A native of Sligo, Sandy Kelly, real name Philomena Ellis, put together her first cabaret group called Sandy Duskey and Easy Listenin’,consisting of the following band members: Sandy Kelly on vocals, Gerry Gallagher from Magic and the Kim Newport Band) on bass guitar. Gerry Feeney from Dee Leydon and The Powermen) on keyboards, and Ballysadare drummer Sean Savage. The band toured the North-West of Ireland and became an instant success.
Sandy, who took her stage name from her family which toured the English clubs as The Duskey Family, was quickly spotted by Ballina manager Tom Kelly, who offered her a spot with his band, The Fairways after the departure of their female vocalist Karen King.
Hawk Records immediately signed Sandy and the band to a contract and her first single was released, Come Back Billie Jo, a country number and a major departure for the more hard edged Fairways.
For the next two years, the band went by the name of Gary Street, Sandy Duskey and the Fairways, as time passed, Sandy‘s talent showed through, earning more fans for herself and the band.
Towards the end of the 1970’s, Tom Kelly brought Sandy‘s sister, Barbara into the band, along with her cousin from Wales, Nina, real name Marian and they became the Duskey Sisters and the Fairways.
The Duskey Sisters
With their continued success as the Duskey Sisters, the band soon dropped the use of the Fairways name and became know as just The Duskey Sisters, going on to take the ballroom scene by storm. Playing bass guitar in the band was Tom Kelly‘s brother, Michael, who was soon dating and who eventually married Sandy.
In 1981, The Duskey Sister’s got their first crack at Eurovision when they sang, Where Does That Love Come From in the Irish National Song Contest, coming third in the competition behind another trio of females called Sheeba.
The following year the band was again competing in the National Song Contest singing the Sally Keating song Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, with the band winning the contest and going on to represent Ireland in The Eurovision Song Contest .
The record went to number 12 in the Irish charts, but its success was short lived. Joining the girls for the contest, and subsequently on tour for a short time, was Danny Duskey, another of Sandy‘s cousins from Wales. Although they didn’t win at Eurovision, the success convinced Sandy that she had what it would take to make it internationally.
The Sandy Kelly Band
A serious road accident in 1983 put Sandy and the band off the road and although at the time, there was no immediate plan to change the band’s direction, Sandy took the break while she recovered to make the changes needed to move from pop to country music.
By the mid 1980’s, the ballroom scene in Ireland had been hit hard by discos and Sandy decided it was time to go back to her roots in cabaret and country music and to change to her married name, Sandy Kelly.
In early 1989, Sandy reluctantly recorded the Patsy Cline standard, Crazy. Reluctantly because at the time she was doing country rock and original material, and she “felt that Crazy belonged very much to Patsy Cline“. The record went on to be Number 13 in the Irish charts and became the country’s biggest selling record of 1989.
Since then Sandy has achieved international stardom, performing and touring with top artists like Johnny Cash and George Hamilton IV as well as touring Ireland with her own show and presenting her own radio programme on Sligo‘s Ocean FM.