Born Robert Gene Kelly, 2 October 1935, Fort Worth, Texas
Texan Bob Kelly is one of rock n roll's "nearly made it" artists, whose main claim of fame is writing "Git It" and "Somebody Help Me" for Gene Vincent.
Bob's parents were addagio dancers, addagio being acrobatic dancing to music. Little Bob started playing the sax at five, then guitar at ten and he was writing songs and singing them at about thirteen. His father, Clarence Kelly, would not let him quit school after high school and Bob went on to North Texas State University in Denton to get a business degree. In his second year there, Bob met some guys who also liked to sing. They formed a vocal group, Bob Kelly and the Pikes, and started performing for dances and parties. After winning an amateur contest, they got the chance to perform at the Big D Jamboree in Dallas, for $ 15 per night. "We could actually make more money playing for college dances", says Kelly, "but doing the shows at the Big D was a good way to get exposure." Mac Curtis, another resident at the Jamboree, recorded Bob's song "What You Want" in late 1957 (King 5107), with vocal backing by Kelly and the Pikes. The Jamboree's owner / promoter, Ed McLemore, was also manager of Sonny James and Buddy Knox and later on Gene Vincent. McLemore listened to Bob's compositions and in March 1958 he got Gene to record "Git It" and "Somebody Help Me".
By this time, Bob had moved to Los Angeles, trying to make it in the music business, but after some 13 months he had to conclude that he was getting nowhere and headed back to Dallas, where (after a false start in the insurance trade) he became a disc jockey at WRR. Kelly had some recording equipment from the early fifties, which he set up in the WRR studio. Soon he was doing so much recording that he needed a studio of his own. Bob rented a place on Ross Avenue in Dallas and called it Top Ten Recording Studio. Among the artists who recorded there were Scotty McKay, Gene Summers, Ronnie Dawson, Bobby Rambo, and the Nightcaps ("Wine, Wine, Wine"). This is about 1960. Bob has his own recording studio, his own BMI publishing company (Little Star Publishing), his own record label, Libra Records. He has everything a musician needs, except for a recording contract.
In 1964 he quit WRR and formed a group called Expression, his first really professional road group. They stayed together for 16 years and had some releases on Smash. "We weren't having hit recordings, but we were making better than average money and we were making a living out of music."
In 1980 he formed a duo with Laura St. Romain, called Kelly and the Kid, and in 1986 he decided to become a One man band, performing mostly in Las Vegas, where he is still active today.
Though Bob had no records issued under his own name, he had a wealth of recorded material, sufficient for a CD release in 1999, on his own Libra label. These are non-commercial recordings that have been run through some kind of noise reduction process, and the results are muffled, but listenable, assuming you aren't too picky about such things. The CD (24 tracks) starts off with Bob's (quite acceptable) versions of "Git It" and "Somebody Help Me", the latter featuring some heavy- handed piano work. The final two tracks, "Senior Year" and "Better Luck Next Time" are quite different from the rest of the CD. They come from the 1960 horror movie "the Demon from Devil's Lake" and feature complex vocal harmonies, not unlike the Beach Boys a few years later. Not exactly rock n roll, but "Better Luck Next Time" is my favourite track of the album.
The CD met with a rather harsh review (by Harry Dodds) in Now Dig This (July 1999, issue 196). "This collection does nothing to enhance Bob's reputation. A mini-CD including "Git It", "Somebody Help Me", "What You Want", "Senior Year", "Better Luck Next Time" and a couple of the stronger rockers would have sufficed".
That's just one man's opinion, of course. At Amazon's US website, you'll find the CD rated with five stars. I would give it three. Bob Kelly was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame in 1998.
CD : 1954 / 1959 Rockabilly : Original Recordings From Singer / Songwriter Bob "Git It" Kelly (Libra 1202).
Acknowledgements / further reading: http://members.cox.net/kellybob/
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