LaBudde | George Geelan Blues & Jazz Festivals Collection



Related Cataloged Material

- Blues News Magazine


Related Collections By Name

- Grand Emporium

Related Collections By Topic

- Music
- Music: Kansas City Jazz
- Music: R&B, Country, Pop

Scope and Content of Collection

The George Geelan Blues and Jazz Festivals Collection was donated in November 2005 to the Dr. Kenneth J. LaBudde Department of Special Collections by Sara Geelan, niece of George Geelan; it was delivered to the library by Cindy Terwilliger. The heart of the collection consists of over 1500 photographs and over 80 sleeves of negatives, dating from 1995 to 2003. These images primarily document area blues and jazz festivals, such as the Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival; the Kansas City, Kansas, Street Festival; and the King Biscuit Festival in Helena, Arkansas. Geelan captured many notable artists, including B.B. King, Wilson Pickett, Ike Turner, Junior Kimbrough, and John Hammond with Washboard Chaz.

The collection also includes information related to Kansas City musician Lawrence Wright, posters from various blues and jazz festivals, blues society membership cards, business cards, postcards, pamphlets and calendars; as well as information regarding the 2000 Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, including Geelan's email correspondence with other passengers, itineraries, tickets, and other related items.

Additional material includes approximately 120 issues of (Kansas City) Blues News, the official monthly publication of the Kansas City Blues Society, to which Geelan submitted articles. The issues are cataloged in the UMKC Library Catalog and are housed with the Department of Special Collections’ periodical collection.

The collection also contains one audio CD, entitled Hot Licks Cold Steel: Boogie Favorites, which is housed in the Marr Sound Archives, the audio division of Special Collections.

Biographical Sketch

George Geelan was born April 25, 1948, to Dan & Marilyn Geelan. He attended Holy Cross Elementary School and Northeast High School in Kansas City and graduated from Blue Springs High School. Following graduation, he entered the Marine Corps and served, mostly in Japan, until 1974. Geelan obtained a degree in architecture from Kansas State University in 1977. He worked as a licensed architect on many projects in Kansas City over the years.

Geelan loved music, especially the blues, which held a special place in his heart through his involvement with the Kansas City Blues Society (KCBS) and the original Kansas City Blues & Jazz Festival. Geelan loved all forms of blues music but had a personal affinity for the Hammond B-3 organ, power trios, screaming guitar and boogie woogie piano. He also loved to dance and was often seen on the dance floor enjoying the music.

Geelan served a one-year term on the KCBS Board. He also served as editor of the (Kansas City) Blues News in the mid 1990s and hosted the Blues News mailing "parties" at his home for many years. He wrote articles and contributed photographs to the Blues News and volunteered at many KCBS events. He served as an official photographer for the original Kansas City Blues & Jazz Festival from 1990 to 2001. He often had his best photographs blown up and signed by the artists when they returned to Kansas City to play again. He often treated his friends to these photographic treasures.

Geelan was instrumental in bringing Kansas City pianist Lawrence Wright out of retirement in the mid-1990s. He assisted Lawrence with publicity and booking gigs, and served as his driver for many years. They had a truly special friendship and Geelan remained devoted to him until Wright's passing in 2003, after which Geelan wrote an article on the history of Lawrence Wright for the Blues News.

One of Geelan's favorite road trips was to the King Biscuit Blues Festival (now the Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival) which he attended for many years. His last trip to the festival was in September 2004 just following his cancer diagnosis. Regarding blues music, his King Biscuit trip gave him a better understanding of where the music comes from: "I'll never experience the degree of pain that created this music."

Geelan passed away Monday, September 26, 2005, after a courageous battle with cancer.


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