I was sad and, having not kept up on his condition, shocked to learn of the passing of Kirk Rundstrom yesterday (Feb. 22). Rundston was frontman/guitarist/singer/songwriter for the Kansas-based “extreme” Bluegrass band Split Lip Rayfield, who combined Punk, Metal and pure speed into their ’grassy sound (CityBeat actually added the genre “Speedgrass” to our listings database, in honor of SLR). But Rundstrom always insisted they were simply a Rock & Roll band that used Bluegrass instruments. The band recorded for leading AltCountry/Roots label Bloodshot Records and was featured on Straight Outta Boone County, a tribute album to the Midwestern Hayride that was released in conjunction with Cincinnati’s Shake It Records. Rundstrom was 38 years old.
Rundstrom was diagnosed last spring. When doctors told him his esophageal cancer had spread to his heart and arteries, they said he only had a a little bit more time to live. Rundstrom decided to discontinue chemo treatments in June of last year in order to be able to go out on the road one last time. The docs told him he had two months left — Rundstrom stretched it out to eight, using alternative treatments, and kept doing what he loved.
CityBeat’s Brian Baker interviewed Kirk back in late 2004, before the band played a show at Top Cat’s with the Rev. Horton Heat. Give a read here. Needless to say, the man clearly had an intense passion for music.
(photo by Frank Swider; courtesy of Bloodshot Records)
— Mike Breen