Louis Jay Meyers (1955 – 2016)
The music world was rocked on March 11, 2016, by the death of Louis Jay Meyers, and the news hit our community especially hard. Louis was the Executive Director of Folk Alliance International from 2005 – 2014 and led the Winter Music Camp, Music Store, and Music Fair in his subsequent role as Special Projects Coordinator.
Under his leadership, FAI made the move from Washington, DC, to Memphis and then to Kansas City, transforming into the thriving and stable organization it is today.
Louis Meyers was a native of Austin, Texas, and he never let you forget it. He was one of the founders of SXSW (South by Southwest) and his influence in the industry was such that his death on the first day of the music festival in 2016 pushed the news of President Obama delivering the SXSW keynote address down to the second paragraph of more than one news story.
An avid banjo and pedal steel player, he started his first band at the age of 12 and went on to play with and produce artists as varied as Killbilly, Bob Schneider, Tommy Ramone, and Willis Alan Ramsey. A picker at heart, Louis was a tireless champion for musicians, always eager to share his knowledge and make connections for people, especially emerging artists.
Throughout his career, whether he was in Austin, Amsterdam, or Kansas City, Louis took a lot of pride in knowing the people in his community. He also had the rare ability to make everyone he dealt with feel important. Whether a fledgling artist on the way up or a veteran trying to retool a career, he understood their needs and did his best to help, often saying, “We’ll find you something.” Perhaps the greatest example of this was his development of the yearly music camp held in conjunction with FAI’s annual conference, with world-class musicians serving as instructors to students of all ages and levels. To honor his vision and passion for a place for learning and exchange to occur the camp will henceforth be called the Louis J. Meyers Music Camp.
Louis never stopped investing in causes and creating projects destined to impact the world, and he never gave up on an idea he thought was good. It took him almost 20 years to turn his dream of producing The Who’s rock opera Tommy as a “bluegrass opry” into reality, and when the HillBenders received a standing ovation for their performance at Folk Alliance 2015, the dream paid off. In his final days, Louis was actively managing the career of the HillBenders, as well as longtime friend, Sam Baker.
Creating communities based on the joy of playing music together was a constant goal of his. Louis didn’t let regional boundaries, industry barriers, or genre divisions limit the making and sharing of great music. In a 2013 interview Louis said, “In my world, every single day marks a new day of traditional music. … Anywhere you go, everybody can sing Beatles songs. You can sit down anywhere on the planet and play a Bob Marley song and people will know the words. That’s tradition. To me, that’s folk.”