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Jo Ann Kelly
T&M 110: 15.00 Euro
"women in (e)motion: Jo Ann Kelly" - 1995

1.Where My Good Man At
2. Moons Going Down
3. Death Have Mercy
4.Weekend Blues
5. 2:19 Blues
6. Aint Nothinin Ramblin
7. Jonah In The Belly Of the Whale
8. Come See About Me
9. Try Me One More Time
10. Sugar Babe
11. Bollweevil Blues
12. Love Blind
13. Wide Open Road
14. God Bless The Child
15. Black Rat Swing
16. Boney Maroney

For blues connoisseurs and fans JoAnn Kelly was a real blue blood. She was unanimously heralded as the British "Queen of Blues", and could have worn this title with pride. But the friendly Englishwoman with her unpretentious manner never showed a trace of self importance. Big-time promotion campaigns for her own cause were not her style, either. Her modesty is probably one of the reasons why she never achieved stardom but rather earned primarily the respect of insiders. Her almost thirty-year career is only sporadically documented on records - which fails to do justice to a "queen" of her talent. When Jo Ann Kelly died on October 21, 1990 at the age of forty-six after a tragic illness the press praised her lifetime achievements and artistry in numerous obituaries, posthumous acknowledgement which should have been hers much earlier.

JoAnn Kelly was a passionate blues artist and at the same time a fan. She particularly respected and loved the authentic early giants of acoustic country blues: Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, Son House, and above all, Memphis Minnie, whose singing and songs were her inspiration. The girl from Streatham, South London met the magnificent Memphis Minnie through a young guitar player named Tony McPhee who was a blues fanatic just like JoAnn and her younger brother Dave. A record shop in Streatham that sold American imports was the place to meet. At the age of fourteen JoAnn was thrilled by Little Richard's music. She sung Everly Brothers' tunes to the first few chords her brother had taught her on the guitar. JoAnn was swept away by the flourishing Skiffle scene headed by Lonnie Donegan. But it was contact with Delta blues which turned out to be her most significant influence.
In 1962 JoAnn Kelly joined together with pianist Bob Hall. She was already impressing nightclub audiences and musicians with her powerful, penetrating voice, vibrating with intensity. She molded American blues classics from Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith, or Rosetta Tharpe into her own creations with her unique singing. Jo Ann Kelly gradually developed into an attraction at clubs and on college and university stages and became the leading woman of the British blues movement. She jammed with the Yardbirds on the side and made recordings with fellow blues musicians here and there, including a record with the future leader of the Groundhogs, Tony McPhee.

Blues rock which was becoming popular was not exactly her chosen world which became apparent as JoAnn Kelly's career reached its commercial peak with her first solo album in 1969-70. She rejected both the offer to join Canned Heat and to go on tour with Johnny Winter after the release of her album in America. Winter had become interested in the Englishwoman, who frequently traveled to land of the blues during this period, at the Memphis Blues Festival. In the 1970s, JoAnn Kelly - parallel to regular solo and duo tours throughout Europe - explored various styles such as country, rock, and soul playing with pub rock and session bands like Spare Rib, Tramp, and Chilli Willi, but deep down she remained true to the blues. In 1979 she was, along with Dave Kelly on guitar, one of the founding members of the Blues Band. She, Pete Emery who was her duo partner and companion and former John Drummer Blues Band member, and pianist Mike Deacon founded the "Ladies and the Blues" project, a sophisticated show which paid tribute to the great women - and some men - of the blues, including of course, Memphis Minnie.

The legendary blues singer's spirt also filled the hall during her performance at the women in (e)motion festival, 1988, in a double concert with Rory Block. Only a few weeks after the concert she suddenly began to suffer the symptoms of a serious illness, a brain tumor which was then surgically removed. At first she seemed to be cured. She gave the type of first-class concerts she was known for. Her last performance in early September 1990 came at the end of a long tour with her brother Dave. A joint album was also in the planning. JoAnn Kelly's premature and unexpected death was an immense loss for the blues world. This live recording should, above all, serve to keep alive the memory of this wonderful personality who embodied the blues with so much ability, respect, and humanity.