Fluid guitarist Rick Kulwicki died Tuesday at age 49 - Reverb

News: Fluid guitarist Rick Kulwicki is dead at 49

Denver guitarist Rick Kulwicki passed away on Tuesday. He was 49. Photo by Jill Razer Mustoffa, special to heyreverb.com

Denver guitarist Rick Kulwicki passed away on Tuesday. He was 49. Photo by Jill Razer Mustoffa, special to heyreverb.com

Denver musician Rick Kulwicki died Tuesday, Reverb learned this morning. Kulwicki, best known as guitarist for Sub Pop recording artists the Fluid –- alongside his work in the Frantix and more recently the Buckingham Squares -– was 49.

UPDATE: Memorial services for Kulwicki, who died from arterial sclerosis, are Tuesday Feb. 22 in Denver.

“Everybody who he touched went away with a positive feeling,” said Arnie Beckman, a close friend and bandmate to Kulwicki. “He made people feel good. There will be a formal memorial service soon, and when it happens, it will be overwhelmed with people. Everybody who encountered him loved him. You hear that a lot when people pass away, but in Rick’s case, it’s not exaggeration.”

Kulwicki is survived by his two teenage sons – of whom he was a single father – two sisters and his mother.

In recent years, Kulwicki played guitar and hosted practices for the Buckingham Squares, and Beckman played bass for the Denver band. Beckman knew something was askew when he showed up to band practice at Kulwicki’s house on Tuesday night at around 6 p.m. and found paramedics on the scene. As of Wednesday afternoon, Beckman said the cause of death was still unknown.

“We talked every day,” Beckman said. “He wasn’t that kind of guy who would have complained if there was (anything wrong with his health).”

News of Kulwicki’s death spread on Wednesday morning on Facebook and message boards with friends, fans and bandmates lamenting the loss of a man who was as kind in person as he was ferocious on the guitar.

“Rick was a person of impeccable integrity,” said Fluid frontman John Robinson, a friend of Kulwicki’s for decades. “If you ever needed an example of how to live your life, you only had to look at how Rick conducted his.”

Bart Dahl helped manage the Fluid through their recent reunions, including a triumphant return the Bluebird Theater in 2008.

“I’ve never met his equal for pure sunshine and happiness and positivity,” said Dahl. “He was just a magical character – an ambassador of goodwill.

“He had such a vast musical knowledge and was a professor for everything great – without ever being preachy. He had a way of sharing joy without ever shoving it down your throat. There was no pretense – no, ‘Look how much I know.’ It never came out that way with Rick.”

Ronnie Crawford was a bartender at 7 South, the revered, now-closed Denver rock club that helped the Fluid and many others find their feet in the ’80s and ’90s.

“He was a dad and a musician and a compassionate guy,” Crawford said. “He was so easy-going, and he was a great guy to be around. He was a family man, too. His boys have their own band. They were guitar techs when the Fluid would play.”

Crawford will be tending bar at the Skylark Lounge tonight – and old haunt of Kulwicki’s – where friends and fans of the artist will gather starting at 6:30 to mourn publically.

“It’ll be the first of many celebrations,” Crawford said.

Dahl remembers running into Kulwicki on the tiny dance floor at Sputnik a few months ago.

“A friend of his was DJing down there and had brought down these old 45s,” Dahl said. “Rick was dancing and he had these Mick Jagger moves – this hip shakin’ – and he was able to be funny and sassy and groovy while he was dancing like nobody was watching. Julie and I had a good time dancing with him. It always made me so happy to see him.”

Robinson remembers quiet afternoons and loud nights spent with Kulwicki back when their band, the Fluid, was the first non-Seattle band signed to the influential Sub Pop — now considered one of the top indie labels in the world. (The Fluid shared a split 7-inch single with Nirvana back in the day — the Fluid’s “Candy” on one side, Nirvana’s “Molly’s Lips” on the other — a piece of vinyl that regularly now draws upward of $100 on eBay.) The two have remained very close over the years.

“There were a few of us,” Robinson remembered, “that always knew Rick was truly an angel of some kind, hanging out here with a smile on his face and a lot of love in his heart to share — and, when we were really lucky, a guitar in his hands.”

Further memorial plans for Kulwicki will be announced on the Buckingham Squares’ Facebook page, Beckman said.

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and co-editor of Reverb and an award-winning critic and journalist at The Denver Post.

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  • Miss Kitty

    You can see the fire in Ricky’s eyes – doing what he loved most! Rick looked pretty good with his grey hair. I still remember how heartbroken Ricky, Holly and Ginger 2, were when their good friends, tha nice young couple died. She did the Ogden Theatre shows – she gave me an Iggy Pop poster @ his concert and was pregnant too when her and her husband were killed in a car accident in New Jersey(?).nPeace you have now at last, Mr Ricky. May the Lord bless you and all of your Loved Ones you have left behind. I know that you will always be watching over them even while you are playing @ that great Punk Rock show in the sky!nnwatch that the TV or the bathroom light doesn’t start coming on by itself now…!

  • HankReardon

    You will be missed, Rick. Thanks for everything. RIP

  • Diane Kulwicki Prusse

    Thank you for the wonderful article and for your kind words. My brother was the BEST! We appreciate everyone’s love and prayers! We have been greatly blessed and he was blessed to have so many of you in his life.nnDiane Kulwicki Prusse

  • Linda Kulwicki Crawford

    Though Rick got all the charm, eloquence and humor, the rest of the Kulwickis so very much appreciate your embracing of that man we individually know as our son, brother and father…his gifts were singular and prodigious, and we feel profoundly thankful to not only have had him in our lives, but that all of you have included him in yours.

  • Janis

    We loved the same kinds of music. One memory I hold dear is when he came over my apartment in the early eighties and was checking out my records. He had never heard of “Between the Buttons,” an early Stones record and one of my favorites. I told him he could borrow it, and he later told me how much he loved it and how glad he was that I had turned him onto it. Years later he turned me on to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which became one of my favorite bands. I always think of him whenever I hear that Stones album, or the Chili Peppers. And Gi Gi Allin. But that’s another story :) He was one in a million, and I’ll never forget him.

  • lisa mclennan

    His boys are beautiful. They look like angels. I can see him in them. He was an old art school pal and I’ll never forget what it was like to be in his company. We had so many laughs together. He was great before he was ever on stage.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_F46Y75757GE6WITUOYFHYO4WHU Lisa Mclennan

    Rick had heart (coeur).u00a0 And so do his twin sons Richard and Roman as evidenced by their performance at the Bluebird in honor of their dad.u00a0 Ricks sister said it best when she said something like, if you were with him, fun was a given.u00a0 I can say this, and I wish I could have said it to you in person, Rick Kulwicky, looks like, from what I see, you did give it your all.u00a0 Although I hadn’t seen you for a really long time, your smile hadn’t changed.u00a0 I’m going to find a way to give some of that love back.u00a0 That love that in your unobtrusive, unpretentious, way, you somehow w/out even trying hard, sprinkled on everyone around you.u00a0 When somethings that good, it can’t help but rub off.u00a0 And the memory of you never will.u00a0