Jo Ann Kelly
appeared at one of our concerts at school in the spring of 1970. It
was some event due to the ensemble that pitched up - Jo Ann's brother
Dave, now of the Blues Band; Bob Brunning one time
member of Fleetwood Mac; piano player Bob Hall of Savoy
Brown Blues Band; acoustic blues duo Simon Prager and Steve
Jo Ann was born in London in 1944, making her recording debut in 1964 with a privately produced EP (remember those? I've got one by the Shangri Las). She really first came to the attention of the nation at large when she joined forces with Tony McPhee's Groundhogs. Her self titled album confirmed the arrival of a major talent.
As with many good things British the Americans got interested. In 1969 Jo Ann appeared live with Mississippi Fred McDowell and later made many US tours. Back in the UK (a phrase from which the Beatles later took inspiration) she became a major player on the blues circuit, recording with the John Dummer Blues Band (I would commend an album called 'Cabal' to you) and no lesser mortals than Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers, as well as Stefan Grossman. I remember seeing her with John Dummer at the Marquee - Nick Pickett played too. This period of her career obviously reached its peak with our concert at Leyton County High for Boys!
In 1972 she completed an album with Woody Mann, John Miller and flashy guitarist John Fahey, before forming a group called Spare Rib. She recorded a second solo album called 'Do It' - I remember this well as it was on Alan Robinson's Red Rag label. We were producing Bully Wee's masterful 'Enchanted Lady' album with Alan around that time. The title track of Jo Ann's album is quite wonderful.
Sadly one of her last performances was at a festival in Lancashire in August 1990 when she was given the award for Female Singer of the Year by the British Blues Federation. Her last performance is thought to have been at the Three Horseshoes in Doncaster on 22nd September that year.
In 1989 Jo Ann she had an operation to remove a malignant brain tumour, initially thought to be a success.. it wasn't and she tragically died in October 1990.