Kelley, Peck (John Dickson)

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Kelley, Peck (John Dickson)

Kelley, Peck (John Dickson), jazz pianist, leader; b. Houston, 1898; d. Houston, Dec. 26, 1980. He was one of the unrecorded legends of jazz, ranked near Tatum by Jack Teagarden and others, until some private recordings from 1957 were issued after his death. They are quite impressive technically, though not like Tatum. He executes complex figures independently with each hand.

Kelly led own “Bad Boys” in and around Tex. from the early 1920s; many famous jazzmen worked in the band including: Jack Teagarden (1921-23, 1924), Pee Wee Russell (1924), Leon Roppolo (1924), Johnny Wiggs (1927), guitarist Snoozer Quinn (1927), Leon Prima, etc. During the 1920s and 1930s Kelly worked almost entirely in Tex., except for a brief spell in St. Louis (1925), Shreveport (1927), and a trip to New Orleans with Joe Gill’s Band (ca. 1934). He steadfastly refused offers to join “name bands” and continued to play long residencies in Houston at Jerry’s Inn, Rice Hotel Roof, and Southern Diners’ Club. He served a brief spell in the U.S. Army until March 1943, then returned to Houston. Eyesight problems caused temporary retirement (1946–48), then he returned to play long residency at Dixie Bar (Houston), from December 1948. He retired from regular playing in the mid-1950s, and continued to reside in Houston until his death.


P.K. Jam (1957).

—John Chilton, Who‘s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter

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Kelley, Peck (John Dickson)

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