R.I.P. George Melvin, local keyboard wizard

george-melvinAwful news via the Daily Progress and straight from his wife Alfreda that local keyboard wizard George Melvin has passed away at 63 due to kidney problems and other medical complications resulting from his diabetes.

Melvin lived in the area for his entire life, and toward the end was a particularly intriguing local character who could be found playing piano a staggering six nights a week out at Keswick Hall in addition to sporadic other dates around town, many of which also involved him simultaneously puffing away on his pipe. The unique "Group Sound" gigs at the South Street Brewery had him bouncing his hands across several keyboards while backed by a drum loop to effectively cover all the parts of a small jazz combo by himself. He was a key lynchpin in local composer John Carden's jazz group Greenwich Swing Time, and he was particularly enthusiastic about his larger band format gigs with the hefty Hammond B3 organ he'd nicknamed "Miss Lucy."

"He was my soul mate, and I was very lucky in all the years that I've been performing to know him," says Carden. "He really loved this community and was the musical godfather for every musician in this town."

Melvin's Type II diabetes led to serious kidney problems beginning in 2005, and the whole situation came to a head in 2009 when his doctors finally decided he needed a transplant–- Melvin was uninsured, so local musicians rallied around him for a benefit concert. This closely mirrors what happened when longtime local bassist Steve Riggs suffered a heart attack earlier the same year; elsewhere, we're reminded that influential Big Star frontman Alex Chilton avoided seeking medical attention for his warning signs in the weeks before his fatal March 17 heart attack due to his lack of health insurance, and that medical bills to the tune of $70k may have contributed to the depression that led paraplegic singer-songwriter and occasional Gravity Lounge performer Vic Chesnutt to commit suicide on Christmas Day.

"George was a beloved man, and he touched a lot of people's lives deeply," says friend and associate Chris Munson, one of the organizers of the "Jazz-In for George" last November. "[The benefit] paid off all his medical debt. The outpouring was stunning and showed how greatly respected he was."

"Jam session in the sky" is what they usually say about these things, in which case Melvin joins Dave Matthews Band sax player LeRoi Moore and frequent collaborator Johnny Gilmore. Hopefully they'll play "Superstition."

Meanwhile, back down here, the recent landmark health care reform bill might soon make the prospect of being a musician with a medical condition somewhat less grim. To those that are still with us: please take care of yourselves, guys.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the American Kidney Fund and/or the American Diabetes Association.

The funeral will be held at Mount Zion First African Baptist Church on Tuesday, April 20 at 2pm with visitation beginning at 1pm. There will also be a graveside ceremony on Wednesday, April 21 at 12pm at the First Church of Jesus in Hurt, Virginia.

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Mr. Melvin played for my church growing up. Mr. Melvin was very well respected in the community. He will be greatly missed.

Please don't spell linchpin "lynchpin".

My prayers for alfreda and the melvin family george will be greatly missed.

He was a good friend and taught me a lot when he played at my father's church in Lynchburg. He is already missed.

Ch'ville has indeed lost a great musician. Especially one who was willing to occasionally volunteer his services to local singers and community theater - unlike so many others in the area. Was sorry the reporter felt it necessary to politicize Mr. Melvin's passing, it was an unnecessary distraction to a tribute to a great talent.

Kaydin Edwards and Christina Lyon will miss you very much George. My prayers are with you Alfreda and family. Love you George.

George was a generous man and great musician. Having dinner at Fossets one night he let me play his "baby", his piano, what a classy, classy man whose music will be missed.

Leave it to a Charlottesville lib rag to soil a eulogy for a wonderful man with political utopian jibberish like that foisted upon us in this article. There is so much money in the local music scene--and we all know where a lot of this money is--that no working musician should go without private health insurance. And to state factually that Alex Chilton--the great Alex Chilton--refused medical care due to lack of insurance is a great example of why the "fourth estate" needs to be relegated to "another medium of entertainment" status. Pretty sleazy tactics by this author in a forum that should have ONLY honored the man. Shame on you.

Shocked and deeply saddened. I will be thinking and praying for you, Alfreda and family! George was one of the most genuine, caring, generous and talented men I've ever had the fortune to call a friend.

I cannot express my sadness at this news. We have lost a great man. The time in the cave was always rewarding and swingin'.

Cville has lost a local legend

Pop - it's me. I'm taking every opportunity on the Internet to let you know just how much I love you and just how special you are to me. You were a phenomenal musician of course, but even beyond that, you were a supportive, kind, gentle spirit who did a great job creating a pretty damn good life for me and your family. I love you and I'll be talking to you quite a bit.

You are the greatest, Pop and I'll miss you but I'm glad you've found peace.

Your Ballerina Girl

pie in the sky health bill propaganda aside, I remember George Melvin playing two keyboards at once behind a veil lof blue pipe smoke at the Boar's Head Inn - Terrace Lounge about 15 years ago. I used to sing with him and he'd make cassette tapes for me to take home. My wife cried when I sang Stardust. George was a generous and good man and a great player. Best REgards out to his family and friends.

I am not sure why anyone thinks that the challenges faced by people who do not work the 'company' job should be considered a politicizing of this man's death. Not having having health insurance often equates with not having access to health care, and is a very real slice of life for many many people. It affects the decisions they make on a daily basis.

I think his circumstances are a perfect opportunity to highlight some problem solving we still need to do in our society. It doesn't sound like Melvin wasn't about paying his bills.

There but for the Grace of God....

It does seem quite as normal to include information in a story to the effect that a person's medical condition may have been affected by the lack of public health car, as it would be to include information about lack of police protection in a murder case where someone violated a protective order, etc., etc..

The use of an expression like "lib rag" suggests the writer may be a bit on the callow side, maybe a young "cock o' the walk" who has yet to discover how quickly a self sufficient individual can be reduced by fate. By the way, he might be astonished to discover that some "Hook Team" people may not as liberal as he imagines.

The first time I heard George Melvin play was with a group called Blue Indigo at the Prism Coffeehouse in about 1995. He got me interested in the world of jazz and actually into the world of music in general. I had never seen a B-3 player before and will never see one like him again. The last time I saw him was a few months ago at South St. where I told him my 3 yr old son was just about old enough to stay up and come watch them play. I am deeply saddened by his early demise. Blessings on his friends and family.

Do you remember the rest of the group Blue Indigo?

That was some fine company there: George Melvin, LeRoi Moore, Carter Beauford and Sal Soghoian. The stories I hear of those days come from Tokyo Rose. There's the Dana word jazz story. John D'Earth stories...Greg with the funky stringed instrument (not a guitar, but like a stringed stick thing).

I'll never be able to think of the Boar's Head or Keswick without thinking of George. And kudo's to Keswick for working with him all the way up to the end -- that's class. Course they knew a good man when they saw one, and he was definitely a Very Good Man. He will be missed, greatly, and in small moments peppered over the rest of my life.

Blessings on his family and friends indeed.

The world has indeed lost a great musician and one hell of a guy! I had the honor of working with George and also with Tommy Miller for several years back in the 80s and 90s and they were 2 of the finest people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Its saddens me deeply to hear this news.