Considering that he played and recorded with one of the top bands of the 1960s and that he also played and recorded with a few other notable folk-rock musicians, relatively little is known about drummer Kevin Kelley. The cousin of the Byrds' Chris Hillman, he became the drummer for one of Los Angeles' first folk-rock bands, the Rising Sons, in the mid-'60s, replacing Ed Cassidy (who went on to Spirit). The Rising Sons were well-respected for their fusion of blues, folk, and rock, but only got to record one single before breaking up. About 20 tracks that they recorded in their brief lifespan (all including Kelley), however, were issued on CD in the early '90s.
Kelley was working in a men's clothing shop when he was asked to join the Byrds around the beginning of 1968. The Byrds, though still at their artistic peak, had recently been reduced to the duo of Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman with the firing of David Crosby and the firing/resignation of drummer Michael Clarke. Kelley was the drummer for the Byrds' 1968 country-rock album Sweetheart of the Rodeo, with a lineup including fellow new member Gram Parsons. He also toured with them in the U.S., Europe, and South Africa. Yet he was dismissed from the band in late 1968 to be replaced by Gene Parsons, shortly before Hillman left the band as well. Kelley did manage a few subsequent recording credits, with Fever Tree (though it's not clear whether he was a member of that band), on John Fahey's late-'60s album The Yellow Princess, and on Phil Ochs' 1970 live album, Gunfight at Carnegie Hall. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi