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Paul Kelly was born in the Overtown district of Miami, Florida, on June 19, 1940 and, as he said, was quickly introduced to music.  'My brother, Henry, was musical.  He influenced me.  I had three brothers and two sisters, I was number four.  Franklin was the second one, John was the first one.  Henry was the singer, he was the one that was born just before me and then I had two sisters under me.  My father was a bass player but that was a long time before my time, so I wouldn't really know nothing about him because my grandmother brought me up.  We came from my grandmother's house to my mother's house quite regularly, every Sunday.  My grandmother kept me inchurch: twice on Sundays and several times during the week.'
The church upbringing would inspire Paul but, surprisingly, that was not where he began to sing in public.  He explained, 'It wasn't at church but, because I was in the church, I listened a lot and I heard a lot about singing from church singing.  But I never sung in church, as such.  Instead, I sung to private audiences all the time.  We'd do things for dinner, to get a little money and my mother would buy the dinner.  I'd get up on a chair and sing.  We did all that.  My sister reminded me of that just the other day.'  Paul also began to play instruments...  'I strum on the piano a little bit and then I play a guitar a little bit.  That's what I write with, the guitar, for the most part.'
By the time Paul was in his mid-teens, he had his own group but that was to be short-lived, something perhaps anticipated by his brother, Henry, who was less than flattering with regard to Paul's singing talents...  'Henry told me at one time, he said I couldn't sing.  I never was going to be a singer. I donıt know why he said that.  That was about 1955.  Then about a year later, he formed a group.  He told me who was going to be in the group and he said 'I'll let you be in the group, youıll be in the group'.  And I said 'What part am I going to sing?.  Heıd named everybody and got the whole group together except the lead singer.  He said 'You're going to be the
lead'.  So he had changed his mind.  So I said, I'm going to sing lead in YOUR group?'.  I was super-surprised!  That was the Superiors.  They only stayed together for a few months, because Henry decided he was going to college and he left Miami and went to college and that broke up that group. Then I started the Spades.  That was the group that I had of my class from 20th Street.  We hung together.  We did everything together and we formed that group, the Spades.  That then turned into the Valadeers.  That was the one with my buddy, Jimmy Cherry, who's living in London now.  He used to sing the bottom parts, the baritone.  He sang with a lot of groups over
there in England but I don't know who he is singing with now.'  Reminded that Jimmy Cherry was with the Fantastics at one time, Paul, in turn advised of a further rôle for Cherry while a Valadeer, alleging: 'Bob Walmer used to manage us but we found he was taking our money' and adding, 'so we decided to go off on our own.  We started handling the business for ourselves and
Jimmy Cherry was one of those taking care of the business.'
While with the Valadeers, in 1960 Paul broke out for a solo recording of the standard, I'll String Along With You' for Henry Stoneıs Dade label but a dispute over money led to Stone pulling it.  Paul believed it had received a three-week-long release but other sources suggest it never went beyond the promo stage (and it does not appear on this writerıs Dade label listing).
Indeed, Paul's solo career proper would not begin for some five further years and, as he explained, almost by default, thanks to the intervention of Miami singer/songwriter/producer, Clarence Reid.  'Clarence Reid didnıt exactly come along, he just happened to be around where we used to practise. He used to come around to hear us sing.  We'd sing ten or fifteen songs, rest, and then get another twenty songs and sing them and the crowds would be outside reacting.  And Clarence was one of those.  Later, Clarence wanted to do something with the group he had - a good sounding group too, the Delmiros.  Their lead singer - not Clarence - was hoarse and he couldn't
sing.  He had laryngitis.  Clarence came to me to help, he wanted me to help him sing the song and he came to me and asked would I sing on this record. That was 'Down With It, Can't Quit It' and 'Sooner Or Later' was on the other side.  He wanted some help and I decided to help him.  I did that out of a favour.'
