CRANKING UP THE 'JUKEBOX' AGAIN

Catching Up With ... Ken Mellons

"Jukebox Junkie" hitmaker Ken Mellons is definitely a changed man. Gone are the long, curly cascades of blond hair that he sported when he had his 1994 No. 8 hit, along with the mustache, now replaced by a shorter cut and clean-shaven face.

"I wanted to look more ? contemporary, I guess you'd say," explains Ken with a drawn-out smile.

When it comes to his music, though, Ken is still old school. His love for traditional, hard-core country comes through loud and clear on a new single, "Mr. D.J.," a Top 5 on the Texas music charts.

"A friend of mine and I were talking about the state of country music, and how we wished we could hear some good traditional country once in a while," Ken explains. "We decided to write something about the unsung heroes who are keeping country alive, the radio disc jockeys. My label wants to release the song to national radio, it's getting such good response."

Ken's hoping it will blast off like "Jukebox Junkie" almost a decade ago. Backed by a driving, relentless beat, the honky-tonk novelty tune became a favorite in dance clubs all across the country.

"You know, that song has been played on the radio over a million times!" raves Ken, who also hit with "Lookin' in the Same Direction" and "Rub-a-Dubbin'." "I can believe it, because I think I've done it ten million times live."

Ken hasn't cracked the charts since 1996, but he has high hopes for a new album, which he plans to release this year. In the meantime, he's kept busy touring and honing his writing skills, which is starting to pay off in a huge way.

"One that I wrote, 'Honk If You Honky Tonk,' is on George Strait's current album," he says proudly. "I about fell out of my chair when I got the news, because a George Strait cut is hard to get."

The last couple years have also seen a new addition to the Mellons family. In July of 2000, Ken and wife Stephanie welcomed their first child, son Kade, into the world.

"He is the joy of my life," says Ken with a beaming smile. "There's just nothing like being a dad."

Of course, a few more hits would make the grin even wider. "I've been away awhile, and I didn't know if I would ever make another record," he confesses. "I spent the last couple of years trying to rediscover that passion for music -- and I think I've found it. I'm ready to go!"

-- Bob Paxman

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