Kelly Joe Phelps

Vancouver, Washington-based guitarist, singer, and songwriter Kelly Joe Phelps continues to expand the parameters of modern blues through his strong commitment to literary songs and his expressive yet simple guitar stylings. While casual listeners may call Phelps a bluesman, his playing is so fluid, dexterous, and improvised he obviously has the soul of a jazz musician. Phelps was raised in a music-loving household in Sumner, Washington, near Tacoma. The son of Seventh Day Adventist parents, Phelps' father was an air conditioning and refrigeration specialist and his mother worked as a housewife and Tupperware salesperson. "They didn't have a large record collection," he recalled in a 2000 interview, "but the influence from them musically was the fact that they played music, at home, almost daily." Phelps' parents didn't play music for religious reasons, but merely for emotional ones. Phelps' father played guitar, fiddle, piano, and harmonica while his mother played guitar and some banjo. His father liked country & western music, but also developed an ear for blues, and brought home albums by Meade "Lux" Lewis, Pete Johnson, and other boogie-woogie piano players. "I can remember being five or six and hearing him beat out these boogie-woogie tunes on piano," Phelps recalled.