A "consumate professional"
What bluesman Mean Gene Kelton meant to Houston
The Houston music scene lost a legend Tuesday night.
Originally from Mississippi, "Mean" Gene Kelton was a staple on the local blues music scene for years with his band The Die Hards, though he was most well-known outside the city for novelty hits like "My Baby Don't Wear No Panties."
Kelton was driving his Ford Explorer on FM 2100 in Crosby on Tuesday evening when he attempted to pass a car stopped to make a left turn and collided with a school bus carrying the Crosby ninth grade girls' basketball team. Kelton was killed in the wreck, but the 12 occupants of the bus escaped serious injury.
Kelton was slated to headline a New Year's Eve Day party in Crosby.
"He understood blues and wrote great songs," says Houston music scholar Roger Wood. "Kelton was very versatile. He could play more rock or more country if it suited the venue or audience better. In terms of guys who work in the blues, Kelton blurred lines between the inner city blues and a biker audience. He was really proud of that, loved bridging that gap. He worked hard to promote the notion of going to see live music."
Kelton's "mean" nickname was supposedly given to him by another Houston blues great, Joe "Guitar" Hughes, who used it to describe Kelton's guitar style.
"He was good enough to share a stage with guys like Joe Hughes and the elder bluesmen," says Wood. "He was slightly younger and a different race, but he had their respect."
In addition to his musical legacy, Kelton will be remembered for his active role in the musical community.
"If there was ever a cause or a fundraising event, Kelton was always not just there but a part of it, making it a bigger success. He was a guy you could always count on," says Wood. "He will be missed."
Kelton is survived by his wife Joni, his mother and his two children.
Here's a sample of Kelton's music: