R.I.P. Red Kelly

Discussion in 'Bassists [DB]' started by Chrix, Jun 15, 2004.

  1. Chrix


    Apr 9, 2004
    Bassist Red Kelly died on Wednesday June 9, 2004 at age 76 of complications from various ailments. Kelly, who was born Thomas Raymond Kelly, spent three decades of his life on the road with musicians like Tony Bennett, Count Basie, Harry James, Buddy Rich and Duke Ellington.
    Not only an acclaimed musician, Kelly was also well-known for his stint in politics as a Washington state gubernatorial candidate in the 1970s when he ran under his self-conceived OWL party. OWL—which combined the slogans “Out With Logic” and “On With Lunacy”—was a pseudo-serious independent political party that managed to attract eight percent of the votes in 1976 when Kelly ran for governor.

    Kelly, who was born in Shelby, Mont. and grew up in Seattle, taught himself to play bass as a high school freshman when he found an old, school-owned acoustic bass that no one was playing in the school band. Eventually Kelly’s advanced skills on the bass led to an extended stretch on the road alongside numerous acclaimed musicians.

    In 1974, Kelly and his wife Donna settled in Olympia, Wash. where they opened a jazz club called the Tumwater Conservatory. The club became a favorite of Washington politicians, and it was the constant presence of those politicians that encouraged Kelly to run for office in 1976.

    One of the Conservatory’s regulars, a correspondent for the Associated Press, overheard Kelly joking about running for office and wrote story about Kelly that was all over the national press by the following day. Kelly’s mother, “Fast” Lucie Griswold, ran for secretary of state and his piano-playing friend Perciful ran for state treasurer. The tongue-in-cheek campaign reportedly attracted 250,000 votes for Kelly—the highest minority vote in the election. The numerous votes infuriated politicians and resulted in the creation of the Owl Law, which changed the way independent parties can get on the ballot.

    In 1978, the Conservatory closed and Kelly stayed close to home for several years playing local gigs until he and Donna opened Kelly’s in Tacoma, Wash. in 1986. Kelly’s remained open until last September and featured unannounced performances by jazz musicians Kelly had worked with in the past. When the club closed Kelly donated his large collection of jazz photographs to the Tacoma Public Library.

    Kelly’s wife Donna died in 1999.
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    And Red Norvo, who apperently thought he was hiring Red Mitchell. Both Kelly and Mitchell shared space at a boarding house in NYC unbeknownst to Norvo, who called the number he had for Mitchell and asked the person who answered it for "Red". He talked to Red about joining the trio for an engagement in Chicago and that he would pick him up early for the ride from NYC to Chicago. Next morning he picks up the bassist in front of the building, who immediately falls asleep in the passenger seat. On the other side of Pittsburgh, Norvo taps him on the shoulder "Hey, Mitchell, you want some coffee?" "Whadya mean Mitchell, I'm Kelly!"
  3. There's a great trio record out there called Good Friday Blues with Red Kelly bass, Red Mitchell piano, and Jim Hall guitar. It's either on Atlantic or Pacific Jazz. I think the latter. This was vinyl....time to search!!!

    My old brain is still workin'! That record is listed under the name of "The Modest Jazz Trio"