b. John Dickson Kelley, 22 October 1898, Houston, Texas, USA, d. 26 December 1980, Houston, Texas, USA. In the early 20s pianist Kelley led a band, Peck’s Bad Boys, which featured several excellent musicians who were then beginning their careers. They included Jack Teagarden and Pee Wee Russell. Although he made occasional trips to Midwestern cities and also to New Orleans, Kelley concentrated his career on his home town. He resisted offers to join important bands such as those of Paul Whiteman and both Tommy Dorsey and Jimmy Dorsey, and continued playing in self-imposed obscurity. His reputation among fellow musicians was very high, but his first formal recordings were not made until he was almost 60 and partially blind. Even allowing for the ravages of time and health, these records support the view that in his prime he must have been a formidable talent. Further evidence emerged with the release, after his death, of an album containing earlier recordings. Home-made and with some reminiscing by Kelley, but with astonishing bursts of bravura piano-playing, they go a long way to proving that this time, at least, the legend was right. Kelley eventually became totally blind and died in December 1980, in the obscurity he had sought during his lifetime.
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