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817 Sherwood Terrace in Champaign, IL.

22 years later in New Jersey

The single most important record executive in history's secretary wanted to hear a tape? . . . . Are you kiddin' me?

I didn't even own a guitar! A half-hour later I was talking to Garry Tallent, bass player for Bruce Springsteen's "E" Street Band, at his recording studio in Long Branch, New Jersey.

I borrowed a guitar and drove down the Garden State Parkway like a maniac. Recorded my four best songs in about twenty minutes, drove like a worse maniac and had the tape to Columbia Records at 8:30 a.m. the next day!

Just four days later . . Mickey Harris (John Hammond's secretary) called me at work and . . . and . . . . . she . . . she . . . . suggested that I . . . move to NASHVILLE?

"Across America" Cover Art (2001)

The Perfect Acoustic Guitar
(Martin 00C-1E . . 2000)

Acoustic Guitars and Broken Hearts
by Terry Kelly

Growin' up!

was born and raised in Champaign, Illinois. The third of four boys, we grew up in the era of protest, the civil rights movement, assassinations, Viet Nam, Walter Cronkite, and of course, the Beatles! Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison songs provided the soundtrack for a world in chaos. It was a most peculiar time! We had guys playing golf on the Moon while the Earth was (and sadly still is) a violent, polluted, and War-torn mess. Thank God for Music!

George Kelley, who's real last name was Panturis (1930-2013) and Betty (my parents) moved the family to Georgia as the decade of the 1970's began. Several years later, I had a couple of broken hearts, my first guitar, and a Fine Arts Degree from Valdosta State College (now University) in Valdosta, Georgia.

Fellow soccer and guitar player Tom Bose (used to be Bosse, but he dropped an "s" to make it easier to spell) and I began performing around college, mostly at the girls' dorms. We were actually pretty good! We covered America, Poco, Eagles, James Taylor, etc. and we had somewhat of a local hit song that we wrote called "Carolina Dreams", which I've since changed to "Carolina Blue". Tom is a solid guitarist with a great voice and has gone on to a long and successful career as a christian artist. To this day I still write songs with the chords and style of "Bosse and Kelley"! (I've since dropped the "e" to make it easier to spell).

I got accepted to UCLA Film School and, in 1980, moved to L.A. After just two weeks at the Brentwood Hotel, I moved back to Valdosta! (L.A. proved to be too much for the man). Being a former college soccer stand-out at VSC, I decided to become a professional soccer player (of course). One of my best friends, Norman Scott, and I worked out for two years and finally got a try-out with the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers of the old North American Soccer League. We came close, but got cut in the final. I was a right-winger forward and center-mid player at Valdosta and a fairly productive goal scorer and team leader in assists and yet, inexplicably, decided to try-out for the pro level as a left-back on defense?

I went back to Valdosta and bought a new guitar! Traded in my Ovation for an Alverez Cut-Away (it was the perfect acoustic guitar). Soon I was writing for the Valdosta Daily Times and performing at the "Deli-Bar" on Northside Dr. on Tuesday night. This place was packed every night of the week with college kids, Air Force guys, and locals drinking pitchers of beer and enjoying anybody who could play some Neil Young! Tommy Thompson and Steve Drummond were regular performers there and made the "Deli-Bar" one of the great acoustic music venues of all-time!

It was the best of times. . . it was, well . . you know? With songs like: "When it Comes to Ugly . . You Wrote the Book," "Sorority Girls," "Ted (Some People Think he's Dead)," and a new song called "Webster Street," soon people were coming to the Deli to hear some Terry Kelly? (It was Ripley's!) I was more of a stand-up comedian and perhaps starting to become a folk singer/songwriter who could play a little acoustic guitar and blow a harmonica, almost like Neil Young. (Naturally).

After 10 years in "God's Country" that is South Georgia and surviving my college years in Valdosta and a couple of summers in Jacksonville, FL, it was time to take my act to New York and follow in the footsteps of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Simon and Garfunkel, and (of course) the Smothers Brothers, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Billy Crystal, Jerry Seinfeld, David Letterman, Woody Allen, and George Carlin. If I could make it in NYC, I could. . . well . . . you know?

So, I said goodbye to the pretty little blond-haired college coed I was engaged to marry and our gigantic (very large) apartment (legendary #7) at the corner of Ashley (Hi-way 41) and "Webster Street!" We'd broken up 27 times before and the last time, as I was leaving, she told me to take out the garbage when I go?!!

I probably should explain that the song "Webster Street," was actually inspired by a springtime romance a few years earlier with a dark-haired beauty from Atlanta. Her real name is Laura, but another song that I wrote about her is "Kaley O'Riley," . . . "like Scarlet O'hara on Paces Ferry Road."

New York Town

My guitar and I arrived in Upper Montclair, New Jersey in September of 1985, just as one of those pesky hurricanes was hammering the Northeast. Damn things find me wherever I go! My other best friends, Rick and Michael Bellerjeau (and my personal "all-time" best friend, Denise Folsom) helped me get situated and played a very big part in what I consider to be, if not the "Best of Times", definitely the "most interesting of times!"

