- 03 May 20
At the end of the 1960s, he was widely regarded as the Irishman most likely to become a major superstar. In the end, it didn't happen on that level, but the Drogheda-born Jon Ledingham – he changed his name to Jonathan Kelly – released five albums and wrote songs for a number of serious international names...
Hot Press is sad to hear of the death of Jon Ledingham aka Jonathan Kelly.
Born in Drogheda in 1947, he was a student at Drogheda Grammar School, which the journalist Brian Trench also attended. He was keen on sports and was an excellent rugby player as well as one of the lynchpins of the school cricket team.
Jon Ledingham played guitar, harmonica and drums and was in a number of beat groups during his teens including a band called The Saracens. He was also a member of The Viceroys Showband.
In the latter half of the 1960s he was at the leading edge of the modern folk-rock movement in Ireland.
Performing originally under the name Jon Ledingham, he wrote his own songs and was often described earnestly as an "Irish Bob Dylan." He wore a peaked cap a la Dylan, to strengthen the connection.
While at college, he formed a band called The Boomerangs, which also included Brian Trench in the line-up. They recorded one single. Still known as Jon Ledingham, he toured America in the late 1960s, playing at festivals alongside legends like Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton and also at the famous folk club in The Bitter End in New York.
He was managed by Tom Costello in Ireland and released the single ‘Without An ‘E’’ b/w ’She’s Got Me’. A poster for a second single, ‘Love Is A Toy' was designed by another Irish musician and artist Tim Booth of psychedelic folk outfit, Dr. Strangely Strange, who were also coming through at the beginning of the 1970s. The B-side on that single ‘Mrs. Gilbert’ was described as a classic protest song, and it later appeared on his Parlophone debut album, Jonathan Kelly – which featured an incognito Eric Clapton on guitar.
Like almost every serious non-showband Irish singer of that era, Jonathan emigrated to London to pursue a career in music and changed his name to Jonathan Kelly. He released the single 'Make A Stranger A Friend’ in protest at the sectarian war breaking out in Northern Ireland, and the single featured a star-packed backing choir, including Peter Sellers, Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones, Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, Klaus Voorman of Manfred Mann and the Plastic Ono Band – and many more.
By accident, according to legend, he played the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1971, where he made a huge impact.
During his career, Jonathan Kelly played with Eric Clapton and Tim Staffell, and he was bassist with Humpy Bong, a band that also featured Colin Petersen, who had played drums with The Bee Gees. Petersen went on to manage Jonathan as a solo artist, and following his Parlophone/EMI debut, he released four albums via RCA Records, including Twice Around the Houses (1972), Wait Till They Change The Backdrop (1973), …Waiting On You (1974) and Two Days In Winter. As a result of the sterling work put in on Jonathan's behalf by his friend and manager, Gerald Sables, all of the albums are now available as digital downloads.
In 1973, he formed Jonathan Kelly’s Outside, with Snowy White (guitar) and Chas Jenkel (bass) among the members. Snowy White went on to play with Thin Lizzy and Chas Jenkel was central to the wonderful British funk of Ian Dury and the Blockheads. Led by Ledingham, this line-up made one album together, which was 1974’s ...Waiting On You.
Twice Around The Houses contained what is Jonathan Kelly’s best known song, ‘The Ballad of Cursed Anna’, but he had songs recorded by a number of other successful artists, including The Greenbeats, Mary Hopkins and The Tymes. Along the way, Jonathan rubbed shoulders with major stars, supporting the likes of David Bowie, Roxy Music and The Kinks and playing major TV shows like The Old Grey Whistle Test.
Mick O’Gorman of Mosco paid tribute to him as "the man who introduced me to the Irish music business, Donal Lunny, Christy et al., when I was at Trinity College, and for whom I worked for three years.” Mick O’Gorman has gone on to have a hugely successful career as a sound designer, with Riverdance among his major achievements.
Jon Ledingham stopped performing towards the end of the 1970s. He returned to the stage from 2004 to 2007, doing solo acoustic shows and released a number of albums, including Live 2005 and Some Demos. His death comes after a lengthy battle with illness.
A highly informative website, jonathankelly.co.uk, lovingly put together by Gerald Sables is packed with detailed information on Jonathan’s career and his music.
See also: cedarlounge.wordpress.com