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Rex Kelly

Not much is known about about this singer and guitarist who was one of a group of old-time music artists who recorded for the Paramount label in the early '30s, but cowboys like him. That's because in his recording of the classic cowboy and horse song "The Strawberry Roan," Rex Kelly fiddled with the original verses of Curley Fletcher a bit and has the cowboy come out on top, as in being able to ride the dang horse. (In many other versions of the song, the cowpoke is left lying in the dust). In the '30s, the Paramount label was casting its net far and wide, looking for interesting and authentic Americana talent. Kelly was located and recorded in the otherwise undistinguished location of Grafton, WI, and also recorded five other tracks, two of them also cowboy related. "Down by the Railroad Track" was another of his popular records that was not pulled out of the cowboy hat and he also recorded "Berry Picking Time" and "Susan Van Duzen." A singer of the same name who broadcast over a radio station out of Council Bluffs, IA, around the same time might have been the same man, but old-time music researchers are reluctant to lay all their chips down on that bet due to how common the name Rex Kelly is. This philosophy extends to the existence of another of the same name who was one of the co-writers and publishers of the song "Butterchup Lane" in the early '40s. Could be the same guy, but who knows? One of the recordings that was actually released by the Paramount Kelly was put out under the name of Bud Kelly, and while this is proof enough that Rex Kelly and Bud Kelly are the same early country singer, the additional nickname of "Bud" has not been a great deal of help in finding out further information about the man. The Kelly recording of "Strawberry Roan" was reissued by the John Edwards Memorial Foundation as part of the brilliant album Paramount Old Time Tunes: A Sampler From the Catalog of the Paramount Label, but in this case the song is much more famous than the singer. "The Strawberry Roan" was originally published by Fletcher in 1915, and the commercial exploitation of these sublime verses began a few years later when the author began publishing poetry collections that were sold at rodeos. One of the first major public performances of the poem as a song was in 1931 when Everett Cheetham, a cowboy singer from New Mexico, sang "The Strawberry Roan" as part of a New York stage play entitled Green Grow the Lilacs. However, the song was actually recorded for the first time in 1929 by the Arizona Wranglers. In 1931, Fletcher himself published a revised version of the ballad -- which is pretty much the material Kelly bases his version on -- in a new collection entitled Songs of the Sage. Cheetham apparently tried to get around giving Fletcher credit for the song's composition -- and it must be noted the former performer's surname is thus quite appropriate -- but the image of Fletcher, busted and broken down from a life of rodeo falls, ambling into a publisher's office with the song and pleading to make a deal so he could get something to eat, was not something that was going to slip away into the recesses of a busy publisher's mind. "Strawberry Roan" remains one of the few important cowboy songs from the turn of the 20th century in which authorship has been well-established. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Paramount Old Time Recordings - Disc A

Disc 1

1. C & O Whistle

2. Fox In The Mountains

3. Old Joe Clark

4. Kentucky Bootleggers

5. Cackling Hen

6. Cotton Mill Blues

7. Say Darling Won't You Love Me

8. Banjo Sam

9. Knocking Down Casey Jones

10. Been On The Job Too Long

11. The Old Bell Cow

12. Bile Them Cabbage Down

15. Chickens Don't Roost Too High For Me

16. Soldier's Joy

17. Show Me The Way To Go Home

18. Whoa Mule Whoa

19. When I Was Single My Pockets Did Jingle

20. Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane

21. The Knoxville Girl

22. Hatfield McCoy Feud

23. Tuck Me In

25. Midnight Serenade

Disc 2

1. The Marion Massacre

2. The North Carolina Textile Strike

3. Busted Bank Blues

4. Picture On The Wall

5. Got Drunk And Got Married

6. I Tickled Her Under The Chin

7. The Married Man

8. The Bluefield Murder

9. George Collins

10. Choctaw Beer Blues

11. Anuiant Et Bleu

12. Sara Jane

13. I Was Born 4,000 Years Ago

15. Broadway Blues

16. Log Cabin Blues

17. Down In Arkansas

18. When The Whipoorwill Is Whispering Goodnight

19. Only A Tramp

20. Six Feet Of Earth

21. Those Dark Eyes I Love So Well

22. Longing For Home

23. Down By The Railroad Track

24. Hen House Blues

25. Memphis Blues

Disc 3

7. There's A Treasure Up In Heaven

8. Room For Jesus

9. This World Is Not My Home

10. 'til We Meet Again

11. He Cometh

12. The Model Church - Part 1

13. The Model Church - Part 2

14. Little David Play On Your Harp

15. Jesus Is Getting Us Ready

16. I Will Tell A Wondrous Story

17. Two Little Children

18. I Shall Not Be Moved

19. Death Is No More Than A Dream

24. Glory, Glory, Glory, Glory To The Lamb

25. Give Me That Old Time Religion

Disc 4

1. Good Cocaine (Mama Don't Allow It)

2. A Pretty White Rose

4. Little Mamie

5. The Unfortunate Brakeman

6. Some Mother's Boy

7. Idaho Joe

8. Gambler's Blues

9. La Valse De La Ru Canal

10. Ma Mauvais Fille

11. Cousinne Lilly

12. Miserable

13. Valse De Gueydan

14. Upstairs

15. La Delaisser

17. I'm Going Crazy

18. Swinging In The Lane

19. Chicken Reel

20. Double Eagle March

21. My Little Girl

22. In The Good Old Summertime

23. Are You Angry With Me Darling

24. Julie Girl

25. Red Wing

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