Born in Seattle, WA; wife: Susanne. Education: Graduated from Seattle Central Community College. Addresses: Record company--Camera Obscura, P.O. Box 5069, Burnley, VIC, Australia 3121 Phone: (+613) 94212715.
As both a soloist and a guitarist, vocalist, and primary songwriter of the Green Pajamas, the ever-prolific Jeff Kelly has excelled in the art of creating "superb" acid pop music, stated Rolling Stone's David Fricke. Nevertheless, Kelly's simple tales of unrequited love, everyday disappointments, nuns, vampires, and pleasant afternoon strolls failed to win a large audience. But Kelly, while disappointed, never really desired fame or the status of a rock star. The loyal following he did amass, including admirers overseas, proved enough to keep him writing and recording. Unlike so many musicians, Kelly enjoys receiving letters and e-mails from fans. "It sounds corny," he mused in an interview with Jud Cost of Magnet magazine, "but it's sort of heartwarming when I get letters from people in Europe, telling me they dig what I'm doing. It makes you want to keep on going. It makes it all worthwhile."
A native of Seattle, Washington, Kelly discovered psychedelic pop music at an early age. "When I was seven years old I became a total Beatles nut," he recalled to Cost. "The first time I heard Sgt. Pepper was through my older sister's bedroom door. She wouldn't let me come in because she was busy doing older sister important things. So I sat out in the hallway, listening to that album. She played it on a little aqua-colored plastic phonograph, with the speakers up to the wall. I remember noticing on 'When I'm 64' that the voices were on one side and the instruments on the other. And I began to love it."
Trying to imitate his heroes, Kelly drafted some neighborhood kids to form his own so-called band. They would mime to their favorite records using brooms decorated with paper to look like guitars, and came up with the name the Electric Garbage Cans after finding a toy electric guitar in a neighbor's garbage can. But it didn't take long for Kelly to beg his parents for the real instrument. Upon receiving his own guitar as a Christmas gift, Kelly enrolled in music lessons, though they were not meant to last long. "I took two lessons and quit. They were trying to get me to play 'Beautiful Brown Eyes,' and I had no patience for it."
Ultimately, Kelly's father, who had an f-hole Gibson guitar and liked the music of old country legends like Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb, taught him his first chords. Picking up the guitar with ease, he and his father would often perform songs like Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" at family gatherings. And by the age of 11, Kelly was penning his own compositions. Already prolific, he recorded hundreds of these songs with best friend Dan Gossard on a reel-to-reel tape deck that his parents had purchased for him.
Kelly continued to write and record throughout high school, and after earning his degree from Seattle Central Community College, he felt pretty certain about how he wanted to spend the rest of his life. While a member of a new-wave band called Larch, Kelly met kindred spirit Joe Ross at a party in 1983, where they struck up a conversation about the Beatles song "Rain." "There weren't a lot of people into that sort of stuff at the time," Ross recalled in an interview broadcast on 91.9 WNTI-FM out of Hackettstown, New Jersey, and available on the website of the British fanzine Ptolemaic Terrascope. "We made plans to get together. A bit later, Jeff called me up and said, 'I've got this new record. Listen to this.' And it was Rain Parade's 'Emergency Third Rail Power Trip.' That encapsulated what we were talking about with 'Rain.'"
Rain Parade, along with the Dream Syndicate, Green On Red, the Long Riders, and others, were part of what was known as the "paisley underground" scene in Los Angeles. These bands, too, drew from early-1960s British psychedelia. Dubbing themselves the Green Pajamas with Kelly on guitar and vocals, Ross on bass guitar and vocals, and Karl Wilhelm (who was enlisted by Ross) on drums, the group recorded their first full-length cassette, Summer Of Lust, under the auspices of the tiny local Green Monkey label in 1984. Soon thereafter, guitarist Steven Lawrence joined as a fourth member. The Green Pajamas proceeded to release a handful of singles, cassettes, and LPs until 1990, following the appearance of Ghosts Of Love.
By this time, Tom Dyer, the head of Green Monkey, had been forced to take a day job in addition to running his label, as had the members of the Green Pajamas in order to sustain the band. For the next several years, Kelly spent his time working, starting a family with his wife Susanne, and living a normal life. He occasionally played for close friends and family, all the while continuing to write and record songs. His work during this time appeared on two solo LPs, as well two cassette-only albums--Portugal released in 1990 and Private Electrical Storm released in 1992--for sale via mail order.
Then, in the mid 1990s, two other bands, Sister Psychic (also from Seattle) and Material Issue (out of Chicago), simultaneously covered the Green Pajamas' "Kim The Waitress." The Material Issue version even became a minor hit. Far from feeling unnerved, Kelly reacted with enthusiasm about the association. "As a songwriter, I loved having a song on the Billboard charts," he said to Parasol's Michael Roux. "Who wouldn't enjoy that? It was fun to hear their version. I don't feel aggravated by it. And then there was the check...."
