Bill Crow read the Rifftides post about The Seasons, then wrote:
Could this be the realization of the dream Red Kelly had when he started the OWL party in Olympia. He wanted to build a giant Sin Drome near Chehalis, where everyone could come and party.
His slogan: “Unemployment isn’t working!”
Uh. No, but any opportunity to remember Red Kelly is welcome. His campaign to be elected governor of Washington was, like much in his life, for laughs. He was serious about music. For those who may not have had the pleasure, Red was a shipyard welder in Seattle in 1943 when he taught himself to play the bass. He had heard there was a shortage of musicians because of the war. After a period with the pianist Johnny Wittwer in 1944, he went on to play with—more or less—everybody. Here’s a quote in which he described his career path.
I picked the brains of the best: Ted Fio Rito, Randy Brooks, Sam Donahue, Chubby Jackson, Herbie Fields, Charlie Barnet, Red Norvo, Claude Thornhill, Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, some studio work, back to Herman (the third Herd), Les Brown — we hated each other — finally Harry James off and on for 14 years. And I’ll never forget the night I played with Charlie Parker at Birdland. He even hugged me, so it must have been okay.
That is from a column Harvey Siders wrote for Seattle’s Earshot Jazz Monthly not long after Red died in 2004. Much of the good and funny stuff of Red’s life is in Siders’ piece; his dream rhythm section partnership with Buddy Rich and Jack Perciful in the James band; the time Red Norvo hired him thinking he was Red Mitchell; his tongue-in-cheek run for governor in 1976 as the candidate of the OWL Party (“Out With Logic, On With Lunacy”), winning nine percent of the vote; how his bar in Tacoma because a must-hang spot for the jazz elite. To read the whole thing, go here. To read even more, see the Tacoma Public Library’s Red Kelly Collection website, officially named Remembering Red. Very few jazz bass players become the best known characters in their states. Red managed it.
Kelly was in the 1955 Woody Herman Road Band that also included Dick Collins, Richie Kamuca, Chuck Flores and Cy Touff.
Blues On The Rocks incorporates Kelly’s Classic 1960 Pacific Jazz Good Friday Blues with guitarist Jim Hall and fellow bassist Red Mitchell playing piano.
One of Stan Kenton’s best albums of the 1950s, Kenton At The Tropicana, has Kelly on bass and singing his touching ballad, “You and I and George.”
Red had a knack for showing up on bands when they were at their height in terms of musical quality, or maybe he had something to do with their achieving it. On Verve Jazz Masters 55, he is with Harry James at one of the trumpeter-leader’s peaks.