Kelly Harrell

Kelly Harrell

Kelly Harrell, 1889-1942

Kelly Harrell was a country music singer who wrote songs for more famous performers of his era, such as Jimmie Rodgers. Born in 1889 in Virginia, Kelly was a textile worker until he made his first recordings for Victor in 1925. His career was a victim of the stock market crash in 1929. The record industry was hit hard by the depression and Victor was unwilling to hire backup musicians for Kelly, who did not play an instrument and could not accompany himself. He died in 1942. Bob Dylan used the tune of Kelly’s song “John Johannah” as the basis of “Long Time Gone.”

The Recordings

My Horses Ain't Hungry

 record label Group: Kelly Harrell
Label: Victor Matrix Number: Victor (20103)
Record Type: Double sided 10 inch 78 RPM
Date Recorded: June 9, 1926
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Hand Me Down My Walking Cane

 record label Group: Kelly Harrell
Label: Victor Matrix Number: Victor (20103)
Record Type: Double sided 10 inch 78 RPM
Date Recorded: June 9, 1926
Listen:
Notes:

The label says this is a “Mountaineer’s song,” but it was written by African-American James A. Bland in 1880. Kelly’s cover combines the sweetness of a southern summer with humorous lyrics like “If I die in Tennessee, If I die in Tennessee, oh if I die in Tennessee, just send me back by COD cuz all my sins are taken away.” He’s accompanied by some simple guitar playing and a fiddle. Wonderful recording. Don’t miss this one.

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