I got a job writing for a group of Essex County Newspapers, found me a tiny (perhaps smaller than tiny) apartment, and began making the short trip to Greenwich Village, the known center of the Folk Music Universe to check out the competition. When I walked through the door at "Folk City" it was the same door Bob Dylan walked through just 25 years earlier. I was standing on sacred ground, even if the place had moved a few years back!

My main hangout in Greenwich Village was the Speak Easy on MacDougal St.

It took a while, but after playing every "Hoot" (open stage) in town, I actually became a regular performer around the metro New York area. Never made a lot of money, but opening for some of Springsteen's and Southside Johnny's buddies in Jersey was very interesting! Never figured out what they were thinking "havin' a guy from Georgia come out and do an acoustic set before the R&B bands?" But, looking back now, it was a pretty good combination.

I got a day job in the city and started carrying my guitar to work. If you read the lyrics to my song "New York Town," you'll know what happened next! Let's just say it involved one guitar . . a winter coat . . and another broken heart. Isn't there some kind of a limit? Never could replace that guitar!

The Big Break? (Almost)

Terry Kelly NYC 1988

NYC 1988

In the summer of '87, I became a marketing assistant for Showtime/The Movie Channel, located at 50th and Broadway. I was now working next door to the Brill Building, where people like Paul Simon worked, or at least liked to shop for records in the first floor record store, and just south of the Ed Sullivan Theatre, where the Beatles and Elvis conquered the world. More sacred ground! For the next year music took a back seat as I began to work twelve hours each day for Showtime, but that's when things started to happen. Somebody knew somebody at Columbia Records!

Her name was Mickey Harris and she was John Hammond's secretary (yes . . we're talking about John Hammond Sr., who signed Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Billie Holiday, and was working on Stevie Ray Vaughan's new album). Mickey said Mr. Hammond was too busy and too ill to take on any new artists, but she would like to hear a tape . . . SHE WOULD LIKE TO HEAR A TAPE??

The single most important record executive/talent scout in history's secretary wanted to hear a tape? Are you kiddin' me?
I didn't even own a guitar! A half-hour later I was talking to Garry Tallent (bass player for Springsteen's "E" Street Band) at his (then) recording studio in Long Branch, NJ. To my surprise he booked me a one-hour recording slot for that evening.

I borrowed a guitar and drove down the Garden State Parkway like a maniac, recorded my four best songs in about twenty minutes and then drove like a worse maniac and had the tape to Columbia Records at 8:30 a.m. the next day. Four days later . . Mickey called me at work and . . . she . . . she . . . she . . . . . suggested that I move to NASHVILLE?

Ironically, one of my last days in New York, I was running to catch my bus after work and . . . as I ran past the Brill Building . . . I knocked some little guy right on his butt! Yep' . . . you guessed it . . . that little guy was Paul Simon! He got up . . . . (I was a good three or four inches taller than he was!) . . . he gave me the "evil-eye look" for about one second and then . . . . without a word . . . he disappeared into his waiting limo, which was parked at the curb. Would of been nice to actually get yelled at by Paul Simon . . . . don't ya' think?

I loved New York and the Northeast, but got a little tired of the rain and snow, rats the size of small dogs, and stepping over various body fluids and sleeping (or worse) bodies, just to get to work. Not to mention all the nights I got stuck in the city, after missing that last bus to Jersey. And so . . I moved south . . to. . . . .


And the rest as they say is . . . well . . you know . . history will tell you that I made Brevard County my home. First Titusville, then Cape Canaveral, and currently Palm Bay. I worked a little too hard and a little too long for a major over-nite express company. I continued to play soccer in the East Coast Soccer League and spent all my spare time writing songs, recording, and performing. I've played frequently at local coffeehouses, from "Java the Hut" in Indian Harbour Beach to "Kool Beanz," in Cocoa Village and several local festivals and events such as; "Seafest," "Melbourne Arts Festival," "Sanford Heritage Festival," "Cocoa Village Fall Arts Fair," "Earth Awareness Concerts," and "Friends of Florida Folk Benefits."

Best of all . . I've had the great fortune to appear on Fred Migliore's "FM Odyssey" program on WFIT 89.5 FM (National Public Radio, Melbourne, FL). Fred's show is the best thing on radio . . period!

Cocoa Village in 2002 . . Photo by "Java" John Goldacker

The Beginning?

On January 1st of 2001, I self-released a sparse, solo-acoustic debut album/CD called "Across America," which features several of my best and most popular folk songs, like; "Florida Girl," "Across the Mason-Dixon Line," "Kaley O'Riley," "Indian River Joe," "Lay You Down, " "Turn Back the Night," and (of course, every former dog's favorite?) "When I was a Dog," . . oh . . and a little thing about lost love in a small southern town, called "Webster Street."

"There's a ghost standing down in the midnight
And she's haunting my memory . . .
I can see her standing there with that sad look in her eyes
Tonight . . . on Webster Street . . . "

And the coolest thing was finding out that Sir Paul McCartney is actually a cousin on my mother's side of the family tree. Very Kool!


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© 2001-2017 Terrance Kelley