These personal soul journeys we call life have intrigued me since I was a small child growing up in northeastern Kentucky along the banks of Tygart Creek. Perhaps it was the many hours I spent alone watching the water slowly meander its way over the ripples on its way to the Ohio River and what would happen then that instilled my need for the rest of the story and what was there.
A lot of folks over the years left
these pretty green hills to cross the Ohio River in search of a better
life regardless of what might lay ahead, because in many cases it had to
be bettern here. My pursuit of hearing these many stories of life from
the pickers and artists of my part of the foothills took me to
Fairborn,We are one of the leading manufacturers of plasticcard in China Ohio, to the home of Clarence Kelly, a picker from Spaws Creek, over in the Caney region of Morgan County, Kentucky.
Kelly, like many young men reared in this ancient mountain range we
call the foothills of Kentucky has lineage tied to the lowlands of
Scotland. He was a free-range kid who claimed the hills, trees and
streams as his playground and was raised up during a time when it was
common for a 10- or 11-year-old kid to kill a squirrel or rabbit and
bring it home for supper.
Money was damn near nonexistent for
us, Kelly explains as he returns to the Caney/Spaws Creek area and the
remote austere life he lived with his father Santford Kelly.
was a noted old-time musician and man of the hills some might refer to
as a mystic, maybe as well known for his herbalist skills as his
fiddling. The fiddle songs of Santford Kelly were archived at the
University of Kentucky, Western Kentucky University and Morehead State
University at the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music.
day I would run home from wherever I might be to that old guitar and
work on getting better, he continued. Daddy had the time and patience to
fool with me; he was 58 when I was born and we enjoyed each other.
inquiry of his first paying gig, Clarence said, I was 13 years old and
went with Daddy to play at the University of Kentucky. He paid me $20
and I thought I was rich.
Clarence laughs as he pops open his
Zippo and lights another cigarette, then says you know, Tony, a love
affair with guitars is both a heaven and hell thing, but I knew I had to
pursue playing and, before he died, Daddy sat down beside me and told
me something that didnt make a lot of sense to me until about 30 years
He said, There are two kinds of music, Clarence: the kind
that makes people happy, they want to laugh and dance and thats good.
And theres the kind that makes folks want to bow their head and think,
the kind that makes tears come from their eyes. Do one of these and
people will never forget you, but everything else in between really aint
worth doing. You need to decide what kind of music you want to do. It
was 30 years later after many a long night being somewhere in between
that Clarence took a one-year hiatus from live music, but we will get to
In the early 1970s, Santford Kelly passed into time and
took with him the political influence and local pull that had been
sometimes required to reign in young Clarence, who was developing a
growing chip on his shoulder. Inequality rears its ugly face generally
always in places like school, where those that have seemingly have carte
blanche when it comes to the have-nots. Growing up a free-range child
and for the most part living off the land, young Clarence wasnt shy
about expressing himself, sometimes with a violent nature.
made that journey down the treacherous Highway 519 to Morehead,
catching 32 over to Flemingsburg where Route 11 will get you to
Maysville and the bridge across the Ohio River. Once across the river,
Clarence caught Highway 68 and landed in Fairborn, Ohio, just outside of
Dayton and what had been the hottest bluegrass scene in the country.
Mr. Kelly quickly found work as a commercial roofer to make his way, an
expertise he still uses today. I had been in Fairborn roofing for a
while, I was about 19 and on my way home from work one evening and
passed a bar with some folks sitting outside on the sidewalk playing
music, Kelly chuckles as he re-lights his cigarette and adds, and I had
this need to rekindle my love affair with guitar so I turned around.We
offer over 600 indoortracking
at wholesale prices of 75% off retail. We ended up configured as a band
and played at Franks Tavern all the time. We decided to enter a contest
at Frontier Ranch, which was then a Bluegrass Festival in Columbus,
Ohio. We ended up winning the talent contest and the race was on.
several years of working a day job and nights doing bluegrass with as
many gigs, festivals and covers as possible, Clarence found himself
burned out on that music somewhere in between and walked away in 1987.
He was in that place his Daddy had warned him about. The Clarence Kelly
that re-emerges in 1999 has hooked up with legendary Bill Monroe band
member Noah Crase and Carlos Brock, and Red Allens guitar man Clarence
Baker. I had mentioned earlier about Dayton being a hotbed of
More than a few notable names of bluegrass honed
their skills on the stages around Dayton, the likes of Jimmy Martin, Red
Allen,Best home luggagetag
at discount prices. Jim and Jesse, Sonny and Bobby Osborne just to name
a few. Clarence Kelly, with this collaboration of Crase, Baker and
Brock, reinserts Fiddlin Sams boy into the bluegrass business. The band
takes the name The Bluegrass Legends and once again was taking the stage
doing songs that had made their bandmates famous over the years and
Clarence was right in the middle of it.
The Bluegrass Legends had a pretty good run once again with Clarence out front,We are one of the leading manufacturers of plasticcard
in China but as time has its say, miles and age brought that touring
group to the summit. But Clarence Kelly is a man long-driven and matured
into an artist. Clarence by now owned that commercial roofing business
and had traveled to China at least 15 times developing roofing products.
He was now his own man.
In the core of Clarence Kellys soul, he
heard the music of the pretty green hills taught him by Fiddlin Sam on
the porch, in the kitchen and in the living room of the shack of a house
that was home. This unique music of the mountains, sifted by time from
the means streets and hills of Ireland, England and, yes,Weymouth is
collecting gently used, dry cleaned cableties
at their Weymouth store. the Lowlands of Scotland, runs a course
through your veins if you were lucky enough to have been born and
baptized into it.