Despite such a favour, Reid hardly returned the compliment as, when the record was issued - on Selma in 1963 - the label credited the artist(s) as Clarence Reid & the Delmiros, & the 'Delmiros' appearing in tiny letters under the Clarence Reid name.  Paul continued:  'So nobody knew.  But a few people came to me in the clubs and we would sing it there.  Then it would be 'Down With It, Can't Quit It' featuring Paul Kelly'.  That was my little recognition.  We didnıt tour but we just worked local clubs around Miami. Then Clarence came back a few months later and he wanted me to sing with the [Delmiros] group.  I thought about it for a week or so, walking around, laying it on everybody, bumping heads, bouncing it off and I decided I'd sing with them for a little while.  I told him that, for a little while.  So I did that.  Iıd been writing songs for a while by then and Clarence was also a writer.  He used to write good songs and he was a good piano player
too.  So I learned a few things from Clarence.'
Paul's assignment with the Delmiros meant he had somewhat forsaken the Valadeers so, when the time came for him and the Delmiros to part, his old group had moved on.  'I had to turn solo but that singing without a group was something I didnıt really want to do.  I was scared being all alone by myself out there but I was forced to by Jimmy Cherry.  They'd formed another group and got someone else to take my place.  I did not know that was going on and they had...  I canıt remember the guyıs name but he used to sing good and he played the guitar good.  I heard what they were doing.  They wrote mea letter saying 'We replaced you in the group' and that was it.'
Thus, choosing here to gloss over 'I'll String Along With You', having been cut loose as a solo artist, Paul Kelly's debut recording appeared on the Lloyd label in 1965, coupling 'It's My Baby' with a track entitled 'The Upset', inspired by the surprise boxing victory of Cassius Clay over Sonny Liston.  'It was just local, nothing happened with it,' was how Paul dismissed that 45 but its follow up, 'Chills And Fever', would begin to get his name out there, once picked up from Lloyd by the Atlantic-distributed Dial label for wider distribution.  Although a Clarence Reid/Willie Clarke composition, relations between Kelly and Reid had become strained and spilled over during the recording session, which Reid had helped set up.  In Paul's words: 'Me and Clarence had a falling out because I went to Nashville with Clarence.  He had been recording with Buddy Killen.  Clarence was supposed to be telling us the parts but every time he kept telling us the wrong parts.  He kept disagreeing.  Itıs his song, he should know the parts! He's telling us how to sing the parts but he's giving me the wrong notes. So I'm telling him what the right note is and he's disagreeing every time. So that night, when we went back to the hotel, Clarence raised hell like he
wanted a fight.  He was talking that sassy talk to me and saying 'Say something else!'.  I had nothing to say.  I kept my mouth quiet - there was nothing to talk about.  I was about through with him there.  Buddy Killen had been listening to what was happening all day.  He was knowing who was
right and who was wrong.  He just came back and called me later and wanted me to do songs.'
Seemingly, Buddy Killen had already considered Clarence Reid a difficult man to deal with and was more than happy with the falling out, which meant he was able to move Paul Kelly under his own umbrella.  Meanwhile, Lloyd issued an 'answer' record to 'Chills And Fever' by Helene Smith, entitled 'Thrills And Chills'.  For some reason, Paul's follow-up to 'Chills And Fever', the
self-penned 'Since I Found You', appeared with the billing of Paul Kelly & the Rocketeers but 'I don't know about the Rocketeers,' Paul said.  Although a further (in the can) Paul Kelly release would appear on Dial, this would be after four singles leased to Philips, produced by Buddy Killen in Muscle Shoals, most notably the ballad, 'Nine Out Of Ten Times' , which bears the
writing credits of Paul Kelly, Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke, suggesting either a reconciliation between the Kelly/Killen and Reid camps or a number which had simply been sitting on the shelf awaiting recording.  The 'in the can' Dial release featured two songs with the name of Joe Tex - the label's biggest money-spinner and mainstay - on the credits, one ('We're Gonna Make It') co-written with Kelly.  At the time, they were good friends, travelling the road together with Paul being Joe's opening act.
