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Jonathan Kelly

+ {The Boomerangs} + {Jon Ledingham} + {Jonathan Kelly’s Outside}

Born Jonathan Ledingham, 8 July 1947, Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland, he was heavily inspired by his musical family, which included his ukulele-playing father. Drawing further inspiration from rock’n’roll icons such as BUDDY HOLLY, LITTLE RICHARD and ELVIS, Jonathan played rhythm guitar in his own SHADOWS-esque outfit, The Saracens, along with school chums, drummer Ian Ellis, lead guitarist Eddie Armstrong and bassist Ivan Hill.
In the mid-60s, The Boomerangs – comprising Jonathan, Alan Doran, Noel Richardson and Aiden Cahill – had their three minutes of relative fame with a release on Pye records of the single `Dream World’. Under a shortened moniker (Jon Ledingham), he cut two further 45s for the label, `Without An E’ and `Love Is A Toy’, the former platter at least gaining the approval of his fellow folk-pop peers, including Johnny McEvoy; in 1968, Irish-based pop act The Greenbeats commissioned him to write a Eurovision-type number, `La La Song’.
Always on the fringes of folk, but never quite fully-fledged, JONATHAN KELLY (as he was now called), took up residence in London, while he also signed to Parlophone Records. Under the guidance of former BEE GEES backer-turned-record producer, Colin Petersen, Jonathan just might’ve struck gold early on, his second 45 `Make A Stranger Your Friend’ (a catchy anti-war song) enjoying choral support from such luminaries as MICK TAYLOR (then of The ROLLING STONES), Klaus Voorman (of The PLASTIC ONO BAND), Madeleine Bell (of BLUE MINK), Carl Wayne (of The MOVE) and Goons Sellers & Milligan! – “Slowhand” CLAPTON featured on KELLY’s follow-up, `Don’t You Believe It’, while unknown Tim Staffell took up the mic stand on the pseudonymous Humpy Bong 45, `Don’t You Be Too Long’, which garnered a Top Of The Pops spot. All these events seemed to delay the appearance of the eponymous JONATHAN KELLY (1970) {*6}, an LP which contained all of the above and an obscure, anti-war B-side, `Mrs. Gilbert’.
With enthusiastic response after performing at 1971’s Cambridge Folk Fest, Jon inked a deal with R.C.A. Records; his popularity rising by leaps and bounds after several subsequent festival gigs (Reading and Chelmsford among them) and a support slot to STRAWBS.
TWICE AROUND THE HOUSES (1972) {*7} was released to rave reviews, the opening two songs at least, `Madeleine’ and `Sligo Fair’ (A and B sides of another single), finding him friends in the burgeoning singer-songwriter world. Unlike up and coming folkies, AL STEWART and RALPH McTELL (or even GEORGE HARRISON), KELLY echoed elements of his rock’n’roll through tracks like `We’re All Right Till Then’ and the DYLAN-esque `The Train Song’, while the anthemic `We Are The People’ and `Rainy Town’ were/are contemporary pop tunes at their simplest and best. Closing number, `Rock You To Sleep’, had elements of RANDY NEWMAN or GERRY RAFFERTY, although one can’t help think the tune’s been half-inched by many a budding Elton or two. Whether the inclusion of some future FAIRPORTs (Gerry Conway and Jerry Donahue), Celtic-roots man DONAL LUNNY (on guitar) and STEELEYE’s Rick Kemp helped give the set a certain je ne sais “folk” quoi, one can’t say. Messrs Peter Wood and Tim Renwick (from the equally light ‘n’ breezy SUTHERLAND BROTHERS) were also aboard KELLY’s next album excursion, WAIT TILL THEY CHANGE THE BACKDROP (1973) {*4}.
An album that delivered a hard-hitting sound, it disappointed all but the converted, the funky pop-rock overtones of `Turn Your Eye On Me’ losing their rootsy punch to a certain degree. The CLAPTON-esque `Down On Me’ was very derivative of the era; a sort of rock for easy-listeners, or easy-listening for rock fans. Anyways, a no-win situation. If one loved mediocre Whistle Test-friendly pap-rock, one could probably change the proverbial backdrop via its saving grace, the LITTLE FEAT-like `Hold On’.
KELLY’s final two sets, …WAITING ON YOU (1974) {*6} – with “Outside” band (Snowy White, Chas Jankel and David Sheen) – and TWO DAYS IN WINTER (1975) {*6}, found a line in funky rock (folky maybe), portraying the man as quite musically ambidextrous. Retired from showbiz, Jonathan finally settled in Wales, although in the mid-00s he played small acoustic venues; LIVE 2005 – THE CHARITY CONCERT (2005) {*5} and the abandoned project under HOME DEMOS (2013) {*5} kept a loyal fanbase reasonably happy.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Sep2015

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