Jonathan Kelly was born Jonathan Ledingham in Drogheda, Co. Lough in Ireland in 1947. He came from a musical family, his father played ukulele and his brother George who was a wonderful boy soprano and later a tenor, played the organ in the school chapel at the boarding school in Dublin where Jonathan was also a student, it was here that Jonathan made his first recording performing a solo part in a school production of the Messiah.
Coming from a musical family, Jonathan was interested in music from his earliest memories, but it was the dawning of Rock & Roll and artists such as Little Richard, Ray Charles, Buddy Holly and Elvis, which really inspired him. He Says " There was all this music in the late fifties, such as David Whitfield etc. and then one day on the wireless I heard Rock & Roll for the first time, it just blew me away, this vibrant music, music for young people, you can't imagine the effect it had upon me and others"
At school Jonathan met Eddie Armstrong and Ivan hill, who were in the school choir alongside him, they all shared the same young enthusiasm for Rock & Roll and decided to form a band called the Saracens covering Shadows songs amongst others, Ian Ellis was brought in to play drums. At first they were just a school band but they became popular and played a few concerts and then went on to do a summer tour of Ireland in 1962. Eddie Armstrong remembers " I played Lead, Ivan played Bass and Jonathan was a very solid rhythm guitarist something that is still very evident in his recordings from the seventies"
At the end of 1962 Ivan Hill left and returned to his native Yorkshire and the Saracens disbanded. Jonathan however continued playing and there are several photographs of him around this time playing as part of other bands with Jonathan often playing drums, something he is also good at.
After school Jonathan who was already in love with the stage decided to go to Drama school, also there was Brian Trench who had known Jonathan since they were small children. They decided to form the 'Boomerangs' along with Aiden Cahill, Alan Doran and Noel Richardson and released a single called "Dream World" this marks not only Jonathan's first record release, but also his first published song.
The Boomerangs were short-lived but it had served to bring Jonathan to the attention of the music industry and he started touring the folk club circuit as a solo singer. He released another single this time under his own name titled 'Without an E'. Although the song was not a massive hit it did attract the attention of many artists who could see that Jonathan had a great latent song writing talent and he was asked to write songs for other artists, amongst them Johnny McEvoy who was popular at the time. He was also asked to write a song for the popular Irish pop band 'The Greenbeats' this song entitled "The La La Song" would have been a sure fire Eurovision winner and it's so catchy that once you hear it you can't get it out of your head.
By the time the 'La La Song' was released in 1968, Jonathan had been influenced greatly by Bob Dylan and other Us artists such as The Band, James Brown. His lyrics took on a much more mature feel, his next single 'Love is a toy' was backed with an outstanding antiwar song called 'Thank you Mrs. Gilbert' which was vastly superior to the a side and yet less commercial, but this release showed that Jonathan's song writing and singing talents were a force to be reckoned with.
Jonathan was soaking up all the musical influences in the rich musical world of the late sixties, His favorite artists included musicians as diverse as Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers, Eddie Kendricks, "Rogers and Hammerstein, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Sly & The Family Stone, James Brown, Jim Webb, Stevie Wonder, J.D. Salinger, Miles Davies, John Sebastian, Tim Hardin and Randy Newman and particularly Donny Hathaway and Jim Web. Jonathan says "I remember hearing 'I was made to love her' by Stevie Wonder for the first time, the bass line by James Jamerson just blew me away! there was another bassist at Motown called Carol Kay, she was amazing I loved her stuff I really loved some of those old Motown records, I remember hearing Marvin Gaye singing 'What's goin on for the first time' that definitely had a big influence on me" Amongst the other musical influences of Jonathan at this time was the Jazz scene " I thought people such as Miles Davis, Donald Bird and Herbie Hancock were just brilliant" says Jonathan.
Jonathan was assimilating all these musical influences and was broadening his range of song writing and the type of musicians and arrangements that he liked to work with.
During the following year 1971, Jonathan released no records but concentrated of playing concerts and writing, something that was to turn out to be very fruitful. In the summer of 1971 Jonathan was invited to play the Cambridge Folk Festival and he took the event by storm. At last the record buying public had recognised his immense talent. All of the music magazines of the day were knocking at his door for interviews and when in 1972 Jonathan released his much anticipated album 'Twice Around the houses' his public were not to be disappointed, the music press were enthusiastic and the album received rave reviews. A single was released to help cash in on the album's popularity, 'Madeleine' bw 'Sligo Fair'
1972 was a busy year for Jonathan, he toured with the Strawbs between January and Match completing 25 concerts and help raise his profile considerably, Jonathan also appeared at several festivals in the summer including Bickershaw, Lincoln, Reading and Chelmford. Jonathan also managed to spent much of 1972 playing in folk clubs up and down the UK and was very popular, one person remembers Jonathan turning up unannounced at the Bay horse Folk club near Doncaster. "Jonathan was in the area and turned up to meet friends and watch some music, when he was spotted he was asked to sing, he politely refused saying he was tired, but the audience wouldn't take no for an answer. Jonathan finally agreed and performed three songs in the interval, as he tried to leave the stage, the audience pushed tables up to the front in order to stop him, begging him to sing more. Jonathan pointed out that the McCallmans, a popular folk group were due back on stage, at that point one of the McCallmans shouted out from the back of the room, 'You carry on John, we're getting paid anyway!' and so carry on he did, a wonderful performance and a night to remember"
RCA decided to invest more money in Jonathan's next album due to the popularity on TATH, his next album 'Wait Till They Change The Backdrop' (1973) was warmly received by an enthusiastic music press and the public alike. This time the album had a gatefold cover and featured amongst others the Sutherland Brothers who were a short while later to have a hit themselves. A single was released to coincide with the album 'Let the people stay', backed with 'Mother Moon' a song Jonathan often featured in his performances.
Jonathan was now fully embroiled in the hippy lifestyle and culture, believing in peace and love, indeed he signed autographs, 'Peace and love, Jonathan Kelly' unfortunately there was one side of this coin, which wasn't admirable, namely drugs! Jonathan was now an active drug-taker and the more he was embroiled in that scene the more his behavior changed and along with it his judgment. Jon Ledingham stopped performing towards the end of the 1970s. He returned to the stage from 2004 to 2007, doing solo acoustic shows and released a number of albums, including Live 2005 and Some Demos. His death comes after a lengthy battle with illness on May 2nd 2020 at the age of 73.
by Gerald Sables
1. Wait Till They Change The Backdrop - 5:31
2. Turn Your Eyes On Me - 5:02
3. Godas - 5:41
4. Down On Me - 5:46
5. I Wish I Could - 4:11
6. Chains - 2:58
7. All In A New Light - 6:17
8. Hold On - 4:27
9. Beautiful Eyes - 4:51
All songs by Jonathan Kelly
*Jonathan Kelly - Vocals, Guitar, Piano
*Mark Griffiths - Bass, Electric Guitar
*Roy Babbington - String Bass
*Ray Duffey - Drums
*Peter Wood - Piano, ARP Synthesiser, Tambourine, Orchestral Arrangements
*Barry deSouza - Organ, Piano
*Bruce Thomas - Bass
*Willie Wilson - Drums
*Tim Renwick - Acoustic, Electric Guitars, Flute, Harmony Vocals
*Ken Cott - Maracas
*Michael Oliver - Steel Pans
*Lennox James - Steel Pans, Congas
*Luciano Bravo - Steel Pans
*Thunder Things - Backing Vocals
*Juanita Franklin - Vocals
*The Sutherland Brothers - The Bandits