Nick Lee Rudd was born on October 19, 1960 in Decatur, Illinois.
Music was Nick’s refuge. He spent hours listening to records where he found a community of like-minded spirits. By age 13 he was already a seasoned concertgoer. At age 14, after intense dedication to the dissection of the musical compositions of others, he picked up the guitar and never put it down.
His contributions and influence on the Champaign-Urbana music community run deep. You either saw him perform in one of his many bands or solo acts or heard stories of his legendary talent. It’s impossible to discuss the historic arc of music in the CU community without finding one’s way back to Nick. He was humble—dedicated to the process of music making—and not the attention that it might bring. He wanted to play, listen, compose, and experiment. And to our great good fortune, he performed—but not nearly as much as we needed.
Nick’s lifelong musical relationship with Steve Scariano and Jeff Evans was the engine behind all the rock bands—undoubtedly the avenue through which most people will know and remember him. Their careers together making music spanned more than forty amazing years.
Along with his drummer-partner Brian Reedy, Nick played some of the most challenging and successful improvisational rock-guitar jazz ever made. He also consistently played solo-acoustic folk, classical, and jazz guitar. His output in these forms is as fully realized as the others, and contains some of his most hauntingly beautiful work.
He performed under his name, as well as Blown, B-Lovers (renamed Turning Curious), Weird Summer, The Big Maybe, Water Between Continents, and The Jans Project. He contributed to numerous musical projects collaborating with: Velvet Crush, The Arms of Someone New, the Moon Seven Times, and Angie Heaton and the Gentle Tamers.
His numerous musical projects had him opening for REM, the dB’s, Chuck Prophet & the Mission Express, William Tyler, and many other artists he admired, many of whom admired him just as much.
A fan of jazz, improvisation, and experimental sound, he found great joy performing as a member of Jason Finkelman’s improvised music projects FERROCENE3 and IO Mining Corp, and hearing icons in the field like Henry Grimes in the Sudden Sound Concert Series.
Nick’s other great passion was reading. He did not go anywhere without a book or two, or three. Before leaving home each morning he would select his books for the day, toss them into his messenger bag, and head to work. He read as avidly as he listened to music. This material also made its way through him, and onto his multitudinous notebooks.
He worked in the library system at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1999-2017. Countless doctoral students and faculty relied on his careful attention to detail and sincere interest in their scholarship. He was especially drawn to social justice and loved helping students who were addressing these issues. He is thanked in numerous publications and papers for his contributions leading to the successful completion of their work.
Nick’s passion and encyclopedic knowledge of music benefited the many people whose musical education he helped to shape. He was the friendly smile and trusted connoisseur behind the counter of many iconic record stores including Pop Shop, Record Service, and Record Swap.
Nick lives forever and will make us all whole again through his music. It is through sharing music and his loving spirit that we continue to experience his light and legacy. He is irreplaceable. One in a million. Loved more than he ever imagined.
Nick is survived by his wife, Gina Manola and son, Townes Durbin of California; Victoria Robbins, mother and Natalie Crisman, sister of Oregon; Rodney Paine (Linda) uncle of Illinois; Gary Rentz (Susan) uncle of Tennessee; Janice Dawes (Ron) of Arkansas. And countless friends and fans all over the world who are heartbroken and will miss him dearly.
His family is establishing a fund in his name to support music programming in the Champaign-Urbana community. A celebration of Nick’s life will be announced once arrangements are in place and we are free to gather together to share our love for Nick and his music.
Condolences can be sent to his wife and son:
Gina Manola and Townes Durbin
2619 Buckingham Road,
Los Angeles, CA 90016
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