Chapter 1: Robert Kelly Inside Information

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Inside Information


Bob "Git it" Kelly

This is the inside information for my 1950’s Original Recordings CD. I am Bob "Git it" Kelly. I was born Robert Gene Kelly on Oct. 2, 1935 in Fort Worth, Texas. My parents, Clarence and Eedy Kelly, were Addagio Dancers until the arrival of little "Robert Gene", as I was called for most of my childhood. Addagio is acrobatic dancing to music, if you didn’t know.


This is one of the last performances for my Mom and Dad, and I can truly say that I came by this Show Business Thing naturally, because I was on stage 6 months before I was born. My Mom, Eedy, was 3 months pregnant with me, when this picture was taken. Most of my Family either played music or sang. Actually they were all pretty talented folks, but they just did it for fun. My Father used to joke about the family all getting together at our house on Saturday night and playing music because they couldn’t afford to spend the money to go out dancing at a club. Two of my Uncles played guitar, a close friend of the family played Piano and Saxaphone, and my Mom and her two Sisters sang 3 part harmony like the Andrew Sisters. It was a good variety of music because my two Uncles liked the Western Swing Country Music (ala Bob Wills or Ernest Tubb) and my mom and her sisters liked the Boogie Woogie Blues music (ala Cab Callaway or Ella Mae Morris). My first stage performance was not playing music or singing---- But dancing. I was only 4 years old, and our family friend, who was my baby sitter on a Saturday night, decided to go to the local dance hall and take me with him. I had all of the local patrons crowded around in a circle because I was in the middle of the floor doing the most popular dance of the day--"Truckin"—Then, my Mom and Dad came in and took me home.?


Fort Worth, Texas 1943 Saxaphone was my first instrument


Olney, Texas 1953 My first fan was my Sister, Karen

I started playing Sax when I was about 5 but this picture was when I was 8 or 9. When my hands got big enough to make chords, about 12 or 13, I learned to play the guitar so I could accompany myself while I was singing. I was playing a lot of sports, Football and Baseball, when I was in High School so I just concentrated on "Beatin Rythmn" with my guitar instead of learning how to play "Lead". When I was playing with my Family, I could always put down my guitar and play a Sax Solo so "lead guitar syndrome" just never interested me.


High School 1951


Family Jam—Uncle Teedy, Me, Karen, Uncle David

Uncle David gave me my first guitar, it was his old one, and only had the three bass strings because the tuners for the other three were broken. So, the first song that I learned on the guitar was the guitar boogie, because I could play that on the only 3 strings that I had. In the above picture, I had advanced to a Martin Acoustic. They didnt cost as much then as they do now.


Horace Height Winner 1953


1954 NTSC Kelly and Neil Wood

I started writing songs in my Junior/Senior Years of High School and then by the time that I started to North Texas State College, I was feeling pretty good about my lyrics and music. I entered a Horace Height AmateurTalent Show in l954 and won what the newspaper called a "Jackpot" Scholarship----- Actually it was tuition for one year at North Texas State and at that time the tuition was $44.00----Big Jackpot, Huh! However, up until that time, the biggest crowd that I had ever performed for was about 150 people and the Talent Show was in an Auditorium that seated 500 so I thought it was the "BigTime".

When I was in High School in the small town of Olney, Texas, late at night, we used to take our dates in our cars out to the Airport and park them in a circle and turn all of our radios onto the same radio station from Gallatin, Tennessee and dance to the rythmn and blues records of the Clovers, Drifters, Joe Turner, Lavern Baker, the Platters, the Flamingos, etc. Olney was a strict Baptist community and they wouldn’t allow dancing in the school.


