When it comes to rocksteady reggae of the late ‘60s Pat Kelly is sometimes a forgotten man, with the likes of Alton Ellis and Slim Smith stealing nearly all the accolades. This is something of an injustice as his beautiful falsetto voice is easily up there with the best and his standard of work is as good as any.
He was born in
Kingston in 1949 and after leaving school in 1966, went to Springfield, Massachusetts in the United States where he spent a year studying electronics before returning to . On his return he was invited to replace Slim Smith as the lead singer of The Techniques who were recording for Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle label. Kelly's falsetto voice was strongly influenced by the American Soul singer Sam Cooke and in combination with Winston Riley and Bruce Ruffin The Techniques easily maintained the success they had enjoyed with Smith. The first record they released with Kelly on lead was "You Don't Care", adapted from Curtis Mayfield's "You'll Want Me Back". The song spent six weeks at number one in the Jamaican singles chart, and was followed by further hits with "Queen Majesty", another Mayfield reworking ("Minstrel and Queen"), "My Girl", "Love Is Not a Gamble", "It's You I Love", and "Run Come Celebrate". Jamaica
In 1968, Kelly himself decided to go solo and moved to Bunny Lee. His debut for Lee was yet another Mayfield cover, "Little Boy Blue" which was followed by "How Long Will It Take" with this song becoming the biggest-selling Jamaican single of 1969. It was also the first Jamaican record to feature a string arrangement, which was overdubbed when it was released in the
on the Palmer Brothers' Unity label. UK
A Lee "Scratch" Perry-engineered album ‘Pat Kelley’ Sings was then hot on its heels and led to a £25,000 contract offer by Apple Records, which he was unable to accept due to existing contractual commitments.
Despite this commercial set back Kelly continued to record, having big hits for producer Phil Pratt in 1972 with "Soulful Love" and "Talk About Love", and returning to record with Duke Reid where he had another hit with a cover of John Denver's "Sunshine". As singing work dried up a bit He fell back on his earlier training to work as an engineer at Channel One Studio and worked on albums like Johnny Clarke’s ‘A Ruffer Version’ and ‘Rockers Time Now’ as well as Jah Woosh ‘Dreadlocks Affair’ and the dub album Morwell Unlimited Meet King Tubby's Dub Me.
In 1978 he moved to production, producing his own Youth and Youth album and co-producing John Holt's The Impressable John Holt (Disco Mix) with Holt the following year.
The late 1970s and early 1980s saw Kelly recording more regularly again, with albums like ‘One Man Stand’, ‘Cool Breezing’, ‘Wish It Would Rain’ and ‘One In A Million’.
The last new recording I can find from Kelly is ‘Jesus Is The Answer’ released in the
US in 1998 but although no new recordings are coming he is still active and recently performed with L.A Boss Reggae band The Revivers in San Francisco