Matt Kelly – A Wing And A Prayer (1985)

frontcover1Matthew Kelly, also known as Matt Kelly, is an American musician, singer, and songwriter. He plays guitar and harmonica. Kelly is best known for being the leader of the rock band Kingfish, and for his association with Bob Weir and the Grateful Dead.

Matthew Kelly began his musical career in the late 1960s, playing harmonica with some well known blues artists, including Mel Brown, Champion Jack Dupree, Johnny Lee Hooker, and T-Bone Walker.

During this period, Kelly was also involved in the burgeoning rock music scene in the San Francisco Bay Area. He played electric guitar and harmonica in several different psychedelic rock bands, along with fellow South Bay musicians Dave Torbert and Chris Herold.

Subsequently, Kelly lived in England for a number of months, and was a member of the rock band Gospel Oak. Upon his return to California, he renewed his association with Dave Torbert, who was then playing bass in the New Riders of the Purple Sage. Kelly would also sometimes hang out with a boyhood friend of his, Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead. During this period Kelly occasionally performed as a guest musician with the New Riders or the Dead. He appeared on one track of the 1973 Dead album Wake of the Flood.

In 1973, Torbert left the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and he and Kelly formed the band Kingfish, along with Chris Herold, Robbie Hoddinott, and Mick Ward. In 1974, the Grateful Dead went on hiatus, and Weir became a full-time member of Kingfish, recording and performing with the band extensively. In 1976, the Dead started touring again, and Weir left Kingfish. Kingfish continued playing many live dates, occasionally with Weir in the lineup, and released several more albums. In 1978, Kelly played on a few tracks of the Grateful Dead album Shakedown Street. He also played on several songs at the December 31, 1978 Dead show that was later released on CD and DVD as The Closing of Winterland.

Kingfish, 1975

Kingfish disbanded, for a time, in 1980. In 1981, Kelly became one of the original members of Bob Weir’s band Bobby and the Midnites, and appeared on the band’s self-titled first album, along with Brent Mydland, Billy Cobham, Alphonso Johnson, and Bobby Cochran. In 1983, Dave Torbert died. The following year, Matt Kelly reformed Kingfish. From that time on, Kelly led a gradually evolving lineup of musicians, as Kingfish intermittently toured and released live albums. In 1987, Kelly also released a solo album, A Wing and a Prayer.

In 1995, Bob Weir formed a new band, Ratdog. Kelly was an original member of that band, along with Rob Wasserman and Jay Lane. Kelly played guitar and harmonica in Ratdog until 1998.

The intermittent existence of Kingfish, led by Matthew Kelly, continues to the present time. In 1999, the band released a studio album, Sundown on the Forest. They have also released a number of live albums of older material.Matthew Kelly, also known as Matt Kelly, is an American musician, singer, and songwriter. He plays guitar and harmonica. Kelly is best known for being the leader of the rock band Kingfish, and for his association with Bob Weir and the Grateful Dead.(by wikipedia)

I’d heard about Matthew Kelly for a number of years in the 70’s, and about sessions for an album under his name or something called Kingfish. But what really intrigued me was that I’d also heard that quite a few Bay Area musicians played on the album. Hmmm. The so-called album disappeared for several years until Relix finally released it in 1985 after Kelly and friends finished recording the remaining songs. First off, this isn’t some long lost, acid infused jam that was still fairly popular during this time-the 1970’s and from the Bay Area. It’s a batch of songs-some by Kelly and some covers-all of them with that vibe from the period, and cooperation from various Bay Area friends/musicians who wanted to play on the album.

The album actually began in 1973 as Kelly’s solo album with friends playing with him. Friends like Garcia, Mydland, Kreutzmann, Weir,and Godchaux from The Dead, a couple of people from New Riders of the Purple Sage (NRPS), Mike Bloomfield from Butterfield’s band, Jerry Miller from Moby Grape, John Cippollina from Quicksilver, Sam Clayton, Nicky Hopkins, and a few other vocalists and players. And from that batch of friends/musicians, the band Kingfish was born. Kelly’s solo album was put on hold.

mattkelly02If you like the first Kingfish album you’ll like this too. Kelly’s songs have that feel of the era, and along with some good covers (“Mona”, “I Got To Be Me”, “It Ain’t Easy”, “Next Time You See Me”) the band’s sound-a combination of The Dead and NRPS mostly-is worth hearing for fans of the bands mentioned and of that period in general. The music has the feel of whomever is playing on that particular tune-and with the caliber of musicians involved-that’s not a bad thing.

Aside from the synthesizer and drum track on the first song, this has the feel of a laid back batch of songs from San Fransisco. The vocals are handled by Kelly, Dave Torbert (NRPS), Bob Weir or Brent Mydland (The Dead), and Patti Cathcart on a couple of tunes. Throughout the album you’ll hear Garcia’s beautiful guitar playing, Jerry Miller’s solid rhythm guitar, Bloomfield’s sweet bluesy sound, and Kelly-who’s no slouch on the guitar or harmonica. Cathcart gets in some good gospel tinged vocals on a couple of songs.

Is this some long lost Bay Area treasure? Well, kind of. But only if you’re a deep fan of the above bands and that whole period of music. If you’re not, you won’t be impressed. The album takes a couple of hearings before it shows it’s true colors. I was listening to the first albums by Stoneground and Kingfish the other day, and Kelly’s album was sitting next to them. And after listening to “A Wing And A Prayer”, I listened to “Can You Pass The Acid Test?” 2 CD set (the first release), and it hit me. Kelly’s “Kingfish” solo album fits perfectly with those other artifacts from that whole period. Nothing stunningly vital, just some good music from some of the better musicians from the Bay Area when “sitting in” was cool. Check it out. If the price is reasonable you might want to grab a copy before it disappears. (by Stuart Jefferson)


Donny Baldwin (drums)
Mike Bloomfield (guitar)
Buddy Cage (pedal sttel-guitar)
Patti Cathcart (vocals)
John Cipollina (slide guitar)
Sam Clayton (percussion)
Bobby Cochran (guitar)
Jerry Garcia (guitar)
Keith Godchaux (piano)
Chris Herold (drums)
Robby Hoddinott
Nicky Hopkins (piano)
Jerry Martini (horns)
Jerry Miller (guitar)
Brent Mydland (vocals)
Matthew Kelly (guitar, vocals, harmonica)
Bill Kreutzmann (drums)
David Nelson (guitar)
Scott Quigley (guitar)
Dave Tobert (guitar, vocals)
Mick Ward (piano)
Bob Weir (vocals)


01. Eyes Of The Night (Flast) 2:42
02. Mona (McDaniel) 3.06
03. Dangerous Relations (Cutler/Kelly) 3.27
04. Over And Over (Mydland/Kelly) 3.38
05. Shining Dawn (Strange/Kelly/Eglit) 4.11
06. It Ain’t Easy (Baldry) 2.07
07. Ridin High (Cutler) 4.59
08. Next Time You See Me (Parker) 2.52
09. Mess Around (Ertegun) 2.52
10. Harpoon Magic (Cutler/Kelly) 1.38
11. If That’s The Way (Torbert) 3.44