The Miller Brothers with Nolan Faulkner holding his mandolin

Lee Nolan Faulkner at peace

Mr. Faulkner’s family recently shared the news that he passed away May 25, 2022.

The following piece is presented at the request of Mr. Faulkner’s family. Our condolences to all Mr. Faulkner’s relatives and friends.

Nolan Faulkner, 2021
Top of page: Candid snapshot of Mr. Faulkner with the Miller Brothers band. Above: A recent portrait of Mr. Faulkner

Lee Nolan Faulkner, 89, of Fancy Farm, KY (formerly of the Detroit area) passed away peacefully on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. He was born June 18, 1932 in Wolfe County, KY to John and Grace (Napier) Faulkner. Lee loved to tell jokes, watch U-K Wildcats Basketball, and talk with his friends. He was a proud Mason, and had a lifelong passion for playing the mandolin, and bluegrass music.

Lee was internationally respected in the bluegrass music world for his artistry on the mandolin, and for his songwriting ability. He initially played with groups such as the Powell County Boys, and the Kentucky Troubadours in his home state, before moving to Brighton, Michigan, in the 1950s. There, he played and recorded with Red Ellis, who was a radio host on WHRV Ann Arbor, for the Pathway and Starday record labels. He served as a mentor to many musically-inclined University of Michigan students who played in his band, the Big Sandy Boys, including Doug Green (“Riders in the Sky”), and Andy Stein (“Commander Cody”). In the early 1970s, Lee began to play with Kentucky transplants Earl, James, and Charlie Miller – the Miller Brothers – in the Detroit area, and he maintained an especially close personal and musical friendship with James Miller throughout the rest of their lives. The band recorded for Jessup Records of Jackson, Michigan, and Old Homestead Records of Brighton.

Lee’s mandolin style, strongly influenced by Bill Monroe and the blues, was highlighted on the 1976 album “The Legendary Kentucky Mandolin of Nolan Faulkner,” which consisted almost entirely of original songs and arrangements. He was in great demand locally for studio recording, and he appeared on albums by Lee Allen, Wade Mainer, Bob Smallwood, Larry Sparks, Joe Meadows, Clyde Moody, Charlie Moore, John Hunley, and others. He continued to play locally throughout the 1980s and 1990s with John Hunley and his Lost Kentuckians at their home base of Jack Daniel’s Lounge in Lincoln Park, and he traveled and recorded with Roy McGinnis and the Sunnysiders, Robert White and the Candy Mountain Boys, and James Miller. His musical career was featured in an article published in the September 2021 edition of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine.

Lee was preceded in death by five children: Shawn, Timmy, and Jimmy Faulkner, Penny Faulkner Rose, and Gail (Carl) Faulkner Rogers. He is survived by three children: Wanda Faulkner Underwood, Brent (Robin) Faulkner, and Tony (Laura) Faulkner; 9 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren, and four great-great grandchildren. 

Per Lee’s wishes, no services were held.

The family requests that any memorial contributions be made to “KCTCS Foundation,” at 300 North Main Street, Versailles, KY 40383, directed to the “Hazard Community and Technical College – Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music” in Lee’s honor.

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