A renewed interest in the Green Pajamas inspired the core members--Kelly, Ross, and Wilhelm--to resurrect the group with the "Song For Christina" single in 1994. In 1997, the Pennsylvania-based Get Hip label released a "best of" collection entitled Indian Summer, while the Australian label Camera Obscura offered to issue the band's new material. Unlike other import-only albums from American bands, the Green Pajamas' records remained priced competitively with domestic releases. Strung Behind The Sun, released in 1997, was the first collection of new Pajamas songs, and featured a new member, Eric Lichter on keyboards, percussion, and vocals. Subsequent albums included Strung Out, All Clues Lead To Meagan's Bed, and Seven Fathoms Down and Falling, which introduced new member and longtime friend Laura Weller on guitar and vocals.
In 2000, the Green Pajamas released Narcotic Kisses, a collection of 12 rare and unreleased tracks. That same year also saw the release of Kelly's Melancholy Sun: The Home/Solo Recordings of Jeff Kelly (1987-1997), a four-CD box set comprised of three tape releases, including Coffee In Nepal and Portugal, and a previously unissued album. Kelly continues to compose songs, both for himself and for the Green Pajamas.
"Jeff has always been prolific," Ross said of his bandmate in an interview with Worship Guitars. "In my mind, the function of the Green Pajamas has always been 'my presentation of Jeff.' When Jeff presents his work, it's his solo stuff. When I present what he does it is the Pajamas. When I met him he had already recorded hundreds of songs that he had written (and we were teenagers). I was inspired by him...."
Jeff Kelly's Career
Formed the Green Pajamas with Joe Ross, 1984; released Book Of Hours, 1987; released Summer of Lust with the band before it broke up, 1990; released solo albums Coffee In Nepal, 1990, and Ash Wednesday Rain, 1995; resurrected Green Pajamas with Indian Winter, 1997; released the Green Pajamas's All Clues Lead To Megan's Bed, 1999; released solo album Melancholy Sun and the Green Pajamas's Narcotic Kisses, 2000.
- Selected discography
- Coffee In Nepal , DiDi (Greece), 1991.
- Ash Wednesday Rain , Green Monkey, 1995.
- Melancholy Sun: The Home/Solo Recordings of Jeff Kelly (1987-1997) , Camera Obscura (Australia), 2000.
- Coffee In Nepal , Green Monkey, 1987.
- Portugal , Green Monkey, 1990.
- Green Pajamas
- "Kim The Waitress," Green Monkey, 1986; Bouncing (Germany), 1987.
- "End Of Love," Sound Effects (Sweden), 1988.
- "Sister Anne," Green Monkey, 1989.
- "Wedding Day," Freakbeat (U.K.), 1989.
- "Lovely Daughter," Unhinged (U.K.), 1990.
- "My Photographs," Ptolemaic Terrascope (U.K.), 1990.
- "Emily Grace," Ptolemaic Terrascope (U.K.), 1992.
- "Thinking Only Of You," GOAR, 1993.
- "Song For Christina," Endgame, 1994.
- "These Are The Best Times"/"Vampire Crush," Camera Obscura (Australia), 1999.
- Book Of Hours , Green Monkey, 1987.
- Ghosts Of Love , Green Monkey/Bomp!, 1990.
- Summer Of Lust , UBIK (U.K.), 1990.
- Indian Winter , Get Hip, 1997.
- Doctor Dragonfly , Camera Obscura (Australia), 1997.
- Strung Behind The Sun , Camera Obscura (Australia), 1997.
- Strung Out , Camera Obscura (Australia), 1998.
- All Clues Lead To Meagan's Bed , Camera Obscura (Australia), 1999.
- Seven Fathoms Down And Falling , Woronzow, 1999.
- Narcotic Kisses , Camera Obscura (Australia), 2000.
- Summer Of Lust , Green Monkey, 1984.
- Halloween , no label, 1984.
- Baroquen Hearts , Green Monkey, 1985.
- November , Green Monkey, 1988.
- Twenty Five , no label, 1991.
- Private Electrical Storm , Green Monkey, 1992.
- Monkey Business , Green Monkey, 1986.
- Splat Sampler , Splat, 1988.
- Time Will Show The Wiser , Bucket Full Of Brains (U.K.), 1989.
- The 4 Adventure , Guiding Light (Denmark), 1991.
- Destination Bomp! , Bomp!, 1994.
- Succour , Ptolemaic Terrascope, 1996.
- Serotonin Ronin , Camera Obscura (Australia), 1998.
- Magnet, April/May 1997.
- Rolling Stone, March 2, 2000.
- Camera Obscura, http://www.cameraobscura.com.au (December 21, 2000).
- The Green Pajamas, http://www.seapeace.org/bands/greenpajamas.html (December 21, 2000).
- Miscmedia, http://www.miscmedia.com (December 21, 2000).
- Parasol, http://www.parasol.com (December 21, 2000).
- Ptolemaic Terrascope, http://www.terrascope.org (December 21, 2000).
- Worship Guitars, http://www.worshipguitars.org (December 21, 2000).