Thursday, March 09, 2017


“That’s life,” Frank Sinatra swung. Who wrote that song? Kelly Gordon and Dean Kay. Never heard of them, did you? Gordon was not exactly your Tin Pan Alley denizen. Born in Frankfurt, Kentucky (November 19, 1932-August 1, 1981), he had some “teen idol” years in the early 60’s and then tried for some blue-eyed soul. His most famous song was first recorded by Marion Montgomery and O.C. Smith before Frank made it his own in 1966.

Back in 1962, he issued his first Mercury single, “I Can’t Face The Day” b/w his own composition, “I’m Goin' Home.” The following year, he wrote and recorded “A Phonograph Record,” which was arranged by Dave Gates. He was the title character in a “Burke’s Law” TV episode called “Who Killed Billy Jo?” He sang a song called “Tears, Tears” which you’ll find below.

The photo above is from that "Burke's Law" episode. It does look like he could be swingin' a version of "That's Life," but on the episode he played a teen idol. "Tears Tears" was the B-side to his “Let Me Tell Ya Jack.” Mercury thought enough of Kelly Gordon to have Shorty Rogers work as the arranger on both cuts. "Tears Tears" had a credit on the label: “as sung by KELLY GORDON in Four Star TV “Burke’s Law.” His last single for Mercury was “You’re a Star Now.”

In 1969, half a decade away from his Mercury teen-idol days, Kelly managed to get a deal with Capitol for an album called “Defunked.” It messed with country and blue-eyed soul. The single handed to disc jockeys was a cover version of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” b/w, yes, “That’s Life.” In the summer of 1969, Capitol released another single from the album, “Some Old Funky Blues Thang.”

And what Kelly Lee Gordon did in the 70’s…is not on record. Tears, tears. And for a guy to have written such a famous Sinatra song and be so unknown… “That’s Life.”

Kelly Gordon TEARS TEARS Instant download or listen on line, no ads, no pop-ups, no Zinfart password.


Rod said...

According to Wikipedia, Gordon's was the first recording of "He Ain't Heavy", not a cover. The Hollies and Neil Diamond subsequently covered the song and both had hits with it. As for kelly's later career, as a Capitoi A&R man he produced Bobbie Gentry's early recordings including "ode to Billie Joe". Bobbie also duetted with him on one track of his own album.

Bobbie's arranger, Jimmie Haskell, tells the rest of the story: "Kelly eventually fell in love with Bobbie and left his wife and kids in San Diego and moved in with her. After awhile, she got tired of him and kicked him out. A few years later she heard he was dying of cancer. Bobbie invited Kelly back to her spare house behind her house, and she took care of him until he died."

Ill folks and tears indeed.

Ill Folks said...

Thanks, Rod!

The good thing about blogs is they're sort of living fact-blobs, and information can be added (or subtracted or revised). That's what "comments" are for.

It looks like somebody might want to consider researching this guy for a book or a movie.