High School Junior Summer 1951


High School Senior Oct. l952


Junior NTSC Denton Texas 1955


1955 Neil Wood (Kelly&the Pikes) JohnBiggerstaff

I was still just playing my guitar and singing and writing songs as a single, until I started my second year in College and then I pledged a fraternity and met some guys that also liked to sing. We formed a vocal group and started performing for Dances and Parties, mostly in the rythmn and blues style of the artists that I liked. They were Johnny Biggerstaff, Bill Byrd, and Neil Wood, my best friends. We were Bob Kelly and the Pikes. They are the vocal group on almost all of the Recordings on this CD because we were together for all of this time, 1954 to 1960 except for the end of l957 to end of 1958 when I was in Los Angeles trying to become a star.

In 1955, We found out that they were actually paying people to perform on the Big "D" Jamboree, if you could win an amateur contest. So, we entered and after we won it two or three times they finally paid us to be on the main show. We got $15 per night. We could actually make more money playing for College Dances. But, doing the shows at the Big D was a good way to get exposure. Ed McLemore who was the manager for Sonny James and Buddy Knox and later on Gene Vincent listened to my songs and finally got Gene Vincent to do "Git it" and "Somebody Help Me".

A few months before that I had gotten Mac Curtis, who is from the same little town where I lived in West Texas, Olney, to do "What You Want" and it was for King Records, which was one of the better labels, at the time. Mac was nice enough to ask us to sing background on his release and that was quite a thrill, that being the first real recording that I was ever on. Sure, I had recorded lots of demo records, but never a recording for a label that was actually going to release the songs and they were going to be for sale and actually played on the Radio. Now, this felt like the "Real Show Business".


About a year later, Mac Curtis recorded his version of my song "Somebody Help Me". Wayne Fontana and the Mindbinders recorded their version of "Git it". Ed McLemore offered me a Personal Managament and Booking Contract so I thought I was on my way up the ladder of success, but that was not the way it happened. Ed McLemore wanted too much money, for too many years and everything including my Soul with no guarantee that he would do anything, so I wouldnt sign with him and that pretty much cut me off from all the Dallas contacts that I had.

It was time for me to try a different approach.

My Father was a great supporter of just about anything that I wanted to do, but he never let me know that a person could quit school after high school.

As far as I knew, I had to complete College before I could think about any thing else. So, as I was about to Graduate from North Texas State with a Business Degree, he ask me what I wanted to do with my life and I told him that I wanted to be an Entertainer or Movie Actor. He helped me set up an audition for the Art Linkletter TV Show for their "Springboard to Stardom" portion of the show. Now, I had to get to Los Angeles to do the Audition. My Mom and Dad were very middle class people so they didnt have lots of money, but they gave me $100 and in June of l957 that was quite a bit of money. I found a leasing company that would pay for the gas if you would drive a car from Dallas to Los Angeles. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance and it was L.A., here I come.

I sang a song that I had written, "Because I Love You So", and passed the Art Linkletter Audition so they told me that I could be on the Show on September 10, 1957. The only thing about it was, it was the middle of June and I had a little less than $50. Because it was during summer break, I got an attic room at the fraternity house at USC for $15 a week, and started looking for a job. After selling Catholic Bibles (and I’m not even Catholic), Caddying at a local Golf Course, singing unrecorded songs as preliminary demos for Jimmie Haskell at Imperial Records for $8.00 per song, I finally got a permanent night time job at Disneyland as the Pirate on the Pirate Ship. Even thou this was in Anaheim, I could work from 5 p.m. to 12 midnight and still be in Hollywood during the day to try to get into see the Record Producers and A&R men. I did a lot of Auditions, talked to a lot of prelimimary A&R men, and waited in lots of offices but couldnt find any Stardom. A couple of the guys that I met and became friends with while I was there, were successful and did Make It-----Eddie Cochran, Jessie Belvin---but unfortunately both of them died early deaths.

It is hard to remember a lot of the things that happened so many years ago, so here is a letter that I wrote to my folks that will give you the general idea.

This is the actual letter that I wrote to my parents in Olney, Texas, Oct.31, 57.



