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Karen Lee: Celebrating Serious Love and Spunk

Ric & Karen Lee on their wedding day.

Friend, brother, longtime drummer, San Diego County native, and Bayou Brothers band founder Ric Lee lost the love of his life Karen on Sept 28, due to a severe aneurysm suffered just two days after celebrating their 20th anniversary. Many of us in the music community knew Karen, a bright, friendly, sparkplug of a gal with a wicked sense of humor that was often a fixture at Bayou Brothers events.

“I met Karen April 18, 1999, at one of our gigs at Janie’s in Chula Vista and it really was love at first sight.” Ric recalls, “I offered to take her to breakfast… well, we never made it to breakfast,” he jokingly adds! Ric and Karen Lee were married in San Luis Obispo on Sept 25, 2001.

Ric told me Karen loved the story of when I first met her, when I thought Ric had hired a high-priced call girl on a whim to collect tips for the band at a downtown Bayou Brothers gig. She was super gregarious and was really “working” the guys at the bar! I didn’t realize that she actually was Ric’s new main squeeze! Soon afterward, Karen and I became good friends, and over the years laughed, shared and commiserated, and became sisters at heart. I always cherished the times when I got the chance to visit with her.

This beautiful, sassy, sexy woman was also a super smart professional. At one time, Karen was an award-winning speed typist and went on to be executive secretary to the CEO of Baskin Robbins and traveled overseas as part of the executive team. Karen eventually became the admin person for Bayou Brothers Productions. “She had the smarts and class to make us look good on paper and helped me organize and propel the band to where we were in the music arena,” says Ric. “Karen booked tours and travel, handled contracts, invoicing, payroll, wrote and posted press releases, and handled all the communications in the most professional way.”

Karen Gibbs was born Feb 16, 1963 in Paso Robles. Her mother remarried a cameraman for ABC television and Karen grew up in Hollywood and Burbank, often visiting TV sets her stepfather worked on. During her teen years Karen was a regular dancer on the popular American Bandstand. Later, as a young woman working as a bartender at the Riverside Casino in Bullhead City, Arizona, she was discovered by one of the Righteous Brothers when she sat in with the house band and was asked to record a jingle for the casino, thanks to that chance meeting. Karen liked blues and zydeco music but she really loved her country music and hard rock. She also had a wonderful soprano voice and played good guitar at one time. Karen suffered a stroke at just 42 year old. Fortunately, her mental capabilities stayed sharp as a tack and even though doctors told her she would never walk again, she was determined and defied them, though she sadly did not regain the use of her left arm. Over the years she had other medical setbacks but overcame them. Karen was a fighter.

During Ric and Karen’s time together, it wasn’t all work. These two were genuinely, madly in love and also made time to travel to places like Hawaii, Mexico, UK, Scotland, Louisiana, Tennessee, and all of the western states. They also went to Belize a few times and Karen would make sure to bring treats for the kids that lived there. Karen had a huge heart.

On Nov 10th, Karen Lee’s Celebration of Life will be held at Tio Leo’s 6pm-9:30pm and Ric wants it to be a kickass party for his Karen. “Everyone is welcome to share their fondest memories of my Karen,” Ric says. There will be music by Robin Henkel, the Bayou Brothers Family Band, Ass Pocket Whiskey Fellas, and Euphoria Brass Band, plus a jam session with special guests to play songs in her memory.

Karen Lee often mentioned to Ric that if she passed before him, she would like any donations to be given to the Helen Woodward Animal Sanctuary. https://animalcenter.org/ Karen loved critters of all kinds.

Ric lovingly offered to share the 20th Anniversary message Karen had written to him.

Every time I think of you
I wonder at the wonder of you with me.
I think about the years gone by.
How did they fly. How can it be?

Twenty years of romance, of whispers in the night.
Little breaths of laughter as you reach to hold me tight…
and I wonder… how can it be?

Still delight in knowing our love it still keeps on growing…
and because of it… in spite of it… your love keeps right on showing
in the big things and the little things,
all the in between things that makes my heart skip a beat.

 How you always call when you’re away,
several times each day, and that’s OK.
Cuz baby, I love you now more than I did back then
and those phone calls mean the world to me
with the love they’re wrapped up in.
You are my hero, my loving Buhvee.

 You lift me in your arms and keep me safe from harm
as I snuggle in for comfort, I softly whisper your name.
And I wonder Vee, I wonder at the wonder of our love.
I promise from my heart babe, this vow I make to you,
another twenty years (and more) of loving you like I do.

Another twenty years my love filled with ups and downs,
but through it all I vow to you I’ll always be around.
For you I hold my beating heart in the wonder of the love I have for you.

Celebration of Life for Karen Lee
Wednesday, November 10, Tio Leo’s, 5302 Napa St., 6pm.

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