Honored February 6, 1993. R.I.P.
Born the youngest of twelve children to the late Peter and Kate Kelly at Curries Ballymoe Co Galway. At age twelve started taking music lessons from Leo Bernie, and step dance lessons from Domnic O’Connor. At an early age he began playing with the Ivy Castle Dance Band and toured extensively in the west of Ireland. He emigrated to England to study at St. Richards College. While in college he was introduced to classical music and continued to play violin in the college orchestra.
Returning to Ireland in 1956 he joined the then popular “Premier Acres” showband. In 1958 Pete returned to Manchester registered at the Northern School of Music. He was accepted with the ballroom orchestra at the Sharrocks Royal Palais. In 1959 the orchestra did an extensive two week tour of Ireland under the name “The Skyliners.” Pete did not return to England after the tour, instead he set out for the new world and arrived in New York on October 24th 1959.
He served a two-year hitch in the U.S. army at Fort Dix New Jersey. Upon discharge he went to work for Chase Manhattan in their International accounts Dept. He joined the Irish Musicians Association where he met with the Murray brothers Pat and Michael. Together along with a few more musicians a Ceili Band was formed and was known as the “Shandon Airs.”
During the same year he started teaching a small number of students and formed the first ever junior Ceili bank to compete in the New York area. They became the forerunners of what would later become the renowned “Shannonairs”. With some encouragement from Jerry Mulvihill, Pete opened a music school in the Bronx. The number of students grew so rapidly that teaching music became like a full time job. The list of students from those early years, today reads like a who’s who in the field of Irish music and entertainment.
The Shannonairs were the first junior group of Irish American musicians to cross the Atlantic and bring their own interpretation of Irish music to the land of their forefathers. On June 17th 1976, on behalf of the Shannonairs, Pete accepted a Certificate of Merit in recognition of their outstanding contribution made to the City of New York during the 200th anniversary celebration of American Independence. Signed Abraham D. Beam Mayor of the City of New York. During the seventies and eighties Pete and the Shannonairs did several tours of Ireland and were well received wherever they entertained. The Shannonairs also recorded an album titled Let The Children Play.
In 1965 Pete married the lovely Anne White from Terenure Dublin. They are now the proud parents of six children, four girls and two boys. The oldest girl Deirdre is currently doing a tour of duty with the US Navy in Spain and will be married on Saturday Feb 13th. The entire Kelly clan will be flying out during the week for a Spain wedding. Second oldest Collete has taken after Dad and is currently teaching music in the Westchester school system. She is married to Joseph Gallante and last July made Pete and Ann proud grandparents of Joseph Michael. Moira the third eldest girl has become internationally known in the movie industry. She has played a leading role in the movie The Cutting Edge and just recently before Christmas 1992 along with Mom and Dad attended the Royal Premiere of the movie Chaplin where she plays two major parts. During the London trip Pete, Anne and Moira were introduced to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Tracey who is studying in Buffalo NY will graduate this May with degrees in nursing and social work. Peter Noel is currently studying at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Michael the youngest is a third year high school student and has been selected to represent his school district in the all State and all Eastern music competitions to be held in Springfield Mass. this coming March.
During his hectic career Pete found time to write the words and music for a complete album entitled Pete Kelly, The Man from Galway. During the sixties along with Paddy Reynolds and the late John Glynn, Pete performed on both the Ed Sullivan and Merv Griffin shows. Pete is currently conducting music classes a The Irish American Center Mineola and in the Woodlawn area of the Bronx. He resides with his wife Anne and son Michael in Ronkonkoma Long Island NY. Pete, we salute you as our inductee to The Comhaltas Hall of Fame for 1993.