Jo Ann Kelly

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Jo Ann Kelly
Jo-Ann Kelly and Pete Emery on a record for Folk-Blues
Background information
Born(1944-01-05)5 January 1944
Streatham, South London, England
Died21 October 1990(1990-10-21) (aged 46)
Instrument(s)Singer, Six and 12-string guitar, bottleneck guitar
Years active1962–1990

Jo Ann Kelly (5 January 1944 – 21 October 1990) was an English blues singer and guitarist. She is respected for her strong blues vocal style and for playing country blues guitar.

Early life[edit]

Kelly was born in Streatham, South London, England on 5 January 1944.[1][2] She had two younger siblings, Susan and Dave. Her early interest in performing music grew out of hearing the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Skiffle in the late 1950s.[2][3][4] She learned 3 or 4 guitar chords from her younger brother, Dave Kelly.[2]


She appeared on several compilation albums with her first in 1966 being New Sounds In Folk and then two years later on Blues Anytime Vol. 1: An Anthology Of British Blues (1968) Immediate Records before releasing her first solo album titled Jo-Ann Kelly (1969), this was issued on CBS in the UK and Epic Records in the US. She was also a core member of Tramp (band) along with her brother Dave Kelly.

Jo-Ann Kelly and her brother Dave helped raise donations for Memphis Minnie in the 1960s.[5]

Canned Heat and Johnny Winter both tried to recruit Kelly, but she preferred to stay in the United Kingdom. She expanded to the European club circuit, where she worked with guitarist Pete Emery and other bands. In the early 1980s, she was a member of the Terry Smith Blues Band.[6]


In 1988, Kelly began to suffer from headaches.[7] In 1989 she had an operation to remove a malignant brain tumour.[8] She died on 21 October 1990 in England, aged 46.[9]

Obituaries for Kelly appeared in major UK newspapers, including The Independent,[10] The Times,[1] and The Guardian.[11] Remembrances and obituaries also appeared in contemporary Blues magazines such as Blues & Rhythm[12] and the British Blues Review[13]

The obituary in The Independent remarked, "To many American performers Jo Ann Kelly was the only British singer to earn their respect for her development of what they would be justified in thinking as 'their' genre".[10]


Primary releases[edit]

  • Jo-Ann Kelly: Blues & Gospel (No label, 1968) – EP with four songs, pressing limited to 99 copies. All original recordings are included on Retrospect 1964-72.[14]
  • Jo-Ann Kelly (Epic, 1969)
  • Same Thing on Their Minds (Sunset, 1969) – With Tony McPhee.
  • Jo Ann Kelly With John Fahey, Woody Mann, John Miller, Alan Seidler (Blue Goose, 1972)
  • Do It (Red Rag, 1976) – With Peter Emery.
  • Just Restless, The Jo Ann Kelly Band (Appaloosa, 1984)
  • Jo Ann (Open, 1988)
  • Woman in (E)Motion Festival (Tradition & Moderne, 1995) – Recorded in Germany, 1988.


  • Retrospect 1964-72 (Connoisseur Collection Document, 1990)
  • Key To The Highway: Rare And Unissued Recordings 1968-1974 (Mooncrest, 1999)
  • Talkin' Low: Rare And Unissued Recordings 1966-1988, volume 2 (Mooncrest, 2000)
  • Tramp 1974: Rare And Unissued Recordings, volume 3 (Mooncrest, 2001)
  • Black Rat Swing: The Collectors' Jo Ann Kelly (Castle, 2003)
  • Blues & Gospel: Rare and Unreleased Recordings (Blues Matters!, 2004)
  • Do It & more (Manhaton, 2008) – Songs from Do It (1976) plus additional songs.
  • I Asked For Water, She Gave Me Gasoline (Imperial – LP-12455 1969)


  • Standing At The Burying Ground, Mississippi Fred McDowell (Red Lightnin', 1984) – Recorded live at the Mayfair Hotel, London, UK, 8 March 1969, featuring Jo Ann Kelly, liner notes by Jo Ann Kelly.
  • Been Here And Gone, Woody Mann & Jo Ann Kelly & Son House (Acoustic Music Records, 1999) – Recorded 1971–72, Kelly plays on eight songs.
  • Memphis 69': The 1969 Memphis Country Blues Festival.Concert film,played one song,accompanied by Guitarist,"Backwards" Sam Firk. Directed by Joe LaMatting/Produced by Bruce Watson&Lisa LaMattina. Executive Producer: Mathew Johnson,Bruce Watson&Gene Rosenthal.Fat Possum Records, 2019.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Obituary: Jo Ann Kelly". The Times. London. The Times Digital Archive. 25 October 1990. p. 18. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Moody, Pete (April 1988). "Jo Ann Kelly, Part one: Striking a Chord" (PDF). British Blues Review (1): 6–7. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  3. ^ Grossman, Stefan (August 1978). "Jo-Ann Kelly: British Queen of 6- and 12-String Country Blues" (PDF). Guitar Player. Vol. 12, no. 8. Future US, Inc. p. 28. ISSN 0017-5463. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 September 2015.
  4. ^ Harris, Sheldon (1994). Blues Who's Who: A Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers (January 1994 paperback ed.). New York: Da Capo Press. pp. 301–302. ISBN 0-306-80155-8.
  5. ^ Schwartz, Freund, Roberta (2016). How Britain Got the Blues: The Transmission and Reception of American Blues Style in the United Kingdom. Routledge. p. 207. ISBN 9781317120940. Retrieved 28 July 2019. The British blues community rallied around the cause of blueswoman Memphis Minnie, purportedly the first of the Chicago artists to play electric guitar and one its finest instrumentalists. By the time researchers found her she was living in a nursing home in Memphis, paralyzed by a debilitating stroke. Jo-Ann and Dave Kelly began playing benefits on her behalf and soon other musicians and clubs arranged charity concerts to help the impoverished singer cover her medical expenses. Jo-Ann Kelly also sold pictures of Minnie, which provided the blueswoman with some badly needed income, and letters and cards from her British fans gave her some comfort and satisfaction in her last years.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Moody, Pete (October 1988). "Jo Ann Kelly, Part three: Ladies and the Blues" (PDF). British Blues Review (4): 8–9. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  7. ^ Nickson, Chris. "Jo Ann Kelly | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  8. ^ Martin, Terry. "Jo Ann Kelly". Martin & Kingsbury. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  9. ^ Larkin, Colin (1 January 2009). Kelly Jo Ann. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780195313734.001.0001/acref-9780195313734-e-14812. ISBN 978-0-19-531373-4 – via
  10. ^ a b Dallas, Karl (23 October 1990). "Obituary:Jo Ann Kelly". The Independent. London. To many American performers Jo Ann Kelly was the only British singer to earn their respect for her development of what they would be justified in thinking of as 'their' genre.
  11. ^ Denselow, Robin (26 October 1990). "Streatham blues: Obituary of Jo Ann Kelly". The Guardian.
  12. ^ Balfour, Alan (December 1990). "Obituaries: Jo Ann Kelly". Blues & Rhythm (57): 17.
  13. ^ Prince, Michael (March 1991). "My personal reflections of Jo Ann Kelly" (PDF). BBR Boogie (16): 7. Retrieved 26 September 2019.
  14. ^ Moody, Peter (2004). Blues & Gospel: Rare and Unreleased Recordings (liner notes). Blues Matters!. pp. 2–3. BMRCD 20041. Retrieved 25 October 2019.

External links[edit]