Ellis Kell spent most of his life making a living as a musician. He began playing the blues at age 11 and performed in the Quad Cities with The Ellis Kell Band since the late 1970s. The band played a style that Ellis described as “blues based country or rock or roots rock.” The Ellis Kell Band opened for numerous big acts, including B.B. King, Robert Cray, Willie Nelson, Etta James, and the Neville Brothers.
Mr. Kell was also the Director of Programming and Community Outreach at the River Music Experience in Davenport. RME is the only museum and non-profit organization dedicated to honoring the music of the entire Mississippi River Valley. He was one of the original staff members hired in 2003 and had a hand in building the lively organization and community that exists today.
His many duties included traveling from school to school promoting blues music throughout all of the Quad Cities and surrounding area, as well as organizing the Winter Blues Camp at the RME, which is held every year during winter break. Through the camp, he promoted the essence of the blues to younger generations. His dedication to the blues was best stated in an interview with KWQC when he said, “It’s a really vital, evolving musical genre and it always has been, the blues never stays the same. I think we all have an obligation to help sustain it because it’s a part of our American roots tradition, a big part, and any music fan can find something that they like in the blues.”
Ellis Kell was a local celebrity not just because of his music but also because of what he gave back to the community through his music and encouraging others to walk the same path.