Jo Ann Kelly (5 January 1944 — 21 October 1990) was
an English blues singer and guitarist.
Life and career
Kelly was born in Streatham, South London, and with her brother, Dave
Kelly, became blues fans in their teens.
Few women were singing or playing the blues during the 1960s, let alone
with her skill or understanding of early blues styles.
Kelly had a voice far bigger than her slight frame would suggest; with a
rich, deep, tonal quality that could easily have come from Dinah
Washington or Sister Rosetta Tharpe. After establishing a musical
partnership with the British blues musician Tony McPhee, Kelly appeared
on two McPhee compiled albums for Liberty Records, Me And The Devil
(1968) and I Asked for Water, She Gave Me Gasoline (1969).
At the end of the 1960s, with an album on a major record label in the
United States, it seemed that she might be spirited away there and
molded into another Janis Joplin. Both
Johnny Winter and
Canned Heat tried to recruit Kelly into
their ranks. However, her allegiance was to the United Kingdom and the
nightclub scene, although, the 1970s and 1980s would fail to support her
financially and so she took to the European circuit, latterly with the
guitarist Pete Emery or in bands. Indeed, in the early 1980s, she was a
member of the Terry Smith Blues Band.
In 1988, Kelly began to suffer from headaches. In 1989 she had an
operation to remove a malignant brain tumor. She died in October 1990,
at the age of 46.
The latest Kelly compilation album, Blues and Gospel, is available on
Blues Matters! Records.