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Jon Ledingham becomes Jonathan Kelly

In the middle of 1968 Jonathan moved to London on the promise of new management to help in take his career forward. He was excited by the promises made to him, a possible album, gigs, ad media exposure, but it turned out not to be true, the circumstances are debatable but Jonathan believes he was conned with deliberate false promises and he found himself stranded and with no money. He eventually found himself singing for his keep in a London restaurant, spending the night sleeping on the kitchen floor trying to avoid a manic chef who would chase the staff with a meat cleaver.

One night whilst singing to the guests whilst they eat their meal, one of the customers asked him if he had written one of the songs himself, Jonathan said he had and he was asked if he had a manager, Jonathan said no. The couple in question were Colin and Joanne Petersen. Colin was a former child film star and drummer for the Bee Gees, his wife Joanne worked for the recently deceased Brian Epstein. They decided to manage Jonathan together and the first thing they did was to change his name to Jonathan Kelly which they thought sounded more Irish

Colin and Joanne set about grooming their new artist for possible stardom, but this didn’t always go down well with Jonathan who didn’t always care for the alterations to his image. But he knew Colin and Joanne had the experience of the music business in London that he required. They set about getting him press coverage and their office was in the same building as Spike Milligan who took a shine to Jonathan and helped him were he could, Jonathan appeared on a Spike Milligan radio show called ‘What The Dicken’s’ were Jonathan sang ‘Timothy Simpson’ a Christmas song he had written but never recorded. Jonathan also appeared in another of Spike’s show called ‘Oh In Colour’ this contains the only known surviving footage from Jonathan’s career in which Jonathan performs Mrs Gilbert.

In Early 1970 Jonathan released the single Denver/Son Jon on the Parlophone label, Although The Petersen’s worked hard publicising it, it wasn’t a hit, but Jonathan did make the front page of the NME

Jonathan’s next single wasn’t a solo release, but instead he appeared as part of a trio called Humpy Bong named after a school in Australia which Colin attended. The trio comprised of Jonathan, Colin Petersen and Tim Staffel who had been coaxed away from being a member of the group SMILE they had to find a new singer, a bright young lad called Freddie Mercury and they changed their name to QUEEN and disappeared with trace.

Jonathan makes pin up of the month in Jackie Magazine

Jonathan and Colin Petersen

From Left, Colin Petersen, Jonathan & Tim Staffell

Jonathan on TV just two of his several TV appearances on the left ‘Oh In Colour’ and on the Right an RTE Dana TV Special

Jonathan’s next release was ‘Make a stranger your friend’ this was a protest song aimed mainly at the troubles in Northern Ireland. It featured a celebrity choir and is thought to be the first record to do so, predating Band Aid by over ten years. Amongst the artists featured were Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, Mick Taylor, Klaus Voorman, Madeline Bell, Carl Wayne, Jackie Lomax and many more including it is reputed Robin Gibb, who been told by his management not to take part, in photographs there is a person covering their face with their hand, this is said to be robin. Robin also helped with the production of the single as he and Colin were good friends.

On Valentines day 1970 Jonathan wrote a letter to both Ian Paisley and Enoch Powell, urging them to use their power for good, to promote tolerance and love to  all mankind, although the message was certainly one Jonathan would endorse, he confided that it was actually Colin who wrote the letter as part of the publicity drive for the single. Jonathan said he got a reply from Ian Paisley…though he didn’t say what it was!”

Jonathan’s next single ‘Don’t You Believe It’ would turn out to be his most sought after single, mainly because Eric Clapton who was a friend of Colin Petersen played slide guitar on this track, which is actually one of Jonathan’s best releases. However again it failed to be the hit they were seeking.

In that same year, 1970, Parlophone released Jonathan’s first album, simply titled Jonathan Kelly it also included Jonathan’s two solo Parlophone singles, as a result it’s a rare album much sought after by Eric Clapton fans. It has never been officially released on CD, but there are unlicensed far eastern copies often found for sale on sites such as eBay

After this album wasn’t a commercial success Jonathan decided to go back to what he truly enjoyed, live audiences, he took to the road appearing in folk clubs all over the British isles. Cracks were already appearing in his relationship with his management  whose vision of how car rear should go and Jonathan’s vision were often very different, it was at this time that Jonathan started writing what was to become his classic album ‘Twice Around The Houses’ by the time that album would be released two years after his first album, Jonathan would build a large and lasting fan base and a reputation that many in the music industry feared, the usual response when an artist was asked if Jonathan could support them on a tour was “Not bloody likely, there's no way I’m following him onstage he’s too good!”

Jonathan at the Bay Horse Bentley near Doncaster Copyright Colin Hirst

With unknown friend

Gone are the suits and clean shaven look instead Jonathan embraced the full hip culture of the time, including drugs and as a result his appearance became much thinner, Jonathan said to me a few years ago “Didn’t I look a mess!” I replied, “actually we all thought you looked rather cool!”

