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Kirk Rundstrom, singer, songwriter and guitarist of the punk-bluegrass band Split Lip Rayfield, died Thursday morning in Wichita. He was 38. He had been fighting the effects of esophageal cancer since February 2006.
Split Lip Rayfield formed in 1996. Its music is old-time country and bluegrass played at the speed of hardcore punk. The band released seven full-length CDs, including two live albums and a recent anthology.
In June 2006, doctors told Rundstrom that four months of grueling chemotherapy and radiation had virtually no effect. His cancer had spread and was inoperable and terminal. Rundstrom then stopped chemotherapy treatments and began a regimen of acupuncture, Vitamin C therapy and other holistic treatments. He also started playing music again.
“It was awesome but also quite painful,” he told The Star in August. “Nothing comes easy, even when it comes to playing guitar and singing.”
Things did get easier, however. In August, he joined his Split Lip bandmates for a show at Davey’s Uptown Rambler’s Club in Kansas City — the band’s first show in more than six months.
The band continued to tour after that show. Rundstrom also went on tour with Grain & Demise, a side-project, and Scroat Belly, the precursor to Split Lip.
Earlier this month, however, his health took a turn for the worse. On Feb. 14, a posting at SplitLipRayfield.com said shows this week in Columbia, St. Louis and Tulsa, Okla., had been canceled because Rundstrom “wore himself out and needed to rest and recuperate.”
At 1:22 p.m. Thursday, the Web site posted another notice: “With great sadness we must announce that our bandmate, friend and brother Kirk Rundstrom has lost his battle. … We love him and will miss him.”
As of Thursday afternoon, funeral arrangements were still pending.
Rundstrom is survived by his wife and two daughters. Donations to the Kirk Rundstrom Cancer Fund can be made via the Split Lip Web site.
| Timothy Finn, The StarMore at Lawrence.com.