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Harold Kelling


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ATLANTA: Harold Kelling, 60, guitarist, lyricist, artist


In the summer of 1969, Harold Kelling plugged his guitar into an electrical outlet of a Piedmont Park pavilion and let loose the tunes of the Hampton Grease Band.

Mr. Kelling was the musical and merging force behind the five-man Atlanta band that originally included Glenn Phillips, Bruce Hampton, Mike Rogers, Charlie Phillips and Mr. Kelling on his Mosrite electric guitar.

The Hampton Grease Band gained a reputation for their blues-rock music, strange and humorous lyrics and original sound. They played on the same playbill as major acts of the day --- the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Procol Harum, the Allman Brothers, Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, and B.B. King.

Hampton Grease Band's 1971 solo release, Music to Eat, on Columbia Records, was re-released in 1996. Mr. Kelling went on to play in several bands over four decades, including the Starving Braineaters, Creatures del Mar, and Masters of the Edge.

Harold Leonard Kelling, 60, of Atlanta, died Thursday of a heart attack. The body was cremated. The memorial service is today at 5 p.m. at Metropolitan Baptist Church, 4795 Peachtree Dunwoody Road N.E.

Born August 9, 1944, in Buffalo, N.Y., Mr. Kelling's family moved to Atlanta when he was 9. As a teenager, Mr. Kelling gravitated toward the music of the band The Ventures. In 1965, he started playing guitar at high school dances with his band, The IV of IX. They hauled their instruments around in an old hearse.

"When I think of Harold, I think of brilliant, blinding creativity," said Glenn Phillips, now on the road with The Glenn Phillips Band. "The band's music has been described as highly eclectic and influential. Our songs were long and involved and complicated. Harold was definitely responsible for the music of Hampton Grease Band. We were rank amateurs. He was already a gifted, talented musician."

Kelling was also known for writing lyrics and designing album cover artwork. In a mid-1990s interview looking back on the cult following of the Hampton Grease Band, Kelling said fans tended to overanalyze the words of the songs.

"Some people who hear the band have absurd ideas about the meaning of the lyrics, talking about 'psychedelicized multi-level innuendo' and 'mystical revelation.'

"Horsefeathers. Some of the lyrics are obviously lifted from printed material, but most of it was a tribute to friends, inside jokes and playful abstractions."

Despite his "on the edge" musical reputation, Kelling remained religious, said his brother, Bert Kelling, of Raleigh, N.C. "He stated to me a few years ago that all his music was Christian music because it came from his heart. And his heart was devoted to the Lord."

In addition to his brother, Kelling is survived by his son, Tarmon Kelling, of Atlanta, and a niece, Geneva Kelling of Raleigh, extended family and numerous friends. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to Metropolitan Baptist Church, 4795 Peachtree Dunwoody Road NE, Atlanta 30342.

> ON THE WEB: For band history:

© 2005 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on May 14, 2005
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