DAVE KELLY INTERVIEW
Dave Kelly has been playing guitar for as long as he can remember, having established himself as one of the UK’s finest Blues guitarists. Currently on tour with The Blues Band (alongside former Manfred Mann vocalist Paul Jones), Dave spares five minutes to chat with “Pulse” author Steve Rudd…
Hi Dave, how are things?
Pretty good, if a bit hectic!
So how has 2016 treated you so far?
I was on tour with Paul in January, when we were doing our “acoustic duo” thing, then I was playing with The Blues Band in February. Maggie Bell and I have been doing our own “acoustic duo” thing in March.
You’ve been repeatedly described as “The finest Bluesman in the land!” How does it feel to know that you’ve garnered such respect from fans and critics alike?
That’s nice! I don’t know who says it… but thanks!
The Blues Band have been together since 1979, during which time they’ve released scores of CDs! If you had to choose just two or three Blues Band albums in a “Desert Island Discs” scenario, which ones would you go for, and why?
I like “Fat City” the best. I call it a “grown-up album.” It has fabulous guests (including The Memphis Horns and Plas Johnson) and some great songs, nearly all of which were written within the band. I also really like “Brand Loyalty.” I like the choice of songs on there, along with the performances and the production.
As a band, you’re renowned for your independence, your self-sufficiency. What would you say are the main benefits of not being a part of the music industry in the traditional sense?
Briefly, not being let down, not being given promises that don’t materialise, and the luxury of answering only to ourselves!
So you’re back on the road once again, poised to visit places as far-flung as Hull, Shrewsbury and Bognor Regis on your latest UK tour! Who decides which venues you’re going to visit, and what do you enjoy the most about being on tour?
Our agent, Gilly Tarrant, does the bookings. I work with her to some degree and look at where we have been and where we should go in the future. I enjoy the actual playing most of all on tour. However, in the past couple of years, on leaving one hotel en route to the next, I’ve put my Sat Nav on the “Shortest Route” setting and driven down roads I’ve never seen before.
In spite of having mastered the guitar, are there ever any times when you get nervous before going on stage?
No — I don’t get nervous anymore. The last time I got nervous was on the first night of supporting Dire Straits on tour at Bordeaux Football Stadium. It was September 1992, and there was a crowd of 60,000! As for my guitar-playing, I don’t believe I’ve totally mastered the guitar… just one aspect of it. And that’s not false modesty — just ask another guitarist!
Given the amount of time that you spend with Paul Jones, your friendship must be of the “rock-solid” variety… but do you ever fall out?
We mostly get on pretty well. After all these years, we know how it works, and “where” not to go!
You’ve played with a whole host of Blues legends over the years. Which fellow Blues-players have inspired you the most, and why?
I’ve been very lucky to have played with so many of my heroes, but the most inspiring was Son House (an American Blues singer and guitarist, who was born in 1902, and who passed away in 1988) for his attitude and determination. Wolf, Buddy Guy and Hooker were also inspiring. More recently, in Vancouver, I got to play with James Burton, which was great fun, and an honour. Google “Dave Kelly Vancouver Island” to see and hear for yourselves!
Did you ever consider any other careers when you were growing up, or did you always aspire to make a living from making music?
As a youngster, I thought I’d be a dentist. I still joke that I should have been an accountant; I love doing VAT and tax returns! I only considered becoming a professional musician when I returned from New York in 1966. I’d played some floor-spots over there, and they’d gone down really well. When I got back, I decided not to look for a job, but to concentrate on finding gigs.
For any aspiring guitarists who happen to be reading this and who are just starting out, what advice would you give them?
Trust and follow your instinct!
So have you been working on any fresh solo material of-late? If so, when are we likely to hear a new album from you?
Sorry, but there’s nothing in the pipeline at present. I have, however, just released some “live” solo shows from Germany that I did in the 1980s. I should really get around to writing some new material. I need a bit of space and time, though.
Your upcoming UK tour with The Blues Band aside, what else have you got simmering on the horizon?
Well, Paul and I are going to Poland in July for a festival. When I get back from that, Maggie Bell and I are going to Japan for a week. Then I’m going on holiday in France!
Finally, what’s the best way for folk to find out more about you and your music?
Paperback copies of Steve’s first book, “Pulse,” can be ordered by sending a cheque for £10 (made payable to Mr. S. Rudd) to 110 The Mount, Driffield, YO25 5JN. “Pulse” can also be downloaded for the Kindle by clicking here.