“Mean” Gene Kelton was killed in a car accident last night. He was a Houston blues man that played Southern rock and Texas blues.
I may have met him once – but I didn’t know him.
But a few years ago, my Dad forwarded me an email that Mean Gene sent to his newsletter. I will never forget that email and wish that I would have saved it.
Gene had just played a gig at a certain dancehall in Bandera. They had informed him at the gig that there was a law that restricted how many decibels of sound were allowed at the venue. The venue owner had asked Gene to turn down so low that audience members had trouble hearing the guitar, vocals, etc.
Gene’s newsletter was first a scientific explanation about sound decibels, how to figure how much you’re emitting and how to determine whether someone’s restricting you to an unreasonable amount (as I recall, one of the comparisons was to the sound of a vacuum cleaner). It was quite impressive.
But I was more impressed by the second half of the newsletter, which was an apology to his fans. He apologized for the show that night at that dancehall. He apologized that he had compromised his show so much that he no longer sounded like himself. He apologized for not delivering a show that was worthy of Mean Gene Kelton. And he vowed that he would never do that again and that he would always rock harder than anyone.
We live in an age where art is continually compromised. Club owners want you to be a jukebox. Record labels want you to be sell-able. Music critics want you to be innovative and unique. . . . What if we could just be who we are? What if we could just make our music and not worry about who we have to please?
My heart goes out to Gene’s family and friends. And my heart truly goes out to his fans. What a refreshing experience that had to have been – to have an artist that cares so much about their music that they would not compromise it for any gig in the world. And to care so much about your fans that you wouldn’t compromise that loyalty or relationship for anything.
THAT, my friends, is TRUE artistry and truly what music is all about – the artist, the music, the fan. That’s it. All the rest is bullshit.
RIP Mean Gene Kelton.