Who Was Joe “Zippo” Kelley?

I’ve written about how Joe Kelley and I were friends in college and how I dropped out of site as he was tearing up the Boston punk scene. But I don’t think I’ve given you enough of a picture of who he was.

To help me do that, I reached out to some friends. I’m especially happy that I got two members of Pop Gun to share some memories, because their music was part of that wider array of hard rock I depended on to maintain my sanity back in the day.

First, some mood music in the form of vintage Neighborhoods, one of Boston’s great bands, who will play Saturday’s benefit show for Joe:

Now for some memories:

Greg Walsh, drummer for Pop Gun and Zippo Raid, who once worked with the author in a dingy little weekly newspaper office in Marblehead:

“When Zippo Raid first started out I was studying a lot of the drummers we played with because I really needed to get up to speed – so to speak – with punk rock drumming. I was seeing what worked and didn’t work – and what I noticed was a lot of bands did breakdowns where they’d be playing fast and then suddenly cut the tempo in half – it was like pushing moshers off a cliff and they gladly went along for the ride. 

“So I begged Joe to find some spots in our songs for breakdowns, but anything we tried sounded forced and honestly kind of trite, and we took pride in not doing punk rock “by the numbers.”

“Then one day Joe came to rehearsal and said he wrote a song with breakdowns in it – called “Work.” But we always referred to it as “The Breakdown Song.”

“I have a recording of that rehearsal where he says he wrote that song for me. Probably just to shut me up, but the sentiment was still there.”

Harry Zarkades, singer and bassist for Pop Gun:
“Joe Kelley, when I first met him, was a DJ at WMWM Salem State College Radio 91.7 FM when Pop Gun was in it’s hey day. Well, if we ever had one.
“Anyhow, we used to goof around and play a version of Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever” for kicks (a song which we all secretly like but didn’t actually fit our musical motif). Se we decide to play it live in the studio at WMWM when we’re in there one day, and Joe, with his terrific sense of humor, decides to get revenge on us for playing it on his show. So we play about 10 Pop Gun songs and then, for a less than Grand Finale, we break into Cat Scratch. Joe is miffed, amused, but quickly acts. At the end of our show he tees up the actual Ted Nugent live recording of Cat Scratch complete with stadium crowd noise which he blares into the studio as we finish our tune.
“We were totally confused, but eventually got the joke. Joe was sitting in the booth very pleased with himself. The guy had a great sense of humor, like I said.
“I miss that most about him.”
Stu Ginsburg, owner, Platorum Entertainment, one of the planners for this Saturday’s benefit show:

“His first appearance  on WMWM was when he came back to school and found the radio station during my show. He rang the buzzer and asked me if I was f—ing his girlfriend, then he thought it was cool anad came back wth me a few times and became a DJ and so on.

“Prior to WMWM, he and his girlfriend were going to many Grateful Dead shows and other hippy events. Joe never played gutair at that time, but WMWM changed him into Joe Zippo. He was a rightous dude. I miss him.”

If anyone else wants to share a story, I’ll keep adding to this post.

In the meantime, be sure to attend the show Saturday night. Details here:

Earlier in the day there will be a memorial service. Details here:

Friends and family are welcome to the religious interment of Joseph Kelley Jr. A time for quiet prayer and meditation. We hope you can attend.

Saturday, January 15 · 12:00pm – 3:00pm

Grave side service with Rev. Msgr. Stanislaw Parfienczyk
Saturday at noon
57 Orne Street
Salem, MA 01970
plot #1198

Thanks to all those who helped me put this post together.


4 thoughts on “Who Was Joe “Zippo” Kelley?

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