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Jackie Kelso

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Jackie Kelso
Birth nameJohn Joseph Kelson Jr.
Born(1922-02-27)February 27, 1922
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedApril 28, 2012(2012-04-28) (aged 90)
Beverly Hills, California
GenresJazz, rock, pop
Instrument(s)Saxophone, flute, clarinet
Years active1940s–1980s

John Joseph Kelson Jr. (February 27, 1922 – April 28, 2012), known professionally as Jackie Kelso, was an American jazz saxophonist, flautist, and clarinetist.


Born in Los Angeles, California, Kelson was the eldest child of John Joseph Kelson Sr. and Lillian (née Weinberg) Kelson.[1]

He began taking clarinet lessons at age eight, studying with Caughey Roberts. At fifteen, Jefferson High School classmate Chico Hamilton urged him to take up the alto saxophone, and he made his professional debut with Jerome Myart that same year.[2] By the time he graduated from Jefferson, he was playing with Hamilton, Buddy Collette, and Charles Mingus at clubs on Central Avenue.

In the 1940s he played with Barney Bigard, Marshal Royal, Lucky Thompson, Kid Ory, Benny Carter, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, and Roy Milton. He enlisted in the Navy in October 1942 with Marshal and Ernie Royal, and, after training at Camp Robert Smalls, he was stationed with the Royals with the St Mary's College Pre-Flight School band.[3]

In the 1950s he also performed with Johnny Otis, Billy Vaughan, Nelson Riddle, Bill Berry, Ray Anthony, the Capp-Pierce Juggernaut, Bob Crosby, C.L. Burke, and Duke Ellington. He joined Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps in 1958 and was featured on several fine recordings from that period, including Say Mama, She She Little Sheila and Ac-centu-ate the Positive. He worked as a studio musician between 1964 and 1984, in addition to recording with Mercer Ellington and Mink DeVille, touring worldwide with Hampton, Ellington, and Vaughan, and appearing in The Concert for Bangladesh.[4] He also probably provided the uncredited flute solo in the middle of The Left Banke's 1966 hit, "Walk Away Renee".

Kelso semi-retired from music in 1984, but returned to performance in 1995 with the Count Basie Orchestra, where he became a regular in 1998.[5] He reverted to his birth name of Kelson that year as well. He died on April 28, 2012, in Beverly Hills, California, aged 90.[6]


With David Axelrod

  • Earth Rot (Capitol, 1970)
  • The Auction (Decca, 1972)
  • Heavy Axe (Fantasy, 1974)
  • Strange Ladies (MCA, 1977)
  • Marchin (MCA, 1980)

With José Feliciano

  • Compartments (RCA Victor, 1973)
  • For My Love...Mother Music (RCA Victor, 1974)
  • Just Wanna Rock 'n' Roll (RCA Victor, 1975)
  • Angela (Private Stock, 1976)

With Lionel Hampton

  • Aurex Jazz Festival '81 (EastWorld, 1981)
  • Leapin' with Lionel (Affinity, 1983)
  • Ambassador at Large (Glad-Hamp, 1990)

With Johnny Rivers

  • L.A. Reggae (United Artists, 1972)
  • Blue Suede Shoes (United Artists, 1973)
  • New Lovers and Old Friends (Epic, 1975)

With others


  1. ^ Isoardi, Steven L. "Central Avenue Sounds: Jackie Kelso". Calisphere. University of California. Archived from the original on December 16, 2019. Retrieved May 24, 2012.
  2. ^ Feather, Leonard; Gitler, Ira (2007). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. Oxford University Press. pp. 79–80. ISBN 978-0195320008.
  3. ^ Royal, Marshal; Gordon, Claire P. (1996). Marshal Royal: Jazz Survivor. London, UK: Cassell. ISBN 0826458041.
  4. ^ Concert for Bangladesh (booklet). Apple Records. 1971. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-02-28.
  5. ^ de Heer, Dik. "Jackie Kelso Profile". Blackcat Rockabilly Europe. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  6. ^ "Jackie Kelso biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved February 28, 2016.

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