Found Deep In The Hot 100

So who was Casey Kelly?

Maybe I should have known better, but that’s exactly what I thought this morning as I scanned the Billboard Hot 100 from September 23, 1972, forty-two years ago today. Parked at the bottom of the Bubbling Under section was “Poor Boy” by Casey Kelly, which turned out to be a decent record that peaked at No. 52:

Kelly hails from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he was born Daniel Cohen, and he’s had a long and successful career as a performer and as a songwriter. And it turns out that during my B.W. Stevenson immersion this summer, I heard one of Kelly’s earliest credited songs several times: “A Good Love Is Like A Good Song,” showed up on Stevenson’s 1973 My Maria album. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard the song: I notice as I look at Kelly’s credits that Johnny Rivers covered the same tune on his 1974 album Road (an album I wrote a little bit about long ago).

The list of Kelly’s credits as a songwriter go on through the years from the 1970s, with his work showing up on albums by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Loretta Lynn, America, Potliquor, the Neville Brothers, Stevenson again, Irma Thomas, Lorrie Morgan, T.G. Sheppard, Kenny Rogers, George Strait, Tanya Tucker and more. Most of the recent credits seem to be for reissues, but from the 1970s into the 1990s, it seems as if Kelly’s talents were called upon frequently.

I’ll likely dig deeper into Kelly’s writing in the next few weeks, but it’s his own performances – his 1972 self-titled album and his 1974 album For Sale – that intrigue me today. I haven’t listened to anything from the 1974 album yet and I’ve heard only a few tracks from the debut album, but those few tracks have grabbed hold of me.

That includes another single from that 1972 album, “You Can’t Get There From Here,” which in early 1973 bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 110:

The attraction likely stems from the music’s early 1970s vintage, an era during which my tastes were honed. In any case, there are a few more Kelly tracks at YouTube that I’ll check out, and if I decide I want to invest, both albums are available as mp3s at Amazon. And while I was pondering that investment, I dropped in at AllMusic to see who was in the studio with Kelly for that first album.

The names are familiar and, given the sound of the tracks I heard, unsurprising: Russ Kunkel on drums, Leland Sklar on bass, Craig Doerge on keyboards, Jim Messina on guitar, Sneaky Pete Kleinow on pedal steel, and a couple of names that are less familiar, Danny Cohen on accordion and Al Garth on violin (although Garth’s list of credits shows many familiar album titles).

So I’ll add Casey Kelly’s name to the list of musicians whose work I want to explore, as if I needed to make that list longer.

Another Fine Visit
The Texas Gal and I made a quick trip to Middleton, Wisconsin, this past weekend to visit our friends jb (of The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ ) and his Missus. From Middleton, we headed south on Saturday to jb’s hometown of Monroe and this year’s edition of Green County Cheese Days, where we ate some cheese curds, drank some beer, heard some music, and wrote another chapter in our friendships. We came home with plenty of cheese and plenty of good memories.

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2 Responses to “Found Deep In The Hot 100”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    Glad to hear you had a great mini getaway!

    I don’t have any of Casey’s LPs, but “Reach Out For Me” from ‘For Sale’ has long been my favorite. Why the single missed the chart entirely is beyond me.

  2. Tim McMullen says:

    Both of Casey Kelly’s albums are great pieces. We recite the hook, “I know where you want to go, but you can’t get there from here” all the time. His song, “For Miss Julie,” is one of the finest ironic, unrequited love songs that I’ve ever heard. It is right up there with “She Thinks I Still Care,” “Funny How Time Slips Away,” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

    His more recent release, Himownself (now nearly twenty years old), includes stripped down versions of a number of his hits. Here is what I wrote on the CD Baby site about this great singer/songwriter:

    Casey Kelly is one of the greatest performing songwriters in the songwriting capitol of the world, and HimOwnSelf is a masterwork by a master. His two Elektra albums from the early 70’s are brilliant collections including several songs that were recorded by others. Since then, like the songs of other great Nashville hit writers Dave Loggins and Randy Sharp—both of whom had several albums in the 70’s—many of Casey’s songs have been made into hits by others. Nearly every song on HimOwnSelf has been recorded by major country stars; some of them recorded many times. Nevertheless, like the original recordings of Loggins, Sharp, Jesse Winchester, Skip Ewing, or Cheryl Wheeler, Casey Kelly’s versions are revelations of the songwriter’s craft. The wit, pathos, and beauty of his creations come through in these interpretations. The acoustic instrumentation is designed to make the voice and words come to the forefront where they belong, and as on his earlier albums, Casey’s own vocal harmonies are beautiful. I don’t know whether anyone else has recorded “Polly, the Newspaper Dolly,” but I do recall that it won an award in the American Song Festival in the mid-70’s. The puns in that song and the great, gentle, though slightly scatological, humor in “The Wish” are great bonuses. I wholeheartedly recommend this album to any fan of great songwriting and great performers.
    Check him out at http://www.myspace.com/caseykellymusic
    or caseykelly.net.

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