January 18, 2017 – Mike Kellie – (Spooky Tooth, the Only Ones) was born on March 24, 1947 in Birmingham, England into a family with no musical background or inclination.. As a child, he showed an early interest in rhythm, practicing on a coal shuttle with hearth brushes to simulate a snare drum. In his teen years, he joined St. Michaels Youth Club band as a drummer. He later played at “The Track” at Tudor Grange Sports Centre in Solihull. On the basis of this work, he was invited by Brian “Monk” Ffinch to play with Wayne and the Beachcombers in Birmingham, which started his career as a professional musician.
In 1966, Kellie played in Birmingham in a band called the Locomotive with Chris Wood of Traffic, and later with the V.I.P.’s (later Art) in Carlisle.
Steve Winwood was ready to leave The Spencer Davis Group and I was in a band in Birmingham called The Locomotive with Chris Wood on tenor sax & flute. Chris, Steve & Jim Capaldi were forming Traffic at that time, around the latter part of 1966. The other band that Chris Blackwell, who managed the Spencer Davis Group, had was the VIP’s from Carlisle. They were a great rhythm and blues band and had come down to make it in London having conquered the North. Their drummer, Walter Johnson, missed his family and went back to Carlisle. Hence, in the office one day Steve suggested someone call me. I had a day job in a wood yard in Olton. I got a phone call from friend Paul Medcalf who said …“Steve wants to know if you’re interested in joining this band…” So I was off, next day, straight from New Street Station, with my drums, to Paddington. Met by VIP’s road manager, the legendary Albert Heaton I was driven to 155, Oxford Street where I met Mike Harrison and Greg Ridley. I met the rest of the band later that evening. The next day I was in Paris playing at Olympia with the VIP’s without any rehearsal!! We were bottom of the bill, Chris Blackwell had done this deal for the band to open a star studded variety fundraiser in aid of UNICEF. It was held at Paris Olympia & was televised worldwide, similar to the way ‘All You Need Is Love’ was done. The VIP’s had a single out in France on Fontana and we were over to promote it, a Joe Tex song called ‘I Wanna Be Free’. So I had no real rehearsal, just the journey over in the van. We did the TV show after I had phoned my mother from a Post Office in Paris earlier that day and said ‘Mum, look in the Radio Times, I think we’re on a TV thing tonight.’ The record became a big hit in France following that show.
Manager Chris Blackwell found a singer and organist from the New York Tymes band named Gary Wright, added him to the line-up of Art and launched the band Spooky Tooth with Kellie, Greg Ridley, Jimmy Henshaw, Keith Emerson, Luther Grosvenor and vocalist extraordinaire Mike Harrison.*
With Blackwell being more focused on his fledgling Island Records, and in spite of the band’s wide acceptance in America and the European mainland, Spooky Toothe declined quickly in the early 70s and Kellie joined French Elvis Johnny Hallyday‘s band for a summer tour of France in 1974, before forming The Only Ones in 1976 with Peter Perrett, Alan Mair and John Perry.
The Only Ones, possibly best known for the single “Another Girl, Another Planet”, recorded three albums for CBS, although over time, their catalogue has contained many compilations and other releases, which now outnumber their studio albums.
In February 1978, Johnny Thunders moved to London with his family, and began playing with a loose revue dubbed the Living Dead. Kellie became part of this floating line-up (that also included Perrett along with various Sex Pistols including Steve Jones and Paul Cook) and recorded Thunders’ So Alone album together with his signature song “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory”.
Following the Only Ones’ farewell in 1981 at London’s Lyceum, Kellie moved to the countryside north of Toronto, Canada, where he spent four years away from performing. He used this time to learn the piano and write songs.
Returning to Britain in 1985, Kellie spent several years hill farming in North Wales and Scotland where he became a shepherd. In 1999 Kellie reunited with Mike Harrison, Luther Grosvenor and Greg Ridley under the Spooky Tooth moniker. Together they released the Cross Purpose album.
In 2004, Kellie reunited with Mike Harrison and Gary Wright to play dates in Germany as another new incarnation of Spooky Tooth. The band later released the DVD Nomad Poets with live performances from Worpswede and Hamburg, Germany.
In 2007, the Only Ones reformed, touring the UK, Europe and Japan as well as performing on BBC TV’s Later… with Jools Holland.
In 2010, with the Only Ones undergoing another sabbatical, Kellie began recording his own collection of music which become his first solo album. Entitled Music from The Hidden, the album was produced by Kellie who also played drums, organ, bass and acoustic guitars, percussion and sang lead vocals. There are also contributions from Gordon Jackson (acoustic guitar), Finley Barker and Tony Kelsey (guitars), Steve Winwood (organ, mandolin and bass), Bill Hunt, Levi French and Tony Ariss (pianos), Rob Harrison (bass), Steve Gibbons (backing vocals) and Greg Platt Lake (guitar and vocals). The album was released in 2014.
Kellie was prominent among the musicians featured on the six-CD Jess Roden Anthology, presented by Hidden Masters. He contributed to the 2011 sessions for the Distractions re-union album, The End of the Pier, which was released on Occultation Records in 2012.
In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Kellie was besides a member of the rock bands the V.I.P.s, Spooky Tooth and the Only Ones, also a prolific session musician and worked with the Who on the film soundtrack of Tommy, Joe Cocker, Traffic, George Harrison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Peter Frampton, the Bee Gees’s Maurice Gibb, Gary Wright, Johnny Thunders, Luther Grosvenor, Neil Innes, Steve Gibbons, Chris Jagger, Nanette Workman, Sean Tyla, Jim Capaldi, Pat Travers and Andy Fraser.
Mike Kellie died on 18 January 2017 following a short illness at the age of 69.
*For a magnificent account of those early London rock days go to http://www.mikekellie.com/PT_1.htm
Another interesting interview about the early days of British rock is this Interview with Mike Kellie – Spooky Tooth