A professional musician since 1975, Kelly has been a member of landmark groups Figgy Duff, The Wonderful Grand Band, The Plankerdown Band, Bristol’s Hope, Kelly Russell & The Planks and The Irish Descendants. Working closely for many years with legendary fiddlers Rufus Guinchard and Emile Benoit, learning, recording and documenting their unique music, Kelly has inherited genuine status as one of Newfoundland’s leading traditional music performers.
A prominent musical ambassador, Kelly has performed in such countries as England, Ireland, France, Sweden, Denmark, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Spain, the USA and all across Canada. His own record label, Pigeon Inlet Productions (est. 1979), has released well over 30 full length recordings on LP, Cassette and CD. Kelly has also taught fiddle to many students, several now successful performers themselves, and has visited many of the Province’s schools promoting an interest in Newfoundland culture with our youth. He has also been active in reviving the art of storytelling and recitation, inspired by his late father, Ted Russell (creator of The Chronicles of Uncle Mose – Tales from Pigeon Inlet).
In recent years, along with his wife and partner, Tonya Kearley, Kelly has brought his expertise in Nfld Music & Culture to the growing Tourism Industry in the Province with such popular events as Tunes and Tales, an evening of Newfoundland fiddle music & storytelling and Dance Up , introducing visitors and locals alike to the joys of old-fashioned Newfoundland folk dancing. A huge success in Trinity for many years, these events are now presented during the summer in the St. John’s area. (see “Performances” for current listings). He has published a 2 Volume Collection of NL fiddle music “Kelly Russell’s Collection”, over 500 tunes in musical notation
Kelly has been awarded the Nfld & Lab Arts Council Award for Music (1987), twice awarded the Tourism Industry Association Certificate of Recognition (1991 & 1997), the prestigious Marius Barbeau Award (1997) for his contribution to Canadian Folklore and the City of St. John’s Legend Award (1999). In March of 2010, Kelly was the first ever recipient of the “Tradition Bearer” designation from the Department of Tourism Historic Commemorations Program. In 2013 Kelly received the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal and is a member of The Order of Canada.