As the garage bands and DIY club tours of the ‘60s evolved into the massive, planet-spanning, arena-conquering tours of the ‘70s, road managers helped bands realize their rock ‘n’ roll dreams, and few were better at their job than Robert “Kelly” Kelleher. Born in West Roxbury in 1947, Kelleher’s musical journey began with him manning the kit for Mattapan-based rockers the Yankee Clippers, though he ultimately found his calling behind the scenes. After a late-‘60s stint as Ultimate Spinach’s road manager, he hooked up in Providence with Skip Chernov and began working as a promoter rep (while also road managing for Swallow). In 1973, legendary Boston promoter Frank Connelly paired Kelleher with a hungry young rock band: Aerosmith. The ‘Smith’s tour manager, lighting director and bodyguard for the next five years, Kelleher handled all the transportation, promotion, equipment, and crew needs, letting the band focus on bringing their music to fans throughout New England, America, and ultimately, the world.
Kelleher has also popped up, Zelig-like, in numerous key moments in Boston rock history and beyond: serving as stage manager at Boston Garden for concerts by Led Zeppelin, Johnny Winter, and the MC5; working the stage crew at Woodstock for Quill; working as promoter rep for the Narragansett Beer Tribal Rock Festivals and for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Chicago, Frank Zappa, and Joe Cocker, among many others. Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, he continued to serve as a tour manager, for acts as varied as Anvil, Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam, and George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars.
(by Barbara A. Bellani and Stephen Haag)
Published on December 11, 2018