ERNEST RAY "ERNIE" LANCASTER, guitarist, songwriter, and recording artist, died of cancer Thursday, July 17 at his home in Mount Dora, Florida. He was 60 years old.
Since going pro in the early 1970s, Lancaster recorded with an impressive list of remarkable artists - including Root Boy Slim, Rufus Thomas, Ace Moreland, Kenny Neal, Lucky Peterson, Noble “Thin Man” Watts, Lazy Lester, Alex Taylor, Razzy Bailey, Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, the JB Horns and most recently Victor Wainwright. He toured internationally with many of them. He also recorded two solo albums – “Ernestly” and “Lightnin’ Alley” - and was working on a third solo album when he became ill.
Ernie was a fixture on the Washington DC music scene for years as lead guitar in Root Boy Slim’s Sex Change Band, who he also toured with all over the US and UK. He worked as a session player at Bob Greenlee’s legendary King Snake Studio in Sanford, Florida from its inception in the early ‘80s until Greenlee’s passing in 2004, and was often Greenlee’s writing partner as well. With over 40 albums in his discography, Ernie was known far and wide as a red hot, inventive guitarist who easily fit into any musical genre from country and blues-rock to jazz, pop and soul. He made it a practice to encourage other players by sharing licks and musical techniques. As a composer he demonstrated a knack for finding the perfect hook, particularly evident as a partner in the songwriting team behind the inspired lunacy of Root Boy Slim, creating the music for such outrageous songs as “Dare to be Fat”, "Dozin' and Droolin'", “The Loneliest Room in the World” and “Boogie Til You Puke”. Ernie was also currently working as an Executive Producer of a feature length documentary film on Root Boy.
As is the case with so many independent artists, Lancaster had no health insurance and was unable to work as a result of his illness. When he was hospitalized in May, scores of friends, fans and fellow musicians from Central Florida and across the country rallied in support to raise funds to help offset medical and living expenses for him and his family, and that effort continues on his behalf.
Ernie Lancaster was above all else a family man - devoted husband, father and grandfather. He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Gael, their son Ethan, daughter in law Kera and grandson Evan. He is also survived by seven siblings who he discovered late in life - Jack Simpson, Jill Parker, Nancy Tucker, John Lancaster, Robert Cathcart, William Lancaster and Randy Hickey.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Ernie Lancaster Relief Fund.