for the final tour, and hit the road.

Last night, they played Santa Cruz. Tonight, they played the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Tomorrow, they play the Troubadour in West Hollywood. They have four other shows scheduled after that, including a Chicago show in January. As soon they complete this tour, Kirk Rundstrom intends to go home, fighting his condition with vitamin C, acupuncture and Chinese breathing exercises to strengthen his lungs. Unfortunately, he has many medical bills, and two very young daughters.

My heart goes out to Kirk during these very difficult times. He’s a fantastic performer, and I would encourage everyone that can see him to do so.

For more details on Kirk, his amazing band, and information about where you can send donations for his medical bills or his children, please go to:


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