End of an Era: Guitarist David Abeyta Leaves Reckless Kelly

photo: Brad Coolidge

This story has been updated.

Austin-based Texas/Southern/Red Dirt/Alt country rock band Reckless Kelly is probably best known for being the home of brothers Willy and Cody Braun. But if there was a third member that fans most identify with as one of the most important members of the band over the last 20 years, it would be lead guitar player David Abeyta. That is why his announcement that he is leaving the band is being taken as such a gut punch by many Reckless Kelly fans.

RK Fans, Friends & Family: On February 9th in Waco, TX, I played my last show with Reckless Kelly,”  David Abeyta said in a statement Wednesday evening (2-20). “The band and I have known this was coming for a while now, but I made a choice to not make it public until after it was done. It was important to me to not impose strain on the band by turning it into anything like a ‘farewell tour.’ “

Abeyta played with Reckless Kelly for over 19 years, first joining the band in the studio on 2003’s Under The Table & Above The Sun—their first release on Sugar Hill Records, and the album many point to as the band’s breakout. He immediately brought a different element to the band, with an attack and a more open, acid rock-style that made Reckless Kelly stand out in the Texas and Red Dirt scene. David Abeyta has also co-written multiple songs for the band, including “Motel Cowboy Show” and “Wretched Again,” and also worked as a producer on multiple Reckless Kelly records. In fact production might be what Abeyta will focus on post Reckless Kelly.

“I’m sad that my 19 years with the band are over, I’m also excited for whatever comes next – for myself, my family, and the band,” Abeyta says. “I’ll be taking some time away from the road to spend more time with my wife and son, get my ‘batteries’ recharged, and work on production projects.”

Though often associated with Austin, Reckless Kelly was first formed in Bend, Oregon. The Braun Brothers were raised in nearby Idaho, and their younger brother Micky is the frontman of Micky and the Motorcars. Each summer the two bands hold the Braun Brothers Reunion in Idaho, which has become one of the primary events in Texas/Red Dirt music over the years.

Reckless Kelly moved to Austin in 1996, and David Abeyta joined just as the band was beginning to blow up. A lifelong musician, Abeyta first started playing ukulele at the age of four, working his way up to larger string instruments until he could play guitar. Abeyta attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1987, and graduated in 1990, eventually relocating to Austin.

David Abeyta wants it to be known that the split is amicable, that the band will continue without him, and that he’s not planning to be a stranger.

“I’d like to think you might see us onstage or in the studio together again at some point,” Abeyta says. “My interactions with you all over the years mean the world to me, and if I’d had to face you to say goodbye…let’s just say I cry easy, and I couldn’t have taken it. I ask you to continue to support the band, as you always have, as they move through a new chapter. Most of my favorite bands have gone through major changes – growth and forward motion are everything…and Reckless Kelly will always be my favorite band.”

David Abeyta also took time to thank the fans and his band mates.

“I could never have imagined that I would get a chance to play for so long with such naturally talented and unique musicians as the past and present members of Reckless Kelly, and I’ll always be grateful for that. The times I’ve had with them as musicians and friends will stay with me forever. Along with that, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of you on the road, and from the beginning you welcomed me into the tight-knit RK family – you’ll never know how much that meant to me, especially the times you came up to me to express how much the music meant to you – that kept me going for a long time. I sure will miss stepping onstage and seeing your faces.”

Reckless Kelly has a full slate of upcoming tour dates for 2019, including March 1st at the Varsity Theater in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

UPDATE: Reckless Kelly addressed the departure Thursday morning (2-21).

We are all sad to see this day come but could not be happier for our longtime brother and bandmate David Abeyta.

He gave us his all for 19 years and left it all out there on stage every night.
Thank you for the many sacrifices you made over the years and for being such a huge part of our family. Thank you to Dorothy and Owen for your patience and understanding and for loaning us your husband and dad for so many amazing years on the road!

Davids presence and talent will truly be missed by us and all RK fans but we understand and are excited for him and his next adventure. There will always be a bunk for you on the bus and on or off the road you will always be a member of this band ! Cheers to what the future holds and to all the wonderful memories!!!