Soon after I sent this letter, I did get to be on one of the Rock and Roll Shows at the El Monte Legion Hall and the MC was Art Lobo---the Star of the show was Jackie Wilson (Lonely Teardrops). Johnny and Joe (Over the Mountain, Cherry Pie), Bobby Day and The Satalites (Little Bitty Pretty One, Rockin Robin) and Big Jay Mc Neeley’s Orchestra and Me---billed as "Robert Kelly" Dallas Rock and Roller (Original Songs and Bony Maroney).

At the end of the night, the producer came by to tell me that I had done a great job. He said that he was surprised at the enthusiastic audience responce because, really, the only reason that I was on the show in the first place was that they had to have a white act on the bill before they could rent the Legion Hall. I didnt care, I got to sing with a Cookin’ Band, do a couple of my own songs, "What You Want" and "Beaba", and then I closed my part of the show with a really swingin arrangement of Bony Maroney. I never heard it sound so good with that big, fat, Sax Section. I was even more in love with "Show Business". That was the first time that I got to sing with a big band and I felt like I was "Superman". I cherished the poster of this show for many years and then all of my memorabilia from the late 50’s was stolen in the early 80’s while I was working in Lake Tahoe for a month long engagement at the Sahara Tahoe Hotel. What few things that I have for these pages are available thru the courtesy of my Moms photo collection, my sister, (Karen), my aunt, (Oneita, one of my Mothers sisters that was part of the three part harmony singing during the family jam sessions), and my Ex-Wife, (Bettye).


Disneyland 1957

Disneyland had just opened a few months before I got a job there, and many of the young aspiring Singers, Actors, and artistic people were working there until they could get their "Big Break". They actually hired me as a model for these pictures----they were on slides and were in color to be used for advertising and promotional ads for the Pirate Ship. Most of the time, on my regular job, from 5pm to 10pm, I just walked around the ship and made myself available for pictures with the Kids and to give out any helpful information that was asked by the tourists. Then, from 10pm to 1am, I was the "swab the deck" clean up guy.


L.A. California Summer1957


Dallas 1959 DJ, Cotton Bowling Palace 12pm to 6am

After a little more than a year in Los Angeles (Hollyweird), I was pretty much still doing the same thing that I was doing the first month that I was there, so, I decided to go back to Dallas, and get a "Real Job".

Well, that didn’t last long either. I just wasnt cut out for 9 to 5.

One day, I was sitting behind my desk at the State Farm Insurance Company. Taking a piece of paper from the left side of my desk, then, writing on it. Then, putting it on the right side of my desk, and all of a sudden, I realized that this was not my way of making a living, so at lunch that day, after working there for about 6 months, I just didnt go back to work, I quit. The insurance company called and said that they would never give me a good reference to any other insurance company and so I very quickly said, "Do you promise".

While I was working at State Farm during the week, I was working weekends at WRR radio in Dallas on the FM station playing Classical Music. Then, just about the time I quit the Insurance Business, one Saturday night the AM (midnight to 6am) DJ just didnt show up and since I was getting off work at 12 midnight anyway, I pleaded with the program director to let me do the show. Jim Lowe was the program director and a great guy so he told me that I could do the show until they found someone with experience------well, I stayed there for over 4 years before they found someone----So, Jim Lowe saved my Life. I didnt have to have a real job because playing records was just like playing music, it was fun, not work and I got paid for doing it.?

I didnt like the confinement of the studio, so I did my radio show from the Cotton Bowling Palace, that way, I could be where the action was, in front of a "Live" audience.


