Bill Sundeen

(December 26, 1953 - September 18, 2012)

William R. Sundeen, age 58 of Lincoln, died on Tuesday, September 18th at his home in Lincoln. Born December 26, 1953, Bill was an exceptional clarinet, saxophone, and flute player during high school. He also excelled at track and cross country. Bill played with the Lincoln Youth Symphony Orchestra, high school band, high school jazz band, as well as the groups Elysian Fields and Iron Horse.

After graduating from Lincoln Northeast as an honor student in 1972, he moved to New Orleans, where he learned to play guitar and wrote wonderfully insightful songs. He became a popular performer at the Wrong Place Saloon, which at the time was the gathering place for musicians and songwriters in the Big Easy.

After he returned to Nebraska, Bill played bass guitar for a touring bluegrass group from Kentucky and for a country band based in Valley. In later years, he played at open stages and for special events at the Auld Recreation Center. Bill loved music and was always supportive of other musicians. His talent and spirit will be missed very much by all who knew him.

- Wyuka Funeral Home, Lincoln, Nebraska

September 25, 2012


I am not sure if you heard Bill Sundeen passed away, quite suddenly, on Sept. 18, 2012. I wanted to write something to honor him.

Bill and I had become very close friends over the last few years. We started emailing after the reunion honoring Charlie and then after Leather died we got even closer. Bill and Leather had been pretty close since the Wrong Place years. Bill always looked up to Leather. Leather sort of took him under his wing, and when Leather passed, Bill and I became closer. Bill was witty and wrote wonderfully.

Leather and Bill remained pretty good friends through the years. Leather trusted Bill and they wrote to each other while Leather was living in France. Leather poured out his heart to Bill during some rough times. Bill saved and cherished all of Leather’s letters. After Leather passed, I knew Bill would be even more alone, so we started talking on the phone every week or so. Even though Bill and I never physically met, in some ways I think I knew Bill better than just about anyone.

Bill told me about his growing up years in Lincoln, how he came from a family of six kids where music was part of his life – how his father was a music teacher. He told me about his time in New Orleans, his alcoholism, and being sober for over twelve years. I knew his ups and downs. I knew how much he adored Joel Wray, Charlie, Leather, and others from the Wrong Place and how he wouldn’t have given anything for those experiences and those memories.

The Wrong Place had an enormous impact on Bill. The Wrong Place, and the people who were there were all magical to him. Bill was an innocent. He was just a kid when he got to New Orleans; I could tell by the stories he told and the way he told them. The New Orleans experience and the Wrong Place crowd were all bigger than life and I think Bill felt that way until the day he died.

After his time in New Orleans Bill went back to Lincoln and married, played music, had a son, got divorced. I believe the only job he ever had was music. He was in several bands through the years and stayed close to a few of his old band mates. Music was a large part of his life. Even when he was no longer playing in bands, he loved to listen to music. He would stay up late sitting in his recliner with his head phones on listening to old rock and roll. He also liked to go to coffee houses in Lincoln and listen to the music, but then he told me he felt odd because he was so old compared to the other people in the audience.

Bill was the one of the kindest, most open people I have ever known. He loved all his family and was very proud of their achievements. I never heard him say a bad word about anyone. I really mean that statement -- no exaggeration. He never blamed anyone for anything. Nothing in his life was ever anyone else’s fault. He truly lived in the here and now, cherished his friends, and appreciated every kindness. He valued old letters and mementos from times past, and is one of the few people I know who would still send a letter to someone ‘snail mail,’ signed, Your Friend, Bill Sundeen, instead of texting or emailing.

Bill’s ability to take life as it came was a great inspiration to me. Knowing him has made me a better person. Bill’s death was a shock to all who knew him. I guess we all knew he had heart problems, and looking back I now remember how during our last talk he told me he was having a few dizzy spells.

There was a very strong connection between us; when I didn’t hear from him for a week, I knew something must be wrong. I started trying to call Bill and after a couple of days of not getting an answer, I ferreted out the name of his landlord and called him. That is how I got the news. Bill’s landlord found Bill lying on his kitchen floor. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. I can only hope the end came very quickly and he felt no pain or loneliness. I will never forget him and I am sure there are other people who feel the same way. Sorry to write on such a sad occasion.

Take care,

Jeannie Blue

Bill onstage at The Wrong Place Saloon with Sandy Dimon and Tabby Crabb c1972