In late 1967, while in New York attempting to peddle some of his songwriting results to other artists and publishing companies, Paul made the decision to relocate there, settling in Brooklyn and sending for a lady by the name of Juanita Rogers, with whom he had begun writing, to join him.  They remain together to this day.  In Paul's words...  'I wasn't writing with her. Well, I was but nobody knew about us writing together or what we were doing or nothing.  I moved to New York.  She came on January 1, 1968 and we started living together and weıre still together.'  Recording-wise, Paul cut some unissued material for Stan Watson's Philly Groove label in 1968 but, by his own account, it is perhaps best that his fans opt to leave it in the vaults.  Laughing, he opined: 'Stan Watson!  I would say it was poor.  That was me trying to get something going but nothing happened with that stuff. I wasn't happy with it, it wasn't nothing.' Although those recordings were 'nothing', he was soon to break through with the song that would make his name, the somewhat controversial 'Stealing In The Name Of The Lord', written not initially for himself but with the intention of it being recorded by Sam & Dave.  As he said: 'I wrote that song with Sam & Dave in mind.  I noticed that their record company looked like they were throwing them away.  I couldn't figure that because they were super and, by then, the world knew that they were super.  So I wrote the song for them and I tried to get the song to them.  I found a number and I called and I called Sammy.  And I'm talking to someone, trying to get through to him and I hear him talking in the background and saying 'If the song's so good, why don't he cut it himself?'.  So I did but I wasn't
intending to.'  Stung by the reaction of Sam Moore, who he had known in Miami from the early sixties, Paul got back in touch with Buddy Killen and quickly sold the song to him, the result being the Muscle Shoals' recorded 'Stealing In The Name Of The Lord' by Paul Kelly himself and placed by Killen with the Hollywood-based Happy Tiger label.  Asked why Killen went for that deal, Paul replied: 'I don't know why he thought that would be a good label but he thought so.  He was just looking for a label.  I went back to New York, he went back to Nashville.  He called me and said we got a deal.  I said 'With who?'.  He said 'Happy Tiger'.  We signed a contract.'
Around the same time, a lady called Annetta had a single release on Love Hill (and, subsequently, Juggy) called 'Since There Is No More Of You'. Written by Paul Kelly, recorded on a trip by the lady to New York and featuring his additional vocal support, 'Annetta' is better known as Annette
Snell.  Paul took a little time out to talk about the lady, whose career was tragically curtailed by a fatal plane crash in Georgia on April 4, 1977 but not before she had recorded a number of his songs for Buddy Killen and Dial in the earlier part of the seventies, most notably the #19 'Billboard' r&b hit, 'You Oughta Be Here With Me'...  'I met Annette Snell about 1960 with
Waymon Walker.  He used to go with a little girl in Opa-locka whose name was Mattie [Lovett].  And we dealt with Mattie and they had a group - the Mar-Vells, that was they name of the group.  It was a good group.  They moved to the city and we started putting songs together for them.  I used to give them Marvelettes songs to sing live and Annette Snell was part of that group.  She was super.  Loretta [Letlo] used to do all the lead singing.  Wev didn't know at the time that Annette was so good.  The group were all good.'The Mar-Vells would do a lot of session work in Miami in the early sixties, before going on to record in their own right for Sound Stage 7 and Monument
as the Fabulettes in 1967/68.  They split when Annette opted to go solo and, specifically discussing 'Since There Is No More Of You', Paul said, 'I didn't duet, I do the background.  If you call it a duet, in that case it's a 'triple-et', because there's Juanita there too.  She used to be on all my songs in the seventies.'  He added, 'Annette's death was a tragedy.  There is stuff we recorded on her that has never been released.  Buddy Killen may still have the tracks.'
