Bassist Gene Kurtz, who co-wrote Roy Head's 1965 hit "Treat Her Right" and went on to play with a wide range of artists across rock, R&B, jazz and country, passed away Sunday night, according to a post on his Facebook page. Kurtz had just celebrated his 68th birthday last week.
A cause of death was not listed, but several updates on Kurtz's Web site this summer posted by his wife, Dell Edwards, said he had been undergoing chemotherapy. He was inducted into the Songwriter Hall of Fame at the Texas Legacy Music Awards in San Antonio last month.
Kurtz was a native of San Antonio and lived in Austin. He played with a number of bands in San Antonio, including the Rolling Stones (no, not those Rolling Stones, but "more of a singing group than a band," he told the Austin Chronicle's Margaret Moser in 2007) and Denny Ezba & the Goldens with future Sir Douglas Quintet/Texas Tornados organist Augie Meyers, before hooking up with Head and his San Marcos-based band the Traits in the mid-'60s.
Built on arguably one of the most recognizable bass lines of the '60s, "Treat Her Right" reached No. 2 on both the Billboard pop and R&B charts in 1965. Since then, it has been covered by a long list of artists including Otis Redding, Barbara Mandrell, George Thorogood, Johnny Thunders, Robert Plant, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.
The song is featured in Alan Parker's 1990 film The Commitments, and remains the climax of Roy Head's live show. Kurtz also wrote "You're Almost Tuff," which is "considered to be Head's most rockin' record," according to the bassist's Web site, and is available on Treat Her Right: The Best of Roy Head.
After leaving Head's band, Kurtz played on Beaumont native Edgar Winter's 1970 debut LP, Entrance. The credits on his Web site also list him playing with Bo Diddley, Booker T., Paul Revere & the Raiders, Mose Allison, Percy Sledge, Bobby "Blue" Bland, the Coasters, and the Fifth Dimension. Several current or former Houston artists are listed as well, including Miss Molly & the Whips, Ezra Charles, Johnny Nash, Johnny Bush, and Johnny Lee.
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In his later years, Kurtz reunited with Head for the 2008 Austin Music Awards (switching to rhythm guitar) and was a longtime member of Dale Watson & His Lonestars. He wrote "Way Down Texas Way" and appeared with Watson and his band performing the song in an episode of NBC's Friday Night Lights.
"I've been on a lot of TV in my time, but I've never quite done anything like that before," Kurtz told the Austin Chronicle. "It takes hours to set up, and then you're only on for a minute."
"Playing with Gene is bass-player heaven," added Herb Belofsky, drummer for the Lonestars at the time.
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Belofsky, who posted the news of Kurtz's death on Facebook, said any memorials and donations to defray Kurtz's medical expenses could be sent to him. A memorial is in the planning stages, he said.
Besides Edwards, information on any other survivors was not immediately available.