Cotton Bowling Palace WRR Radio


Bobby Rambo Toi Rebel (Jack Ruby Stripper)BK

Cottom Bowling Palace WRR Radio Show

I had some recording equipment from the early 50’s and so I set up the equipment in the WRR Studios. There was a big auditorium room with a stage and seating area for an audience that was used for the old "live" radio shows. This was where the "Light Crust Dough Boys" did their radio shows, as far back as the 1930’s, so it was a great place to record. My boss, the program director of WRR was Jim Lowe. He was quite famous in the Dallas/Fort Worth area because of his "Kats Karavan" radio show that was on every night from 10pm to 12midnight and featured all the rythmn and blues artists of the day. Music that they wouldnt play on other stations, so he was very innovative. He compiled all the great R&B singles into the first "Oldies" compilation album that I ever heard. I still have a copy of it and I’m sure it must be a collector’s item or something like that. I was fortunate enough to be able to do the last hour of the show my last two years at WRR----that would be the end of l962 thru September of 1964.

Here’s a young Kelly and young Robert Goulet around 1962



Anyway, he was very much into the recording scene and had his own record label, Gant Records. He was nice enough to let me do most of his recording. I was recording engineer and producer for quite a few of the early songs of Jimmy Velvet, Gene Summers, The Continentals, and the biggest one was the Album that I produced which included "Wine, Wine, Wine" from the Nightcaps, that one sold a lot of records.


A Bob Kelly Production Recorded by Kelly at WRR Studio

I finally got to where I was doing so much recording that I actually needed a studio of my own-----so that is when I rented a place on Ross Avenue in Dallas and called it Top Ten Recording Studio. It was in the slums of Dallas, but the rent was cheap and the Hot Dogs across the street were greasy and super cheap. The perfect place for Musicians to record


Bobby Rambo at Top Ten Recording Dallas Texas


Jay Jerry Frank Kelly

Top Ten Studio.......... Early Expression?

Some of the more memorable people to record there, Scotty McKay, Arthur K. Adams, The Continentals, Gene Summers, Bobby Rambo, and many others. That is where I met the members of Expression (Jay Ramsey, Jerry Brown, Frank Cole and Kirby St. Romain), and we ended up going on the road together and keeping that band together until 1980. When Kenny Rogers was just the bass player with the Bobby Doyle Three, he wanted to do a demo of their group to send to Columbia Records but they didnt have any money, so I did their recording for free. They did get the recording contract. He became famous and I just kept recording.


...Kelly Frank Cole Jay Ramsey Jerry Brown

This is Expression at the time that the Bonus Cuts were recorded for the CD.

I wish this were a still from the Movie, The Demon from Devils Lake. It is not, however it is the suits that we wore in the Movie. This was one of thoes Saturday afternoon Gigs for a Car Dealership Grand Opening or something like that. It was not near as glamorous as the Movie.

The most fun that I had recording was with a Reverend that used to bring his whole congregation into my Studio. I would set up my Telefunken mike in the middle of the room and he would preach his sermon with the congregation in a circle around him. It was mostly singin, with the vocal answer parts from the congregation in harmony so it was quite spiritual and musical all at the same time. He used drums, bass, organ, and guitar for accompaniment and I never really figured out if he had a church or if he just rented the studio and let that be his services for the week. I enjoyed every minute that they were recording and that was every Sunday afternoon for about a year.?

This is about 1960, now, and I have my own Recording Studio, Top Ten Studio.

I also have my own BMI publishing company, Little Star Publishing Co. and my own Record Label, Libra Records. I have everything a musician needs, except a recording contract.

I’ve never been one to complain, so I just kept busy doing the things that I needed to do to make a living. I played bass with Scotty McKay when he had work. Sometimes, I would put together a band and we would be the "Back up Band" for anyone that came to Dallas who didn’t have a band, Wille Nelson or Dick Clark Caravan of Stars, etc. I also did Commercials, DJ voice over and/or modeling work and made a little extra money that way. I did plays, professional and repatory. I did movies (side kick to Tim Holt in the movie, "The Yesterday Machine"). I recorded with Expression two songs for the movie, "The Demon from Devils Lake", made in Dallas. I was actually making a living in Show Business and that is something that I never thought that I could do. I got a business degree from College thinking that I would have to work for a living and playing music would be my Hobby. Now what I call fun is making me a living.