Mention has been made of the controversial nature of 'Stealing In The Name Of The Lord', a song that berates the hypocrisy of certain churchmen within its lyrics.  'That's been my way of thinking all the time,' said Paul. 'Thinking about what's wrong with [the] church, how they do it and what
they're talking about.  And what they talk about and what they do are two different things, you know.  So I was putting that down, writing what I was thinking.'  It was not just the churches that were unhappy about the song, the initial reaction from radio stations was equally unfavourable due, no doubt, to such as r&b stations being worried that playing the song would offend any gospel show-related sponsors.  For a while, it looked like the record was dead in the water.  Happy Tiger all but gave up on promotion and it seemed the only person making any effort was Paul himself.  Enter Jerry 'Swamp Dogg' Williams Jr., about to set off on a trip to Baltimore to promote his own productions of the time...  'Jerry took me to see WWIN dee-jay, Rockin' Robin.  He took me along with him to Baltimore and there I met Rockin' Robin and I met Al Jefferson.  I met all the jocks at the station.  Jerry was taking care of his own business but he was also taking me to introduce me.  He told them my record was a hit record but he had asked me 'What's going on with the record?' and I said 'Ain't nothing going on with the record, far as I know'.  He said 'The record's been out a long time' and I said 'I know but nothing's happening with it'.  He said 'I'm going to Baltimore this week, do you want to go with me?'  I said 'All right, let's go'.  So we went to Baltimore and he gave the jocks my record. He gave it to Rockin' Robin who was on the air at the time.  He put it on
the turntable and listened to it and he said 'Which one do you want?'.  I said 'I think [the official flip-side] 'The Day After Forever' is going to be the one they'll want to hear'.  He played it and he played 'Stealing In The Name Of The Lord'.  He said, 'You're joking, this is the song'.  And he
played it on air, backed it up, played it again, backed it up and played it again and, by that time, he knew that song and I knew I had a hit record. He sold that to the people and he told them what I was singing about.  He explained it.  Everybody started calling in and I never looked back after
that.  Thatıs how it broke.' The single made its debut on the 'Cashbox' r&b charts on June 13, 1970 and the 'Billboard' equivalent a week later.  As it began its ascent to a peak of #5 'Cashbox' and #14 'Billboard', Happy Tiger's interest was rekindled and an album also appeared on the back of the hit single.  However, the label was struggling and, although they managed to rush out three further (poorly promoted) singles in short order, it quickly went out of business. Killen's acumen succeeded in transferring the Happy Tiger product and Kelly's contract to the major Warner Bros label and the label was repackaged with minor changes and reissued as 'Dirt', named after the debut Warners single, '(He Ain't Nothinı But) Dirt'.  Despite being by now assigned with a major, Paul had to wait until his third Warner Bros single - 'Don't Burn Me' - before he got his name back on the charts.  Asked if Warners were any better at promoting than Happy Tiger, Paul's reply was somewhat scathing... 'Well, how many black artists do they really promote?  I wasn't one of them.
Then I did 'Donıt Burn Me' but I went across country promoting it for myself.  And a bunch of people claim they did this and they did that but I went out and promoted it for myself.  'Stealing In The Name Of The Lord' gave me room and it gave me latitude and I used it.  I went out talking to
jocks, I was able to meet almost anybody.  One of them [from Warner Bros] may have been with me but I was essentially on my own.'
Paul's songwriting was also blossoming.  'It was easy,' he said.  'I'd sit down and a song comes up.  I'd pick up the guitar and a song comes up.  When I was going to learn how to write, that's what I picked up the guitar for. Justis Slaughter gave me my first guitar.  That was a friend of mine that I knew from way back in Miami.  He moved to New York too. 'Yes but Ididn't know it at the time.  I didn't know where the money was coming from. I wasn't thinking about it, I wasn't worrying about it.  I was doing what I was doing.  Really, having fun.'
'Donıt Burn Me' was followed-up by a similarly-titled album while, further down the line, the hit - his second biggest - 'Hooked, Hogtied & Collared' gave birth to a further album, with something of an eye-catching cover. With a drawing, rather than photographic work, featuring bondage, it
arguably rather demeaned the musical content.  Although Paul was credited with creating the concept along with the record company's art department - and it has been documented as such - he refuted it on this occasion, saying: 'Oh no, someone else did that, although yes, I was doing a little
scratchings at the time.  I still do that.  I have fun with that.  I've been doing it since the fifties.'  Although Paul agreed he sounded happy on the album overall, it transpired he was less than happy with the budget he got to make it...   'Hooked...' had been a hit single.  You had to have a hit to have an album back in them days - if you was black.  If you was white, you could go and demand a hundred thousand dollars and cut you an album. And again there was not much promotion.  I thought I should have been bigger with Warner Bros.  I thought I should have made more money from the records. I was getting some money but that was mainly from being on the road.'
