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Musicians Helping Musicians - Kirby Kelley Benefit Concert

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kelley. Apologies to John, Paul, George and Ringo, but the outpouring of love and affection for Kirby Kelley was Beatlesque in nature.

If an office worker becomes ill, they have health insurance through their company. If an athlete gets hurt, they get the best care money can buy. If a musician becomes ill, though, they quickly spend their life's savings and rely on family and friends. And friends came together in the form of a benefit concert to ease the burden of living expenses so Kirby and family could concentrate on his health.

Individual artists and groups banded together at the beautifully renovated Plaza Theater in Garland, TX, and performed a tremendous day of music for friends, but it morphed into so much more. It quickly turned into a tribute to the man who has meant so much to the musical community as a musician, teacher and mentor.

Grand Master of Ceremonies Jimmy Wallace emceed the event and put together a lineup that brought in not only people who knew and revered Kirby, but also fans of other musicians who bid on the many items up for auction. Guitars, pedals, T-shirts, posters and many more items, many signed by every participant at the benefit, raised even more money to go along with all the monies donated at the entrance.

A heartwarming story was that of Dr. Sidda, Kirby's oncologist, gets beat out in an auction for a guitar signed by Kelley and others. When he asked the winner what it would take to buy the guitar, the new owner paused and said, "1,000 dollars." Dr. Sidda, who has become good friends with Kirby, pulled $1,000 out of his pocket and quickly became the new owner and will prominently display it at his home. He also described how the oncology office lights up when Kirby enters the office with his upbeat personality and strength of character.

Music lovers came in at different times during the five-hour concert and enjoyed the music of whomever was playing at the time. Leading off was Guthrie Kennard, backed by Michelle Hubbard, Dave Johnsen, Shawn Phares, Junior Clark and co-organizer Mike "The Nitetrain" Arnold, who celebrated his birthday by playing drums half the day.

Jim Suhler and Monkeybeat came out next. Patrick Smith, Shawn Phares and Beau Chadwell were soon joined by Mike Morgan for a set of rocking blues. Guitar solos by Suhler and Morgan created a vibe in the venue and was punctuated by a finale of Elmore James' "Shake Your Moneymaker."

Wallace then brought out Paul Reed Smith of PRS Guitars, a long-time friend of Kelley. Smith told stories that both praised and embarrassed Kirby. This again told of the love so many people have for the musician and the person.

Wallace then brought out a small guitar army for the next set. Master shredders such as Tommy Katona, Arnie Newman, Paul Reed Smith, Andrew Sapulski and Wallace were joined by Mike Holmes, Danny Ross and Mike Arnold. Solos ruled the set by all the guitarists, bass keys and drums.

The next set consisted of long-time friends B'Nois King, Texas Slim, Junior Clark, Brett Reid along with drummer Linda Waring, bassist Dave Johnsen and keyboardist Johnny Marshall. They were joined mid-set by Kelley while King began a blues set and the rest kept it going for the remainder of their time.

Junior and the Journeymen included almost everyone who had ever been in the band. Kelley, Clark, Reid, Jerry Don Branch, Johnsen, Arnold and Marshall rocked their set. Kirby brought out five guitars and a double-neck lap steel. He looked and sounded great, smiled every minute and was truly appreciative of the benefit being held for him. Kelley finished the set with an amazing, tear-jerking performance of "Sleep Walk" and Wallace summed up Kirby with one phrase, "Kirby is an expression of God's gift to us."

Uber-talented Andy Timmons and his band then took the stage for the finale. Timmons talked about taking slide lessons from Kelley, but much of the time, they were life lessons. Bassist Mike Daane, who has been with ATB since 1988, and drummer Greg Beck laid down the beat as Andy played Jimi Hendrix and some instrumental originals before Kirby came back out with his lap steel. He and Andy played alternating and dual riffs to amaze the crowd and end the show.

The entire day was a benefit concert, but, again, a tribute to the man who means so much to so many people, both as a musician and as a person. If you want to give back to Kirby, there is an account set up at GoFundMe

Thanks to Jimmy Wallace and so many others for putting together this benefit for Kirby. Additional pictures by Don Henderson can be found at www.donhendersonphoto.com

Kirby Kelley
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Author: David Simers
Photographer: Don Henderson
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