Kyle Wood passes

Kyle Wood, noted bluegrass mandolinist and vocalist, and founding member of Crucial Smith, died on December 19 following a long illness. He was 55 years of age.

Born Ronald Kyle Wood in Nashville in 1966, he was educated at Ohio Valley College and Lipscomb University, deeply involved in musical productions while in school. A gifted tenor vocalist, Kyle attracted attention any time he sang. His musical interests centered around both bluegrass and rock music, making him perfectly suited for the more experimental nature of Crucial Smith, an early newgrass band in the late 1990s.

The band also included Tim May on guitar, Chris Joslin on banjo, and Dave ‘Doc’ Holladay on bass. Their debut, self-titled album was released in 1998, produced by New Grass Revival guitarist Pat Flynn. The members first met while in college, and remained friends even after the group disbanded in 2003. A second project, Morning Light, hit in 2000, and they were working on a third when it became clear that everyone’s attentions were elsewhere, and the recording was abandoned.

Here’s a track from Morning Light, one called Silver Moonlight which Holladay wrote, to give a feel for the band’s sound.

In 2010 Kyle released a solo project, Off The Rails, which combined his love for bluegrass and rock music, and gave his fiery tenor a rockin’ setting to soar above. Here’s a sampler from that album.

Holladay created this simple music video for another track, Beg You To Stay, an acoustic number in a rock anthem format.

His friends remember Kyle as something of a tragic figure, an unusually gifted musician, and a sweet, loving person who never seemed able to find his way outside of music, which was his primary passion in life. He played for a time with Eddie Rabbitt’s Hare Trigger Band, and worked in various retail and retail management positions. Prior to illness taking him down, Wood had returned to performing with Ray Cardwell, and with LaTressa & The Signal.

Dave Holladay remained close with Kyle, and said that he was able to spend a lot of time with him towards the end.

“Kyle’s health had been going downhill this past few months. We got to spend quite a bit of time together while he was in hospice. We talked about music, life, and his ongoing health issues, and I’m very grateful for that time. By the end, he was at peace, and had accepted his fate. He was lucky, I guess, to have had time to think and plan and figure out what was important before he died.”

Holladay and May got together recently to play some music for Kyle as he was fading away, with Pat Flynn joining them on a few occasions. And Holladay has dug into his boxes of stuff to find the music that was never released from the final Crucial Smith studio sessions. He has located the two-track mixes, and is mastering the best ones for a potential digital release.

There is also the possibility of a Crucial Smith reunion of sorts, at the urging of the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS who had been inquiring into such an occurrence for the past few years.

Dave tells us a bit about that.

“Winfield has been asking for a reunion show for years, and asked if we could do it at the 50th anniversary festival. Kyle asked if the band would play it, even if he couldn’t. We all agreed to do it, but those are tough shoes to fill with him gone. My cousin, Ryan Holladay, always loved Kyle’s music, and Kyle gave his blessing to us doing it with Ryan, who he saw as family. It made Kyle very happy to know that we might perform together again.

I think this was his way of giving us the band back.

If it comes off, we will be doing it for Kyle… getting some of the music we did out there again. He was really stoked that people still cared about the band – it meant a lot to him. Music was his life.”

The family will receive visitors on Wednesday, December 22, from 4:00-7:00 p.m. at the Woodlawn-Roesch-Patton Funeral Home in Nashville. A funeral service is scheduled there on Thursday at 1:00 p.m., with one hour of visitation beforehand. Dave Holladay will speak during the service.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donation to either Nashville Humane Association or MusicCares.

R.I.P., Kyle Wood.

Share this:

About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.