"Leon" Kelly

Ed Rollman: TREMS128@aol.com - Posted January 6, 2003
           Recapping the most incredible story I'd ever heard about RockABilly.In 1945 a Purple Heart recipient by the name of "Leon" Kelly had mustered out of the navy in Bremerton, Wa. an industrial navy town near Seattle. The 20 year-old had taught himself how to play guitar in Texas at the tender age of 8-1933. It was weird,people say today, because Leon actually played like Chet Atkins at a time when there was no Chet Atkins! He experimented with a rolling boogie woogie sound all its own and after joining Arkie Shibley and his Mtn. Dew Boys he was able to both write and perform his own songs.
           Particulalry noted for his "Dusty Blossom Boogie" (recorded on 4 Star Records in 1952 and featuring the thumping piano playing Dean Manuel - also a Bremerton resident,killed in the Jim Reeves 64 plane crash). Kelly went on to play on the group's top ten song, "Hot Rod Race" and stood out in his songs, "Blue Kelly Boogie"(recorded in 1951 on the rare west coast Mae Mae label. The shy, humble Kelly rarely spoke more than a few words to most people, preferring to let his guitar talk for him. And talk it did on such beautiful songs as the instrumental. "Rockaway" and on "You Put My Heart In Orbit" - both recorded in 1959 on the obscure Starday Record label out of Tacoma,Wash. "Rockaway" blasts you into the RockABilly era while "You Put My Heart In Orbit" reasonates as a classic, smooth voiced,confidant RockABilly love song.
           The sad thing is Leon Kelly never realized his potential and never realized he helped pioneer the new sound.He only knew he had to provide a paycheck to support himself and his wife. So he kept his dry-cleaning business by day. It is felt by many that the asbestos then used in the process contributed to the lung cancer Kelly came down with which took his life on April 26,1991. Leon Kelly, a gentleman who never bragged, he was just content to have someplace to play. Leon Kelly, a gentleman you all should know. Ed Rollman, a fan. Bremerton, Wa.

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