L-R: Jerry Lightfoot, Texas Johnny Brown, Joe "Guitar" Hughes, "Spare Time" Murray (obscured) and Pete Mayes
Veteran Houston bluesman Pete Mayes, a guitarist and singer whose uptown jump-swing style a la Louis Jordan belied his rural Texas roots, has passed away at his Northside home, his friend, chauffeur and caretaker Art Dietz told Rocks Off this morning. The exact time and cause of death are unknown; "I'm not sure if he died during the night or if his wife [Shirley] found him this morning."
Mayes, 70, had been in poor health for several years. Both of his legs were amputated due to diabetes, and he underwent quadruple-bypass surgery in 2001. Despite his health problems, he continued performing until a few months ago, Dietz said. "Toward the end, it was pretty physical getting him in and out of the vehicle."
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Pete Mayes was born in the Chambers County community of Double Bayou, a blue-collar African-American and Creole settlement near Anahuac. Through his family, he inherited the Turtle Bayou Dance Hall, where Mayes hosted a Christmas Day afternoon blues show for 54 years through last year. Due to his declining health, no show was scheduled for this year.
Mayes idolized T-Bone Walker as a teenager and eventually worked his way up to Walker's bandleader. He also played behind Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Junior Parker, Little Milton and Bill Doggett ("Honky Tonk"), and also led his own band, the Houserockers, for 50 years. Mayes is survived by his wife and son, Michael; another son was killed several years ago in an industrial accident.
"God gave me the gift to put a swing in the blues," Mayes told Dr. Roger Wood in a 1998 Press article marking the release of his CD For Pete's Sake (Antone's). "It's just natural." - Chris Gray