Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Detroit blues world mourns passing of Rick Stel

Jim McCarty, center, with Rick Stel,  2nd from right.
Guitarist Jim McCarty has had many musical cohorts over his legendary career, but none of his collaborations lasted longer than his partnership with singer-guitarist Rick Stel, who passed away this morning at age 60 from cancer.
“What makes it heartbreaking is that he was a guy who never abused himself,” McCarty said. “He never used drugs or alcohol. I don’t think he even smoked. It makes you wonder why?”
McCarty and Stel first played together in the Detroit Blues Band when Stel took over for bassist Billy Landless. Their musical collaboration took a big step forward when McCarty formed his group Mystery Train.
“Memphis Smoke wanted me to put together a band as the house band,” McCarty recalled.
Stel moved over to his main instrument, guitar, and was the main singer in the band. The two guitarists instantly clicked, according to McCarty.
“He was terrific. We always had that understanding. It either fits or it don’t. It has to be there. I’m not sure it’s something you can work on. We had it right out of the gate.
“Rick came from the jazzy blues and I was doing more of the blues rock thing, but I listen to jazz at home more than anything else, so we had a deep bond with that.
“Over the years, things would get fine tuned and it just became second nature. I knew what he was going to do before he did it.”
McCarty described Stel as a “good guy, a straight ahead guy.”
“You could always count on him. He was always on time and always did the job.”
The interplay between Stel and McCarty was featured on the 2013 recording “Jim McCarty & Mystery Train Live.”
“I’m really glad that CD is there,” McCarty said.
“Twenty years is the longest I’ve played with anybody, even (drummer Johnny ”Bee”)  Badanjek. That’s a lot of notes. It’s a real drag.”

To see a blog post with comments by Jef Reynolds of the Rick Stel Project, click here.

To contact JB Blues, please email Joe.Ballor@dailytribune.com


  1. Thank you Joe and thank you Jim for sharing the magic that was between you and Rick..

  2. It was always a thrill to see Jim and Rick exchanging guitar licks.

  3. I attended a show of the Rick Stel Project at the Blue Goose in St clair Shores, MI two years ago. He was a great musician and a very kind person. We will miss him.
    Philippe from Paris, France