Mandolinist Kelly Perdue, 45, died December 15 of a heart attack at his home in Albemarle County, VA. Kelly was involved with music throughout his life. His parents, well-known folklorists and performers, took him to his first jam session when he was three months old. When he was four, they introduced him to Rappahannock County bluesman John Jackson, beginning a friendship that would last 40 years. Kelly’s brothers, Marc, Marty, and his twin brother Kevin (who died in 1979) also became excellent musicians. Kelly’s jovial personality and clean picking won him many friends and admirers. Although known as a mandolinist, he also played guitar, banjo, and fiddle (an instrument he sometimes referred to as the “bowed mandolin.”) He was a major presence at old-time music festivals. Many a festival wanderer would find a warm welcome, good food, good music, and good company around the extensive Perdue camp site. Kelly’s playing had continued to grow ever more adventurous as his band, the Mando Mafia, gained new fans and explored new musical territory.
—Pete and Ellen Vigour
Kelly’s musicianship was amazing. He had an uncanny ability to nail a tune every time, even when he was playing fast. He’d say, “Let’s burn them ticks,” or, if someone else had started the tune at a slower pace, “Aw, c’mon, lets play that at Mt. Airy speed,” and then he’d play the tune hell-bent for leather, never flubbing a note, and everyone else would be hanging on for dear life. About the recording process he said, “I’ve got to do this, because who knows how long we’ll still be able to play this stuff”—another life lesson that he taught us. All of us will miss him terribly.
—Pete Marshall, Mando Mafia