Kelton (April 10, 1953 – December 28, 2010) was an American
guitarist, harmonica player and singer-songwriter, based in Houston, Texas.
He played Americana, blues-rock, Southern rock and rockabilly music.
Born Sidney Eugene Kelton, in Booneville, Mississippi, United States, his
mother sang gospel music on the radio. She divorced his ne'er-do-well father
when he was six. Afterward they lived with his grandfather, a cotton
plantation share cropper. On weekends he listened to down-home blues in a
dirt-floored juke joint. His step father, Bob Allbritton, who played rock
and roll guitar then in a manner, as it can be said that Conway Twitty, sang
country songs, exposed Kelton to all types of music. His mother bought him a
Sears Silvertone guitar at the age of ten, and they moved to Texas where he
formed his first band, The Moven Shadows. Following a serious motorcycle
accident, he played with several cover bands until 'giving up' music after
his first marriage. It took years of moving through various jobs, getting
back into music after a divorce, and trying for a few years to get together
a band, going through what he called 'the worst of the worst' musicians,
before he finally formed The Gene Kelton Band with bass player A. J. Fee and
drummer Russel Shelby, around the time of a national blues revival sparked
by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Kelton has been a full-time musician since 1983, when
he began playing for tips in bars after losing his DJ job while newlywed in
his second marriage and, in desperate straits, trying to support his
unemployed bride and two sons from his previous marriage. While publishing
Texas Blues magazine in the early 1990s, he lost everything but the rights
to his songs in his second divorce. The band went through another name, The
Love Buzzards, before fans called them 'die hards' for playing long sessions
in the hot sun suggesting their final revision. Finally, a demo tape played
on KPFT helped Kelton raise enough money to release his first album. Another
musician saying, 'Gene you play a really mean guitar,' led to his nickname
and the title of the group's second album.
Die Hard career
In 1992 he named his current band The Die Hards, under which name they have
been playing ever since. At the time of his death Kelton was playing with
drummer Ted McCumber and bass guitarist Ed Starkey( who has played with such
names as the Dottie West Band).
In December 1999, he released his first blues CD (Jambone Records), Most
Requested. The album was quickly picked up by several Houston Radio
stations, occupying the #1 call-in request on some of these stations. In
addition to radio coverage, which garnered him mainly local attention, his
popularity spread online through such sites as mp3.com where various songs
from Most Requested remained at the top 10 for two years. Kelton's making
his music available for download on the internet has resulted in a listener
base spanning the globe with over 150 radio stations around the world
carrying his music and an average of over 150,000 hits per month on his
website. In 2003, he released his second blues CD Mean Guitar. In 2007,
Kelton released Going Back To Memphis: A Biker Band Tribute To Elvis, a
tribute to the Elvis Presley, recorded in Sun Studios.
Kelton's songs are most notable for powerful guitar and lyrics that range
from emotional to raunchy. His raunchier songs often use innuendo, with
lyrics that taken literally are perfectly benign. Such songs include: 'The
Avon Man', 'Let Me Pump Your Gas', and 'Two Thangs'. Others are a little
more overt in their sexuality, such as 'The Texas City Dyke', 'My Blow Up
Lover', and, his most well-known tune, 'My Baby Don't Wear No Panties',
which Kelton began improvising to the tune of 'Mean Mistreater' in 1988
when, after a drunken girl jumped up on a bar table, ripped off her shirt
and began dancing, a guy yelled out, 'That ain't nothing, my baby don't wear
no panties.' Eventually it evolved into the current audience participation
version with fans shouting, 'How do you know?' after each chorus.
Discovering how audiences respond to songs with sexual innuendos, Kelton
really caught their attention by beginning 'The Texas City Dyke', 'She's got
tattoos on her titties.' Gradually he developed this into his song by using
all the jokes he had heard about this landmark fishing dyke.
Some of his songs have a more pained or melancholy feeling to them. Examples
are the nostalgic songs 'Cruisin' Texas Avenue' and 'Leaving Paradise'.
Another common theme in several of his songs is the power of the blues.
Songs like 'Sweet Mother Blues' and 'If Everybody Loved The Blues', extol
blues music as having remarkable properties, like being able to end war and
having 'almighty healin' powers'.
Many of his songs use alliteration in their lyrics. Some alliterative lines
include 'Sweetest song we ever sang was in each others arms' and 'Sowed my
seeds in search of truth'. His songs also contain lots of imagery.
Self-described as a performing 'black leather blues and redneck rock 'n
roll,' Mean Gene Kelton & The Die Hards have been called by ReverbNation
'one of the top Biker Rally and Blues Festival headliner acts.'
Kelton was killed on December 28, 2010, when his SUV collided head-on with a
school bus in Crosby, Texas, two days before he was due to perform on New
Years Eve at Rowdy Buck's in Crosby, Texas.