Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bandmate recalls Rick Stel as 'a source of inspiration'; memorial service set

Rick Stel (Photo by Wolfgang Spider)
Bassist Jef Reynolds has been friends with singer-guitarist Rick (Stel) Salansky for 30 years or so, starting when they were part of a network of friends from Utica, Mich. that were in their 20s and “all about the music.”
Stel’s death from cancer at age 60 on Tuesday prompted lots of calls and messages to Reynolds, who played with Stel for years in the Rick Stel Project band.
“(The list) is a mile long, you hear from everybody,” Reynolds said Wednesday. “You know how it is when you’re longtime buddies and friends. When you hear about it, you say ‘damn!’ There have been long discussions and lots of reflection. Rick and I have gotten really close the last 7 or 8 years.”
Reynolds and his Rick Stel Project bandmates – keyboardist Mark LoDuca and drummer Dave Marcaccio – expect to be involved in a memorial tribute to Stel at a yet to be specified date.
“Rick’s son Eric (Salansky) said he would like for us to be involved when we do a tribute,” Reynolds said.   “Everybody in our network is in the same generation and we all have the same friends. A lot of us are in the Detroit Blues Society.
“We’’ll try to find the most common thread, maybe at a Detroit Blues Society function, or maybe at Callahan’s (Music Hall) where Rick played with us, with Jim McCarty’s Mystery Train, or sometimes with The Millionaires (swing band).”
Reynolds is working on completing production of a video of the Rick Stel Project performing at a festival last fall.
“Rick did a lot of music in town, but there’s not too much of this type of high quality documentation,” Reynolds said. “It looks pretty nice, he’s happy and he’s playing really good guitar.”
Reynolds described Stel as “a fun man to work with.”
“As far as his music, he was really a source of inspiration to all of us,” Reynolds said. “A lot of the music he wrote was based upon his life experiences. He was divorced, but he would write about it in a humorous way. He wrote songs called ‘My Wife Don’t Cook’ and ‘Chasin’ Women Blues.’ There was some remorse, but he would make fun of himself and write tongue in cheek. That endeared him to all of us who played with him.”
Reynolds, a retired engineer from Chrysler, had another bond with Stel, who was still working as a design engineer for GM. Marcaccio is a car guy too.
“I would characterize him as a roll up your sleeves type of guy, a blue collar guy,” Reynolds said. “He was pragmatic and hardworking. A lot of us came from the same culture from cars.
“We’re all buddies from that different side of life. We do the car thing during the day and come out at night and play the blues.”
According to Reynolds, Stel was the type of person everyone could relate to.
“He was kind of a Walt Whitman type, a plain spoken and poetic person.”

Rick’s Stel’s passing prompted lots of comments on social media, many from the top musicians in Detroit, a tribute to his talent. Here are a few excerpts.
“You were a true blues man who will be missed by many. Thank you for all the great years of music!” – Dylan McCarty
“Rick Stel was as kind as he was talented - a truly sweet soul and I am proud to call Rick my friend.” – Bobby Murray 
“I didn’t know him well, but every time you saw him he put a smile on your face. And that my friends is the greatest legacy perhaps we can hope for.” – Carl Henry
“A strong & swinging blues guitarist, a fine singer, he was also a talented blues piano man. ... He was a damn good person beyond his musical abilities. A major loss in our community.” – RJ Spangler
“He was a hell of musician and a fine, soulful singer who was a VERY important part of our music scene here, for many years." – Erich Goebel
"Rick was an excellent guitar player and a multi-talented musician. He was a class act and had ZERO ego. He will surely be missed."  Steve Allen

To see a previous blog post with comments from Jim McCarty about Rick Stel, click here.

A memorial gathering for Rick (Stel) Salansky will be from 4-9 p.m. Friday, April 11 at Lee-Ellena Funeral Home, 46530 Romeo Plank, Macomb Township. A service is planned at 7:30 p.m. For information, click

To send info to JB Blues, please email

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