Guitarist with the Scottish rock band Deacon Blue
Monday 14 June 2004
As guitarist and founding member of Deacon Blue, Graeme Kelling helped the Scottish band establish themselves in the British album charts at the tail-end of the Eighties and well into the Nineties. In April 1989, the six-piece group topped the listings with their second album,
When the World Knows Your Name, while the following year their
Four Bacharach and David Songs EP reached No 2 in the singles chart when the lead track, a cover of "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" - originally recorded by Dionne Warwick - received an incredible amount of airplay.
Graeme Kelling, guitarist and songwriter: born Paisley, Renfrewshire 4 April 1957; married (one son, one daughter); died Glasgow 10 June 2004.
As guitarist and founding member of Deacon Blue, Graeme Kelling helped the Scottish band establish themselves in the British album charts at the tail-end of the Eighties and well into the Nineties. In April 1989, the six-piece group topped the listings with their second album, When the World Knows Your Name, while the following year their Four Bacharach and David Songs EP reached No 2 in the singles chart when the lead track, a cover of "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" - originally recorded by Dionne Warwick - received an incredible amount of airplay.
Despite considerable investment from Sony Records, Deacon Blue never repeated their UK success overseas and broke up in April 1994 after releasing two Top Five albums, Fellow Hoodlums (1991) and Whatever You Say, Say Nothing (1993), and the No 1 collection Our Town: the greatest hits of Deacon Blue.
They reunited five years later for another compilation, Walking Back Home, and their fifth studio album, Homesick (2001), and remained a staple on British radio with oldies such as the earnest "Dignity", the anthemic "Real Gone Kid" and the rockier "Wages Day".
Born in Paisley in 1957, Kelling was raised according to the beliefs of the Brethren sect but turned away from their strict teachings in his teens. In 1984, he joined Dr Love, the Glasgow band led by the singer and songwriter Ricky Ross, who had secured a publishing deal with ATV Music on the proviso he formed a group to perform his compositions.
Inspired by "Deacon Blues", a track on Aja, the 1977 album by the American duo Steely Dan, the band - comprising Douglas Vipond (drums), James Prime (keyboards) and Ewan Vernal (bass) alongside Ross and Kelling - became Deacon Blue.
The quintet found its sound and style with the addition of the dynamic second vocalist Lorraine McIntosh to the line-up. Her ebullience and counterpoint vocal embellishments gave an extra dimension to their material and attracted the attention of Muff Winwood, the former Spencer Davis Group bassist who had become head of A&R at CBS Records in the UK and signed them to the label in 1985.
Mirroring Bruce Springsteen's blue-collar concerns and often reminiscent of Prefab Sprout, another CBS UK act using male and female vocal interplay, Deacon Blue felt at home on the major label and recorded their Raintown début album in six weeks flat with Jon Kelly producing. Despite support slots with Sandie Shaw and Lone Justice, the singles "Dignity", "Loaded" - co-written by Kelling with Ross and Prime - and "When Will You (Make My Telephone Ring)" failed to chart on their original release in 1987 but CBS showed how much they believed in the band by offering prospective buyers of Raintown their money back if they didn't like the album.
The ploy worked and word of mouth and a remix of "Dignity" by the American Bob Clearmountain, which made the Top Thirty in January 1988, enabled Deacon Blue to find an audience. CBS added to the momentum by offering Raintown with a bonus album gathering previous B-sides and Deacon Blue's début eventually spent over 18 months in the British charts.
Now firmly established as a top live attraction, the group knocked Madonna's Like a Prayer off the top spot in the UK with their 1989 album When the World Knows Your Name, which spawned five Top Thirty singles. Deacon Blue also played benefits for the Lockerbie aircrash disaster fund as well as campaigning against the poll tax and supporting the miners' strike.
For a while, the six-piece could do no wrong. In 1991, they masterminded The Tree and the Bird and the Fish and the Bell, a charity album featuring the likes of their fellow Scots Hue & Cry, Texas, Lloyd Cole and Eddi Reader. Deacon Blue also appeared in a William McIlvanney BBC TV play, Dreaming (1990), and, following the release of their third album, Fellow Hoodlums, toured Europe and ended the year with a triumphant gig at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall broadcast on Radio 1 on New Year's Eve 1991.
The swirling single "Your Town" produced by the Perfecto dance team of Steve Osborne and Paul Oakenfold signalled a change of direction for the 1993 album Whatever You Say, Say Nothing but, despite a big international push, its success remained confined to the British Isles and Deacon Blue split the following year. Graeme Kelling subsequently ran his own recording studio and wrote soundtrack and incidental music for film and television.
In May 1999, he rejoined the original line-up of the group, ostensibly for an event benefiting the Braendam Family House at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow which sold out in 90 minutes flat. Renewed interest led to Deacon Blue's touring and recording again.
Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer five years ago, Graeme Kelling showed a remarkable sense of humour, even joking that the disease which had made his weight dwindle to eight stone actually improved his rock-star looks.
A clean-cut and quiet musician, he only stepped out of the shadows to take a solo on the melancholy "Love and Regret" or play slide on "Love's Great Fears" but contributed a great deal to Deacon Blue's melodic sense and mass appeal.
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