Brian Kelly, guitar and vocals

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BIOGRAPHY - BRIAN KELLY

I have played both acoustic and electric guitar since I was 11, switching back and forth between the two fortunately with relative ease. Over the past 40 years, it has been a great hobby and source of satisfaction, and also a good second income for me on top of my day job as a marine biologist.

I’m basically a self-taught player, and was born in 1953.   My mother was a classical pianist, and I heard all kinds of tunes from the American Songbook (Broadway melodies, Gershwin, Cole Porter) played in the house growing up.  Now mom tried to teach piano to her four sons, but all became guitar players down the road; those piano lessons were in retrospect recycled to the fretboard! 

I learned basic chords from my older brother on Beatles/Stones tunes starting in 1965; I developed ear training by learning tunes off records.   In retrospect, a huge step for me was when I took six music theory lessons at age 27 after finding myself in a player’s rut – those few theory sessions would have an enormous impact on my playing/enjoyment for the rest of my life, as it laid the groundwork for understanding what I’m playing and how songwriters create songs!  Another big educational aspect to me was having read Guitar Player Magazine for the past 25 years and having gradually absorbed form it an amazing amount of music knowledge, as they cover all styles of playing/music.

            My early musical influences were late 60s-1970s rock from Clapton, Joe Walsh, Creedence, Santana, Byrds, Crosby Stills and Nash, Doobie Brothers, Kinks, Simon and Garfunkel, The Who, etc.  My college years at Stonehill College exposed me to many new musical influences; my freshman roommate was a bona fide blues guitarist, who turned me onto BB King, Bonnie Raitt, and the Fleetwood Mac of the blues years with Peter Green.  I realized that I had discovered the roots of rock n’ roll!

            My sophomore year guitar-playing folkie roomie was into things like Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, James Taylor, Dylan, The Band, Cat Stevens, and the acoustic blues of Taj Mahal.  This is when I discovered altered tunings, and began fingerpicking.  As luck would have it, a fellow student down the hall was adept at the piedmont fingerpicking blues/ragtime style of Reverend Gary Davis, having apprenticed under the Reverend himself.  Mark kindly taught me several tunes in this style (thanks so much Mark), and I was really off and running with acoustic fingerpicking.  Fortunately, I have kept this skill up through the years, and it works out nicely in a solo setting.

            Junior and senior years exposed me to some jazz and also the acoustic-based music of the Grateful Dead and other bands of the mid 70s.  My first band was in this era, covering the tunes of the times.

            After college, I had the fortune to work for 2 years in a Worcester-based Elvis/rockabilly band playing lead guitar, a style of music I had to learn on the fly.  I then graduated to a gereral-business band in central Massachusetts, with whom I played contemporary tunes for 3 years.  When I relocated to Cape Cod in 1983 to work as a marine biologist, I found an established wedding band called Footloose in need of a guitarist, a job I held for 5 years playing wedding pop tunes (swing, ballads, Tom Petty, Buffett, Motown, Steely Dan, Kool and the Gang, Van Morrison, Bob Seger); it was in my tenure with this band that I started singing.  I had discovered the importance of good lyrics in making a good song!

            I then began the duo Seabreeze in 1989, which has been a popular musical staple on Cape Cod for over 20 years.  Playing in the smaller duo demands a different style of playing than playing in a large band, especially the need for good rhythm chops and getting a fuller sound from the guitar.  The duo context also demanded more vocally, especially in the importance of harmony to fill out the sound.

            In the early 90s, I started listening to and enjoying country rock, finding some absolutely great guitarists such as Brent Mason, Albert Lee, and Steve Wariner.  I also became a big fan of jazz guitarists Lee Ritenour and George Benson, and actually do enjoy (should I admit this???) some of the funkier smooth jazz out there.  Admiring these players, I began incorporating some of their licks in my playing.

            About 10 years ago, to complement my duo work, I began doing solo gigs to showcase my acoustic skills, incorporating the harmonica (think Bob Dylan/Neil Young) to diversify my sound.  Over the past decade, this has become my “bread and butter”, and I find I thoroughly enjoy this aspect of performing.  I have now begun to play both dobro and banjo for enjoyment, and have found that my right hand guitar fingerpicking ability has made conversion to these instruments easier.