Passings: Kenny "Wally" Kelley, Last Original Member of the Manhattans (1943 - 2015)

The last surviving member from the original lineup of the Manhattans, Kenny "Wally" Kelley, died on Tuesday, February 17 at the age of 72. A cause of death was not announced.

An announcement was made by The National R&B Music Society:
It is with profound sadness that the National R&B Music Society announces the passing of Kenny "Wally" Kelley (born Kenneth Kelley January 9, 1941 in New Jersey), one of the founding members of The Manhattans. He recorded and performed with the group through all of their most productive years until leaving circa 1990 to pursue his PhD. He is a founding member of the NR&BMS and we were honored for him to attend our 4th Black Tie Gala and Awards Dinner this past September where we presented him with our Lifetime Achievement Award. ... Our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends and his extended Manhattans family, friends and fans alike. R.I.P.
Kelley's death comes just two months after two other members, Edward "Sonny" Bivins (12/3/14) and Winfred "Blue" Lovett (12/9/14).

The Manhattans were formed in 1962 in Jersey City, NJ by George "Smitty" Smith (died 1970), Richard "Ricky" Taylor (died 1987), Kelley, Bivins and Lovett. They released their first single, For the First Time, in 1964 on Carnival Records and they charted nationally the next year with I Wanna Be (Your Everything) (1965 / #68 Pop / #12 R&B). They followed later in the year with followed with Searchin' For My Baby (1965 / #20 R&B) and Follow Your Heart (1965 / #92 Pop / #20 R&B).

Three more top thirty R&B hits and a top twenty R&B album in 1966 further cemented the Manhattan's reputation. In late 1970, George Smith fell down a flight of stairs and his injuries forced him to leave the group. He was replaced by Gerald Alston, brother of the Shirelles' Shirley Alston-Reeves, who sang lead on most of the group's records throughout the decade.

After a short stint on DeLuxe, the Manhattans were signed to Columbia where they finally broke into the R&B top ten with One Life to Live (1972 / #3 R&B), There's No Me Without You (1973 / #43 Pop / #3 R&B), Don't Take Your Love (1974 / #37 Pop / #7 R&B) and Hurt (1975 / #97 Pop / #10 R&B).

In 1976, the Manhattans recorded a song written by Winfred Lovett called Kiss and Say Goodbye which would make them cross-genre stars. The song hit number 1 on the R&B chart and crossed over to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. They returned to similar heights four years later with Shining Star (1980 / #5 Pop / #4 R&B).

Kelley left the group in 1990 to return to college to get his PhD. He eventually became a biology teacher in the New Jersey public school system.


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Unknown said...

RIP Kenny.Our spirits were joined from day one.I will miss you but we know there is no disconnect in spirit.Your nurse and cheerleader.Debbie O. Northville, Mi

Anonymous said...

My heart is sadden to know that you have gone on....I pray that your legacy will live on forever...With Love your Personal Banker and Friend Ashley. St. Pauls NC....

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