With disco coming in with a vengeance, Warners felt it was time to ease out Buddy Killen who, up until then, had retained the production helm.  Although they had put together the dance-oriented 'Get Sexy' - not exactly a high spot of the man's career - Paul  was refusing to take the disco road and revealed that he and Killen were working on a further album's worth of material that is probably sitting in Warner's vaults right now...   'Yes, we started an album before I left Nashville.  Me and Buddy Killen was working on one.  I thought it would be my best album ever but it was Warner Bros, they did not want Buddy working with me, they wanted a change of producer, so we had to stop it.'  Thus, for what would turn out to be his final album for the label, 'Stand On The Positive Side', something 'sweeter' was demanded.  'That was when I had to get another producer to produce me,' he said.  'That's what Warners said anyway.  I thought I could do it myself. They brought in Gene Page, who turned out a good producer.  He was easy to work with.  I'd like to work with him now.'  Nevertheless, regardless of the change of producer, there was a parting of the ways between artist and record company.  From Paul's point of view:  'I wasn't so much worried what disco was about or what they were doing, that wasn't it.  My problem was not
having no money.  I thought someone must be playing games with me so I left.' After a one-off single for Epic - 'Everybody Got A Jones' c/w 'Shake Your Mind' - Paul opted to concentrate on songwriting and production.  Despite the lyrical problems with 'Stealing In The Name Of The Lord', one song from the 'Stand On The Positive Side' album, 'God Can', had received approval
from the 'non-secular authorities', with other versions being cut by the Mighty Clouds Of Joy, Dorothy Norwood and, also for Warner Bros, the Staple Singers.  Paul had come up with a song called 'Personally', which he decided to present to Jackie Moore, hot at the time following a string of r&b hits for Kayvette and newly signed to Columbia.  At first, Jackie turned the song down but, following encouragement from William Bell, she agreed to record it.  Although not the major hit for her that was expected, over the years it has become Kelly's best-selling composition.  In 1982, at the suggestion of Glenn Frey of the Eagles, Karla Bonoff recorded the song and gained a #19
pop hit for her efforts, while country singer, Ronnie McDowell, took the song into the top ten of the country charts.  (Paul himself included 'Personally' on his 1993 'Gonna Stick And Stay' album.)
Mavis Staples, whose voice had fronted the family groupıs version of 'God Can', also cut further Paul Kelly compositions on her 1979 solo album, 'Oh What A Feeling', produced by Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett.  Paul said: 'Jerry Wexler had been listening to me all the time and, when he got to record Mavis, he asked for some songs of mine.  And I sent him some songs that I thought would be good.  One was 'We Got Love'.  I thought that would be good for Mavis.  She went and did it, she worked it.  'I've Been To The Well Before' she did over.  I donıt write songs for people specifically - I think I've only done that once or twice in my life - but if I write a song that turns out to sound like somebody, then I send it to them.'  'I've Been To The Well Before' was also made by Paul when he resumed his own singing career with A&M in 1981.  He advised that he recorded about four songs for the label but only that and its flip, 'I Love The Way You Love' were released.  [At this point, it may be useful to mention that the Paul Kelly & the Messengers, who were also on A&M - in 1987/88 - is the Australian Paul Kelly and not our hero.]
Again, he languished.  'Nobody wanted to deal with me, to give me money and let me do my thing,' he said.  They wanted to play games with me, I donıt know why, so I had to form my own company.'  Run under the pseudonym of Laurence Dunbar, Paul kept the Laurence label going from 1983 through to 1991, with just sporadic releases and a rather eccentric numbering system... 'I decided just to do what I wanted to do, put out what I wanted to put out but I wasnıt aware enough that promotion was everything.  That made everything difficult.'