Photographs copyright of Dick Derwent

In 1971 a friend of Jonathan’s attempted to get him on the bill of the Cambridge Folk Festival, however they were fully booked. Whilst watching the festival one act had serious PA problems and there was a delay, Jonathan’s friend Dave Stringer asked if Jonathan could fill in whilst they fixed the PA? They agreed and Jonathan was the sensation of the festival, with the crowd going wild and Jonathan having to come back for several encores. Just recently a tape containing the first few minutes of this legendary performance has surfaced

Jonathan’s appearance at this festival helped to secure Jonathan’s legend as a ‘Folkie’ however Jonathan was never that, his constant touring of the Folk Clubs was purely because there were no other suitable venues for a singer songwriter back then, Jonathan’s ideal music would be something like Bob Dylan’s lyrics set to Chuck Berry rhythms!

Jonathan’s fame was growing, up and down the country people were doing their own versions of Rainy Town and the Ballad of Cursed Anna and there was demand for a new album, so Jonathan went back into the studio to start recording his masterpiece ‘Twice Around The Houses’

Parlophone did not approve of Jonathan’s new musical direction which had longer tracks that were not as commercial, unlike his first album which featured short single length songs that had a much more pop feel, so Jonathan and his management decided to look for a new record company, they got very close to signing a deal with Warner Brothers, some journalist even announced he had, but this feel through at the last moment and Jonathan signed with RCA records.

Twice around the houses had a small budget and the front cover was a photo of Jonathan crossing a road in London at dusk, no fancy artwork, but the record itself was a masterpiece, including his most enduring songs, including ‘Sligo Fair’ Rainy Town’ ‘I used to know you’ and his most famous and enduring song ‘The Ballad of cursed Anna’ which he wrote after listening to Traffic’s ‘Forty Thousand Headmen’ as Jonathan described it “ I was blown away by that song and wanted to write something similar so I got myself into a mood and then sat down and started composing” By getting himself into a mood I’ll let you work out for yourself.

The press was full of Jonathan Kelly, he still appeared in folk clubs but now he was in demand and toured the country supporting many famous acts, he  also appeared on several TV shows including the Old Grey Whistle Test

RCA realised they had a great artist on their books and decided to invest more money in Jonathan’s Next Album, ‘Wait Till They Change The Backdrop’ It featured a piece of commissioned artwork by Ian Beck, Ian told me that after the album was released Elton John saw it in a record shop and asked Ian to produce the artwork for the cover of his album ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ Jonathan was backed on the album by many great musicians, but there was one who was uncredited and has been a secret, and that was Gary Moore who played guitar on what is probably the albums best track ‘Down On Me’ A song in response o some negative press coverage as well as his miserable time at school. It also featured another great song ‘Chains’ this song was a veiled swipe at his management and it greatly upset them. Jonathan felt chained and constrained by them and they in turn no doubt found Jonathan difficult to deal with, who was to blame? Well the truth is probably both and neither. However Jonathan’s increasing drug use was not helping.

A single was released to accompany the album, ‘Let The People Stay, backed with an old favourite that he sang in concert, ‘Mother Moon’ neither track has ever been released on an album and the single is well worth getting hold of as both tracks are superb.

A single ‘Madeleine’ was released from Twice Around The Houses and this proved to be Jonathan’s most successful single, but for some strange reason, they chose not to release ‘Cursed Anna’ as a single which is probably the biggest mistake they made, had they done so, Jonathan’s success may have been far greater.

Photos copyright Dick Derwent

Jonathan was now the headline act and took on a UK tour with his own band and with support from the Band Riff-Raff and an up and coming your singer called Joan Armatrading he appeared several times on radio and TV including a return spot on the Old Grey Whistle Test in May

Jonathan enjoyed having backing musicians although happy to play solo, having others to share the stage with you helps. Jonathan’s mix of musical friends were also opening up to new ideas and new musical influences and Jonathan’s next album was to be a radical departure. Up to this point Jonathan’s music had been described as Folk Rock, though there was far more depth to it than that, but this new album entitled ‘Waiting On You’ was under the name of Jonathan Kelly’s Outside, no longer a solo artist but now part of a band and what a band they were, comprising of Snowy White who went on to have his own successful solo career including a hit single and has played with many famous musicians and bands including Thin Lizzy & Pink Floyd. Chaz Jankel who later went on to be the driving force behind Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Trevor Williams of the band Audience and Dave Sheen

This was no ordinary band, all were great musicians, Dave Sheen was a great Jazz/Blues drummer, Snowy White was one of the finest Blues guitarists of all time, Trevor Williams of the band Audience who were an art rock band  and Chaz Jankel was innovative in his own unique style, together they fused all these elements into a unique sound that was well ahead of it’s time. The band album also had cutting edge lyrics such as the song Misery.

