Irene Kelley

Jul 19, 2019

Irene Kelley
Credit Now Playing Nashville

Muddy Bottom Blues

Program #181 (July 19 at 8:00pm and July 20 at 3:00pm)

Irene Kelley’s love for country music runs deep. She remembers hearing it for the first time in her dad’s basement TV repair workshop as a young girl. That music in her family home resonated in her soul, so when Irene started writing songs on her own, she already had a head start.

At 15, she began her journey as a professional musician in a rock band, but when she brought a Dolly Parton album to band rehearsal one day, she was fired on the spot. It was, perhaps, the best thing that could have happened to her.

Fast forward to 1981 when Jerry Williamson asked her to move to Huntington, West Virginia to join the bluegrass band Redwing. She found herself fronting the band as the lead singer and playing some pretty big festivals, not the least of which were Bill Monroe’s Bean Blossom and Tarheal Festivals and the Carter Family Homeplace in Bristol, Virginia.

Around the time she started her bluegrass career, Irene recalls being at Ralph Stanley’s Hills of Home Festival in McClure, Virginia, and hearing Larry Sparks sing “John Deere Tractor.” She recalls that it inspired her to use a pay phone at the festival site to call home.

She maintains that same excitement today and now shares it with her children. In fact, daughter Justyna just finished adding a harmony part to “Something About A Train Sound.” Justyna also lends her voice to “Bluegrass Radio” (along with co-writer, Jerry Salley). Both songs appear on the album, "Benny's TV Repair" on Mountain Fever Records.

(provided by Irene Kelley)