Before the eighties were out, it had become apparent to Paul and Juanita that the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn where they lived was not the ideal place to live comfortably and raise a family and they were presented with the incentive to relocate to Ruby, South Carolina (just south of the North/South Carolina border).  Paul explained:  'My aunt [Ethel] and my
mother was moving to South Carolina.  They asked if I wanted to go to South Carolina and I said 'Yes, that sounds good'.  They didn't believe I wanted but I'd decided a long time ago that South Carolina was a nice place.  I liked the place - and I've been there ever since.  One time, I thought I
would get my woman from this place but I already had her.  She came from Florida, with me!'  He laughed.  From his new home, Paul continued to send out demos of his songs.  Writing in the liner notes to Paul's 'Gonna Stick And Stay' album (Bullseye Blues CDBB 9523), producer Scott Billington states:  'The demos were never intended to be more than  functional - they're noisy and technically a bit crude, with Paul playing guitar and singing all the lead and background vocal parts.  Sometimes he'd use a bucket or a telephone book for percussion; later, he used a drum machine. He played the instrumental solos on a melodica...' adding '...Yet, I'd find myself mesmerised by the grooves Paul set up for himself and especially the singing.'
The 'Gonna Stick And Stay' album was '...the realisation of a dream...' for Scott Billington, recorded at Ultrasonic Studios in New Orleans in July and August 1992.  For Paul, the resultant brilliant effort, featuring eleven of his own songs, may have been more of an anti-climax, especially with hindsight, as he talked about it thus...  'The owner of the company called
me and wanted to do some business and I thought I'd make a little bit of money.  So we went and did that.  Nothing happened but we did it.  My voice was going then.  I did not know it then but it was going.  And, in 1994 I came up with congestive heart failure and again in 1995.  I was in hospital. I had a stroke and didn't know it and I dealt with it and walked passed it. It cleared up.  When it cleared up it was like I never had it but I haven't got the range I used to have.  I'm reaching but nothing's happening.'  He continued:  'After the two congestive heart failures, that was when I
realised I had to stop eating meat.  I ain't got no business eating meat. I've been a vegetarian since 1997.'
In 1998, he decided it was time to record again - 'I was feeling good then though and I'm feeling good now.' - and, at the Bradleyhouse Studios in Quinby, South Carolina, he and Marion Carter produced the appropriately-titled 'Let's Celebrate Life' album for the local (Elliott, South Carolina-based) Ripete label.  A dozen more Paul Kelly compositions grace the album, including a remake of 'Stealing In The Name Of The Lord, but much of the material was around a similar mid tempo and there were no ballads to show off the best of his songwriting prowess.  Asked if he was
happy with the album, Paulıs reaction was nothing if not honest...  'No, not really, because it didnıt sell!  It didn't make me a fortune.'
No doubt to the surprise of everyone except those immediately involved, Warner Bros, in their Warner Archives cd series, issued a 'Best Of...' retrospective on Paul Kelly in 1996, twenty tracks drawn from his time with the label and with a fulsome booklet.  Bob Merlis' liner notes therein
alluded to an autobiography on which Kelly was engaged, with the working title of 'Changes I Go Through Trying To Make It'.  'Yes, I'm writing a book,' said Paul, 'but I've been doing that for a number of years.  I haven't touched it in about six months but it's still ongoing.' When it comes to performing and recording since the 'Letıs Celebrate Life' album, once again Paul has been going through something of a hiatus...  'Well, I've not performed [live] since 1977.  It's a lifetime.  Sometimes Iım happy just putting my feet up, sometimes I'm not.  But I've got some tracks I've been
recording.  Some written from way back in the eighties and the nineties and I've just been recording for myself.  I use studios all over the place.  The world don't know them yet.  When I can get a company that I want to dealwith...'

Interview with Paul Kelly:  22 May 2003 (plus follow-up telephone up-date)

Acknowledgements:  Paul Kelly, Franklin Kelly, Bob Merlis, John Ridley, Scott
Above Interview appeared in the top soul magazine..