Stefan George was more than an accomplished blues guitarist in town.
The Old Pueblo lost one of its most talented stalwart local musicians this week. Stefan George, a genre melding blues guitarist, passed just two months shy of his 63rd birthday. According to longtime friend, TW contributor and fellow musician, Jim Lipson, George's impact on music will probably take years to really fully comprehend.
"When people get around to cataloging and archiving his music, they're going to be blown away," Lipson says. "I know it's cliche, but he really is one of those immense talents that never got the attention they deserved."
In the late '80s and early '90s, George and Lipson played together in the band Brain Damage Orchestra for six years, and the two men have collaborated as musicians and friends ever since. More recently, Lipson, along with Tucson Kitchen Musician's Association, made sure George was a Tucson Folk Fest headliner. Lipson comments that George's musical prowess extended beyond blues into folk, rock, bluegrass, reggae, ska, swing and zydeco. George was also a member of many local bands in his time in Tucson.
"He's not just a blues player, but a truly prolific musician," Lipson says. "He was a major talent—not just for Tucson."
George was also a staple at several local venues, including, until very recently, La Cocina. La Cocina bartender and fellow musician Steven Romo described George's personal impact via Facebook:
I just heard that Stefan George passed away. I'll never forget our conversation over whiskey about music, women, and life. You were always a stand out gentleman. You will be heavily missed.
George's reach, in terms of genre, generation and more, already has people talking about how best to honor him. Lipson says he wouldn't be surprised if HoCo Fest, TKMA and the Tucson Blues Hall of Fame (of which George was a member) all opted to honor him in different ways.
"It would be great to see musicians take the time to really learn his songs and pay tribute that way," he says. "I think everybody wants to do something, and I don’t think doing just one night could really cover it."
Lipson says George was found in his home by a neighbor.
"I'm not sure at this point what happened," Lipson says. "He had been in failing health for the last several months."
George is survived by his son, Josh Kelly, who is traveling from Vermont to plan services. Although "a celebration of George's life," as Lipson puts it, has yet to be scheduled, we will update you on information regarding services for George as it becomes available.
Until then, let's take a moment to listen to this legendary Tucson musician: