HOUSTON – "Mean" Gene Kelton, one of the top blues guitarists in Texas, was killed Tuesday after colliding head-on with a Crosby Independent School District bus, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said.
Kelton was driving his Ford Explorer on FM 2100 around 8:45 p.m. Another vehicle was stopped in the middle of the road, attempting to make a left turn onto Twin Creeks. Kelton swerved to avoid that vehicle and ran directly into a school bus headed southbound in the left hand lane.
The bus was carrying the Crosby ISD girls’ varsity basketball team, the team’s coach and the coach’s child.
The 11 people on the bus were transported to area hospitals as a precaution. None of them suffered life-threatening injuries. They were all home from the hospital on Wednesday.
The basketball team was returning to Crosby from a tournament in Liberty.
FM 2100 was closed as authorities investigated the collision.
Kelton’s fans quickly received news of his death.
One call reached Crosby ISD Superintendent Dr. Keith Moore, who was stopped in traffic at the accident scene.
“My father actually called my wife’s phone and said ‘Have you all heard a Crosby bus was in an accident?’ I said ‘Oh my gosh. I think I’m looking at it,’” Moore said.
Kelton, who lived in Baytown, looked every inch his name: ‘Mean Gene.’ His photos show a long haired, rugged man in blue jeans, cowboy hat and sunglasses.
He leaves behind fans who’ve followed him for two decades, including Jacki Bazzell.
“We’ll miss him,” she said. Bazzell, who mans the door at Rowdy’s, where Kelton was going to perform on New Year’s Eve, fell silent.
Kelton was something of a self-made-local legend. He booked, advertised and performed tirelessly. Around these parts, folks appreciated that.
“I know if he went into any bar they’d know him,” Bazzell said. “They’d know Mean Gene.”
It also turns out ‘Mean Gene’, did not always live up to his billing. His real name is Sidney Eugene.
“Ironically, Gene didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t do drugs. He ran five miles a day,” said blues singer and longtime friend Sandy Hickey.
She said his unvarnished sense of humor was his trademark.
“Very funny songs. His signature song is ‘My Baby Don’t Wear No Panties,’” she said.
Other titles included “Texas City Dyke.” Mean Gene wrote lyrics like that, but Sidney Eugene deliberately performed in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve, so his fans could avoid drunk drivers.
“They like to go out early and they get home early before all the other ruckus is out on the road,” said Rowdy’s Manager Eva Rayburn.
Kelton opened for ZZ Top in Odessa earlier in December.