News Column

Ernie Lancaster: Blues musician traveled country, performed with James Brown

August 6, 2014

By Joe Williams, Orlando Sentinel



Aug. 06--Ernest "Ernie" Ray Lancaster was president of the 1971 senior class at Mount Dora Bible, played high-school baseball and basketball, and was in chorus.

Then his life really became busy.

Lancaster wrote songs and played guitar on more than 40 albums as a session musician for King Snake Records, a famed blues recording studio in Sanford that closed in 2004. He recorded two albums, "Ernestly" and "Lightnin' Alley," and was working on a third when he became ill.

Lancaster, 60, died at his home in Mount Dora on July 17 after a short battle with pancreatic cancer, five months after he was diagnosed.

"He could take a blues song and make it electrified," said Mike Galloway, a childhood friend and former harmonica-playing bandmate with the Midnight Creepers. "His instrument was his guitar, and he made it talk."

Lancaster's wife, Gael, said her husband received his first guitar at age 11 and taught himself to play.

"He was born with a great talent," Gael said. "He was involved in everything. When our son, Ethan, was in Little League, he was a Little League coach. When he played football [at Mount Dora High School], he didn't coach, but he was around all the time."

He and Gael were high-school sweethearts. When she graduated from Mount Dora Bible in 1972, he gave her an engagement ring. One year later, they were married and celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary shortly before his death.

Lancaster toured Europe during the summer of 1993 as a backup musician for James Brown.

"He mentioned to me several times about how great it was to play with James Brown," Galloway said. "He talked about what an impact it was on his life. He [Brown] was an icon back then. He was the "Godfather of Soul.' "

Lancaster was a founding member of the Lake Joanna Band -- named for a lake in Eustis -- which morphed into the Midnight Creepers. Eventually that group became the Sex Change Band that backed up blues singer Root Boy Slim, the stage name for Foster MacKenzie III. Root Boy Slim was extremely popular in the Washington, D.C., area and signed with Warner Bros. Records.

"Ernie was one of the most creative guys I ever had the pleasure of working with," said Dick Bangham, a musician and backup singer with Root Boy Slim. "The one thing I will hold on to is the creative dialogue that we always had. We both flew under the radar as far as being stars, but he was one of the most talented guys I ever met."

Lancaster seldom sang on records, preferring to let the music speak through his guitar, his wife said.

"I loved listening to him 'noodling,' which is what he called it when he was just sitting around playing his guitar," Gael said. "He never would sing, but he could sing. He had perfect pitch. I think he was a little bashful. He was more comfortable standing to the side playing his guitar."

In addition to Gael and Ethan, Lancaster is survived by a daughter-in-law, Kera, and grandson, Evan.

jrwilliams@tribune.com or 352-742-5921352-742-5921

Call

Send SMS

Add to Skype

You'll need Skype CreditFree via Skype

___

(c)2014 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel



Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)


Story Tools






HispanicBusiness.com Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters