Jackie Gray, a longtime fixture on the Houston blues scene, passed away Sunday, reportedly of lung cancer.
Details are sketchy, but by several accounts Gray had been ill for some time. He passed away at a local hospice facility.
As of Monday, no arrangements for burial had been made due to lack of funds. Rocks Off contacted Big Easy club owner Tom McClendon, who informed us that discussions were happening regarding the possibility of paying for Gray's burial via the Musician's Benevolent Fund, but as of this writing that could not be confirmed.
The news of Gray's death leaked onto the Internet in early afternoon Sunday. Eddie Stout, president of Austin's DialTone records, received a phone call from Gray's wife, and he then passed that information along to several of his close contacts in Houston, including McClendon, Dr. Roger Wood, and Reg Burns of Miller Outdoor Theatre.
Gray, an affable, approachable man, was known as one of the best shuffle drummers in the area and had toured with a Who's Who of Houston blues acts over his career. He usually spent several months per year in Europe supporting blues tours.
He was also a regular at the Wednesday night Houston Blues Society jams at Big Easy, where with his 6'8" height, dashing wardrobe, leather cowboy hat and armadillo-hide drumstick case, he was an easily recognizable figure.
He also worked with local legends Earl Gilliam, Clarence Holliman, and Texas Johnny Brown. Gray was also featured prominently in the August 31, 2011 Houston Press cover story "Old School."