Louis Meyers, Former Folk Alliance Head And Imaginer Of Bluegrass 'Tommy,' Dies

Mar 11, 2016

Folk Alliance International announced Friday that its former director, Louis Meyers, died on March 10.

"It is with heavy hearts that we share the sad news that Louis Meyers passed away," wrote Aengus Finnan, the organization's current executive director. "He will be dearly missed by his friends and colleagues on our staff, board, in our membership, and the music community at large."

Meyers was one of the co-founders of Austin’s South By Southwest music, film and tech festival. He later spent ten years as director of Folk Alliance, moving the organization from Memphis to Kansas City in 2013. The organization operates the Folk Store at 509 Delaware in the River Market, and its annual conference, which brings approximately 3,000 musicians and industry professionals to the Westin at Crown Center each February, will be held in Kansas City through 2018.

Meyers stepped away from the director's role at Folk Alliance in 2014. He remained involved with the organization but turned his attention to a project he'd held in his imagination for twenty years: recording a bluegrass version of the Who's rock opera "Tommy."

For that project, he recruited The Hillbenders from Springfield, Missouri.

Hear Louis Meyers talk about "Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry" in an April 2015 story for KCUR.

"Words cannot express the sadness we feel today as we have lost one of our own," said the Hillbenders' Nolan Lawrence, who called Meyers "our manager, our confidant, our very dear friend and arguably the most important member of our band."

After "Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry" was released last May, Rolling Stone called it "a genius move" and Billboard said it was "ambitious and audacious."

"A visionary leader, Louis was an inspiration and a guiding light for us that can never be replaced," Lawrence said. "His legacy will live forever in the echoes of ("Tommy's") greatness. He was so incredibly special and his impact on the music world will be felt for generations to come. Rest well friend, you will never be forgotten."

Other members of the Kansas City music community were also shocked and saddened.

"Louis was incredibly helpful to us, and his encouragement and advice and introductions were key to us being where we are right now," said Erin McGrane of Victor & Penny. "He had time for phone calls and conversation. He was a straight shooter and a no-BSer, and we really appreciated that."

Besides that, McGrane said, "we just liked him so much. He was just a great person to have in our community. We feel fortunate to have known him and grateful for all the help he gave us. He will be missed. He’s left a huge hole in the musical fabric of our community.”

Tributes were also coming in fast on Meyers' Facebook page.

"You were a Believer," wrote Betse Ellis. "I am a better human for knowing you. How many of us can say that about you? So so many. You know you were so loved, right? Thank you."

Editor's note: This story was updated from the original to include McGrane's comment.

C.J. Janovy is an arts reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can find her on Twitter, @cjjanovy.