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Mike Kellie, Drummer for Spooky Tooth, Dies

Peter Noble, Getty Images
Peter Noble, Getty Images

Mike Kellie, who was a founder of both Spooky Tooth and the Only Ones and had a lengthy career as a session drummer, working with the likes of George Harrison, Peter Frampton and Traffic, died on Thursday, Jan. 18. He was 69.

The news came via the Facebook page of John Perry of the Only Ones. “We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of our friend and colleague Mike Kellie,” he wrote. “Kellie learned of his illness last summer but, characteristically, chose to keep the diagnosis private. We will post more, personal, appreciations in due course but for the moment we’ll recall the 40 years of music-making we shared with him. A gentleman, a friend and a fine musician. Our thoughts are with his family.”

Born March 24, 1947 in Birmingham, England, Kellie said in a 2013 interview that he “was always fascinated by drums” and began playing them around the age of 14. He tooled around with various local bands, including one called the Locomotive, which featured Chris Wood on saxophone and flute. When Wood left to form Traffic with Steve Winwood, they recommended Kellie to a London band called the V.I.P.s that briefly contained Keith Emerson. His departure prompted them to change their named to Art, and they released Supernatural Fairy Tales in 1967. The arrival of Gary Wright, who later had success with “Dream Weaver,” that October led to another name change, and Spooky Tooth was born.

Spooky Tooth broke up in 1970 after four records with that name. Around that time he began establishing himself as a session drummer, appearing on the debut albums by Joe Cocker, Peter Frampton and Splinter, a group produced by George Harrison. He also played on the soundtrack to the film adaptation of the Who’s Tommy and Traffic’s The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. He rejoined Spooky Tooth in 1973 for a couple of years, a stint that brought future Foreigner star Mick Jones into the fold.

In 1976, he hooked up with a burgeoning punk band called the Only Ones, with whom he recorded the classic “Another Girl, Another Planet.” He admitted that it was an odd choice given his past. “I, and the bands I’d been in, were part of the problem,” he said in 2013. “I was from the generation that they were all hating and rebelling against. I had long hair, been in one of those bands, touring America and now I was purporting to be in a punk band!”

The Only Ones broke up in 1982, at which point Kellie lived in Toronto for a few years and spent a decade as a farmer in Wales. But music came calling again in the mid-‘90s, with another Spooky Tooth reunion and the Only Ones got back together in 2007. He released a solo album called Music From… The Hidden, on which he played nearly all the instruments and sang, in 2013.

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