This is the 1959 State Fair in Dallas.

I hired Scotty McKay (white shirt) to be the Headliner. I was the opening act and MC because WRR was producing the show. Thats Jay Ramsey (left) on Bass, Roger Bland (rear) on Drums and Bobby Rambo (next to Scotty) on Lead Guitar. I am just standing there with my back to the camera-----so I must just be enjoying the music-----my part of the show was already over. Actually this was Scotty’s Closer and I was getting ready to go out and make sure that they gave him an encore. He always saved "Whole Lotta Shakin" for his last big number.?


Kirby St. Romain Bob "Git it" Kelly Jesse Lopez Dee Kirkendall

This was one of thoes times where I put this group together. We played for dancing and then we were the back-up band for an unknown singer who had a record out called "Half a Man". His hair was crew cut, he wore a grey small lepal suit, and had a skinny black tie and played his own scrached up guitar.

Can’t guess who it was? Well, it was a much younger Willie Nelson.


"The Demon from Devils Lake" Movie Still


"The Yesterday Machine" Movie Still?

Well, an era is over, and it seems that there are about as many roads to travel as there are people to make the moves. Here are a couple of pictures that will give you a genenal idea of what, Bob "Git it" Kelly did with his life after Rockabilly. Very Briefly, I might say.

In 1964, Expression got a recording contract with Smash Records, distributed by Mercury Records, "Thrill" and "One plus One". We were getting some air play in the South but nothing great. We were ready for something to happen, even if the record didn’t do anything. So, all 5 of us quit our daytime jobs and decided to go on the road. We had been together for quite a while, anyway, and we knew that we would be able to adapt to just about any venue. Rock Concert, Boogie Bar, Country Club, or Dinner Show and Dance, it didn’t matter, we knew what we could do, and it would keep us working. We started out doing three or four original songs and the rest was cover material with some comedy mixed in for the Shows. It paid the bills and kept us working. Here is one of the Publicity shots from the middle 60’s.


Jerry Brown Kelly Kirby St. Romain Jay Ramsey Frank Cole

It didnt take us long to find out that without a hit record we could make twice as much money working the Nevada Lounges so thats where we headed.?


UA album cover, Never Released


Expression Voted Best Small Lounge Group 1979

Expression stayed together much longer than most groups, but that ever-elusive "Hit Record" just wasn’t in the cards for us. We finally broke up (We are all still the best of Friends) and I continued with a 6 piece group with Kirby St. Romains’ sister, Laura St. Romain. Pictured Below. It was time to go back to my roots, Country and Old Rock.


Kelly&The Kid Laura St. Romain 1985


One Man Band 2000

Starting in 1985, I bought a computer and learned how to do midi and I have just been as happy as a pig in slop. I can make my band sound any way that I want. This means that Iam able to do Country, Old Rock, Boogie Swing, and do it with authority. I have a steel guitar if I want it. A whole horn section if needed. Lots of full string sounds on ballads. Then, along with all this, I just play my Ovation acoustic and Sax and use my Harmonizer for background parts and sing my Heart out-----and the best part is-----the whole band shows up sober every night.

This is the cover for my Rockabilly CD that I produced myself from the old acetate disks that I had recorded from 1954 to 1959.?





Original Photo was Black and White.Thisphoto wastaken specifically for my trip to California to audition for the Art Linkletter Television Show in June, 1957. I passed the audition and was scheduled to be on the show on Sep.10, but the show was cancelled on Sep. 1st. Typical Show Business Story----but true.

. 57ColorAlbum312.jpg

My Father had the original cropped put onto cardboard, and then he hand tinted it so it would look

like an album cover, and I would have a place to carry my acetate Demo Records while I was trying

to get a record contract.

Submitted: January 02, 2012

© Copyright 2023 Robert Kelly. All rights reserved.


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