Awesome man of God! In our third week of revival,and he's now a part of our church! We love the Ballinger family!!
I met Bill Ferris when I was an undergrad at Ole Miss.(Univ. of Mississippi, Oxford.) I had met James Son Thomas at the school because Mr. Ferris had made arrangements to get him there and he was staying in the professor's house just off campus..Dr. Ferris was himself traveling in Africa at the time. I did a quick interview with "Son" for the campus TV (WCBH) That night at the Hoka, Son Thomas was single handedly shaking the walls with his rocking style of guitar an vocal.. he had everyone in the place singing and clapping and stomping their feet. Well, I pulled out my harmonica ( The real reason this New York boy was in Mississippi..) i've been trying to learn the Delta blues style since I was 11 by listening to old Sunny Terry, Brownie McGee records. Son looked up from his guitar pointed a finger at me and then pointed his finger at the edge of the stage where he was sitting and I went up there and sat right where he said and the rest was magic ... Well, I still hadn't met Bill Ferris yet.. after the show I asked Mr. Thomas if I could carry his guitar for him. While we sat outside soaked in sweat from the house party I felt like I was baptized in the blues... This young lady pulled up in an old pick up truck I believe her name was Christina, Son said something to her and she asked me if I wanted to come with. I stayed on a couch at Mr. Ferris's house for the rest of the weekend .. the rest is history. Fast forward four years,, I got to play a couple 3 tunes with Taj Majal on stage at the Paul Green theater in Chapel Hill, NC.. oh and I played my harpoon with the band Pipe for a tune at the Cats Cradle.. who's front man Ron Liberti posted this article and shout out to the Amazing Bill Ferris who I did eventually meet when I was just a pup in Mississippi.. hoddy toddy ya'll.. -Chip Jupitor Crell
This is a great article. Well chosen words. Thanks.
I'm leaving this comment here so there is a place on the internet where my name appears with Jonathan Byrd and Leonard Podolak, two of the finest and old friends by this point. I hope to find this comment again randomly sometime in the 20's.
This record is "All Over the Place". I mean that in the best way possible.
Also, someone said they didn't know Kelly but knew "Kelly's wife..." For the record, Kelly was never married-to anyone at anytime. Just a clarification. Admittedly, the relationship that produced his son was the closest thing to a traditional family unit Kelly ever had, but he was never married.
I thought it best not to respond to comments here because I contributed to the piece by being interviewed. After reading a few comments, however, I'm "stimulated" enough to say some things.
First, Corbie Hill was doing his job. Because he never met Kelly doesn't disqualify him from writing an article about his last days. Do you think every reporter writing a posthumous article on Prince ever met him? Of course not, so don't look at this like it was a "personal" thing, few writers know personally their subject matter.
Second, Who is Kent Thomas? Kent Thomas is the guy who basically saved Kelly from eventual homelessness. Kelly was kicked out of his Apt., living in a really seedy, crime ridden, dangerous part of Raleigh and Kent took Kelly out of that situation and brought him to his place, rent free. Kent was the guy who stepped up and took Kelly into his own domicile and asked for nothing in return. He tried to help Kelly help himself, and for that I'm grateful, so to answer the question. Kent is the good guy who came along and helped a good guy in need. Kent is way more than that, naturally, but that is why he's my hero in this story.
Third, I agree with Jeff Dennis, I'd liked to have seen a different angle to the story. Believe me, I gave Corbie a lot of info, from funny stuff Kelly and I got into as well as more serious, somber moments that arise from almost 30 years of friendship. Yet there isn't room in any article to use everything every interview subject says. You see, writers have editors, and Corbie could have put some funny story I told him in there, only to have his editor remove it. It isn't just up to Corbie, so cut the guy some slack on that. But yeah, it would have been nice to have read more about Kelly's rise/success than not. Kelly was an incredible songwriter, obviously a huge vocal talent, but he wasn't Jesus, so I guess whomever made the call to angle the story the way they did simply felt the way they went was the way to go, and yeah, that I would have preferred to have been different. In Corbie's defense, he was writing the facts as they were given to him, and sadly, yes, most of the stuff you don't like reading about Kelly is 100% accurate and true, and that's how Kelly would want it. He didn't sugarcoat things and he did not suffer fools gladly.
Lastly, towards the end of his life, it appears Kelly "shifted" his set of friends from his long term, "known them forever" set to a new group of people a lot of his old friends didn't know. I think he had his reasons, and I don't think I need to explain my theories, it was Kelly's business. But it caused confusion in a lot of people's minds, I think it was not unlike when an animal goes off alone into the woods to die, I think life had forced Kelly to his knees, the betrayals (you know who you are, girl, shame on you). Add to that (over the previous years) the loss of his sister, dad, then the recent loss of the woman he loved most in the world, his mom, he'd just given up. To quote Paul Westerberg, "They say a man in pain will prepare to die." Whether Kelly did it knowingly or not, I've no idea, but I think he knew what he was doing. Kelly was a smart guy, that is all I can really say.
I love my friends, and I love Kelly to this day. If you are my friend, I love you, too. But today marks 3 years since I got the call from JD and my world was shattered. Clark McQueen texted right after. It was one of the worst days of my life. Yet it makes me angry to read "this story isn't true" or "Who is this Kent Thomas?" The story is true, I wish it weren't, Kelly did (just like we all do) create some of his own problems. That doesn't make him a bad person, though. It's not a negative thing to say "The guy was human." We all are flawed, we all have faults. The bigger picture for me is a lot of folks loved Kelly, including me, and Kelly loved a lot of people. I think the sad thing here is that Kelly probably couldn't see just how many people really loved him and wanted the best for him, it was just something he couldn't see. I wish he could have seen the outpouring of love for him over the last three years. I don't think it will stop anytime soon.
I also think it's a shame that no one acknowledges Kelly's daughter, Alexa, who is a mom now (making Kelly a grandfather at the time of his death. I don't even know if he knew she'd had a baby. Maybe having such a young grandson would have given him a little more incentive to live, I just don't know). Nothing against Elijah, who has grown up to be a fine young man from all reports. I just know Alexa is out there, had a relationship with Kelly but somehow falls under everyone's radar.
My apologies to anyone I may have upset by stating my case, apologies for the length and stay close to love wherever you find it.
Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
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