Sunday, March 1, 2009
KELLY GROUCUTT - 1945 - 2009
A tip of the hat and a hearty thanks to Kelly Groucutt, who passed away February 19th at age 63. Groucutt was a bassist and singer in my #2 all-time favorite band, Electric Light Orchestra (second only to their progenitor, the Beatles). Groucutt was there for most of it, from 1975-82, which were the key, hit-making years where they hit their peak. Jeff Lynne - as producer, songwriter and lead singer - was the mastermind of ELO. The other members of ELO have never got much credit or accolade, perhaps unfairly. We may never know how much bandmates like Groucutt contributed to how the songs turned out. His vocals and harmonizing with Lynne certainly played an essential role, but I get the impression as a bassist he was treated more as a studio sideman under Lynne's direction. The place for the rest of the band to shine seems to be on tour, a marketing/revenue chore that Lynne hated, where their participation was indispensable.
Groucutt left the band in 1982, following a lawsuit he filed against Lynne for royalty payments. My knowledge of this won me a radio trivia contest as a teenager (though I can't remember what I won, and, yes, I was super cool even back then). With the help of other ELO bandmates, he released his lone solo album, 'Kelly', but didn't gain much of a following. ELO itself continued as a trio, but disbanded after 1986's 'Balance of Power' album. In the early '90s, ELO drummer & co-founder Bev Bevan formed Electric Light Orchestra Part II, blocked by Lynne from reforming with an unaltered name. Bevan began recruiting former bandmates. Groucutt was among them, later becoming something of the leader after Bevan left in '99. Lynne took back the ELO name for his 2001 album, Zoom, and a tour that was cancelled due to low interest. Groucutt and his 'Part II' compadres were not in this revamped ELO, so they carried on as The Orchestra. I saw them live in '01 after seeing their names on a roadside advert that read something like - The Orchestra, former members of ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA. Even though I'm a Jeff Lynne diehard, I think they sounded great, and I never objected to them carrying on a great musical legacy. So again, a big thanks to the late Kelly Groucutt for being part of the music that has meant so much to my life.
Here's a promo video for ELO's best song, "Mr. Blue Sky". Groucutt is to the left of Jeff Lynne.