The band filled a creative need in Jonathan who wanted to explore new directions, however from a career point of view it wasn’t a good decision, Jonathan had spent his career up to this point as a Folk Rock balladeer and had worked hard to build up his fan base, now he was leaving most of them behind to go in another direction altogether, many of his admirers were confused by his new style of music, it would take many years before this Album would gain the reputation it deserved and be considered a classic album.

Only one good quality live recording is known to exist of this short lived band and that comes from a BBC in Concert show a performance which unfortunately Jonathan does not class as one of their best, but while the band lasted, Jonathan says they had a lot of fun and says all of them influenced him enormously. Later other musicians joined the band including Kuma Harada on Bass

Taken at the Centre Hotel 4th November 1974 Copyright Dave Lister and Jane Phillips

Liverpool Folk Festival

4th November 1974

London Roundhouse 1975 Copyright Dick Derwent

Onstage Circa 1975

By the end of 1975 Jonathan’s drug habits had taken their toll, he had lost weight and was in a bad shape, Outside had folded, and he had split from his girlfriend. Jonathan recorded one last album Many consider it a pal shadow of his former works but it’s actually Jonathan’s favourite, it does however have many good songs, one of the best is ‘One more kiss’ the last song on the album and Jonathan said he wrote it specifically for the purpose, it was his goodbye song.

The last photo from this period in Phoenix Park in Dublin, his old friend Tim Booth asked him to join a band called ‘Instant Whip’ It as short lived and only played the one gig, it featured Tim Booth (from Dr. Strangely Strange on Guitar & Vocals) Ed Deane (Guitar) and Steve Bullock (Bass, Flute & Sax) with Jonathan himself on Drums, Time was kind enough to supply me with two rare photos.

Jonathan’s career was over and his life looked likely to follow shortly, Jonathan said, My time was nearly up, it wasn’t going to be a matter of weeks, it was a matter of days, I didn’t expect to see the weekend. Then someone knocked on his door, it was a member of the Jehovah Witness, They got chatting and Jonathan liked what he had heard. He then visited a Kingdom Hall and was even more sure that he found found something that was missing from his life. He joined, got himself free from drugs and became an active member. It was whilst out visiting doorsteps that he was paired with a lovely lady called Alexis who he fell in love with and married, they had two children Jamie & Greg and they are now also proud grandparents. Jonathan found work in the music department of a large store in London, once trying to fend off a rep who wanted him to stock Twice Around The Houses with the words, I’m not a fan of his, Don’t like his music much.

A few years later Jonathan and his young family moved to North Wales were he started a carpet cleaning business which although only a small family run concern was quite successful. He also became active in the local Jehovah Witness community. He still wrote music, he couldn’t help himself, but few ever heard it. He did make occasional appearances at singers nights in the late 1970#s and 80’s but these were rare and eventually he stopped. He had found what he was looking for and that’s were the story would have ended if some nosy bloke from South Yorkshire hadn’t have poked his nose in!

After years or searching and with the aid of the Internet I finally managed to track Jonathan down with the help of Barry Cooper. Jonathan eventually got in touch and decided to visit the Rockingham Arms folk club near Rotherham to play a short set on a singers night as a thank you to me, he thoroughly enjoyed himself, it was his first time performing as Jonathan Kelly in many years, but he informed me it was a one off and he didn’t intend to return to performing.

Steve Womack, Jonathan and Gerald Sables

A short while afterwards my mother was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer, she was not expected to survive but after several gruelling operations she did and I organised a Charity concert to raise funds for Cancer Research at Sheffield’s Northern General hospital, Bob Chiswick who ran a local folk club was kind enough to offer to help and Steve Womack was originally intended to headline the event. I asked Jonathan if he might be willing to be a mystery guest, to my amazement he offered to headline the concert. Tickets sold out in hours and people even came from our seas, it was a wonderful occasion, Jonathan was support by Bob Chiswick, Chris Eusden and Jonathan’s son Greg and Jonathan’s old mate Guitar Mike Miller amongst others and many of those who attended later became good friends with Jonathan. The occasion was videoed and an audio recording was made from the mixing desk. Jonathan was on great form although obviously a bit rusty after years away from the stage and suffered badly from nerves prior to going onstage. But he was back!

Chris Eusden

Bob Chiswick

Greg Ledingham & Friend

After the concert Jonathan posed with fans and signed autographs

On the Left is myself and Jonathan relaxing after the Audience had left

Gerald Sables, Jonathan & Bob Chiswick

A few weeks Bob Chiswick & Gerald Sables presented  a cheque to Mr. Amin of Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital The final total with some late cheque's was £1442

Shortly after the charity concert it was decided to relocate the folk club to a new Venue, the SAL in Doncaster. Bob Chiswick suggested Jonathan as the opening act for the club, it would help the club plus put some need needed earnings into Jonathan’s pocket, Jonathan had so enjoyed himself at the Charity concert that he readily agreed.

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