Like most news, I learned about Kevin Short’s passing from a casual glance at my phone. It came last Monday, December 30, and I caught it in one of those dismissably habitual moments that, when framed in the context of stomach-dropping news, suddenly sharpens into indelible detail –– the mundane mystery of a new conversation notification, the plunge into shade as I tapped the icon and stepped beneath the roof of my building’s breezeway, the pause at the second step in reaction to the thought: Wait, Kevin died?
Sadly, he had. The conversation began with a screen cap of an R.I.P. tribute by Big Mike Richardson, referring to Kevin as “the most ardent supporter of live music I ever knew.” That night, I was headed to Fort Flannel, a cold-weather-clothing donation event at Lola’s Saloon organized by Jeff Dazey and headlined by the Quaker City Night Hawks. “Aw, man,” I thought. “Kevin would’ve loved to go to that.”
I almost always saw Kevin at a live show, and this goes back to the first time I met him, at a Big Mike’s Box of Rock night at the Moon Bar’s original Berry Street incarnation. I’ve always said that those shows – three sets of studiously accurate classic rock covers – were essential DNA for what Fort Worth’s music scene is today, because they bridged a gap between generations. Kevin was there for the Fort Worth music scene’s present, but he was also there for its legendary rock ’n’ roll past, when bands playing Skynyrd and Boston covers out of full-stacks and Flying Vs packed hundreds of people into bars all week long. I was fascinated by those stories, and Kevin had them in spades.
Kevin loved music so much, he named his two of his daughters after songs by Elvis Costello and Steely Dan, and even his marriage to wife Julie Short owes a liner note to live bands. The two met in 1984 at a show at long-gone Camp Bowie blues club Blossoms Downstairs.
“And then for our first big date, we went to the Bronco Bowl in Dallas to see The Pretenders,” she told me. They would go to shows together for the next 34 years. Up until the very end, Kevin’s love for music never faded.
Besides listening to bands, Kevin took pretty great photos of them, too, and I was always stoked to see him at shows, crouching near the stage, camera only partially blocking that 100-watt grin perpetually beaming out from under his white fedora. He watched bands until three days before he became ill. Julie listed the last few concerts he watched. “Lucinda Williams at Ridglea [Theater] on April 9, Bastards of Soul at The Keys [Lounge] on May 3, and Brent Rozelle guesting the Keys’ [weekly] jam on May 23,” she wrote to me. “Then I took him to the emergency room on May 26.”
Kevin went into the hospital to treat diverticulitis and a perforated colon, but after the surgery, he suffered a stroke. Julie said that it was ultimately the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that took his life seven long months later.
Kevin Short is survived by Jill Montes, his daughter from a previous marriage, her husband Chris Montes, and their children Santos and Izzy; his and Julie’s daughters: Alison Riggs and her son Jackson; Rikki Sanchez, along with her husband Cory Sanchez and their sons Greyson, Emerson, and a new baby due in July; as well as his mother Betty Short, his brother Kenny Short and his wife Robin, and his brother Kelly Short. He’s also survived by his friends and all the bands that were lucky enough to count him among their fans. I’m going to miss you, Kevin. You always reminded me what music is really for.