Mike Kelly, the lead singer for the Duprees from 1964 to 1977, passed away on Tuesday, August 7 from complications of kidney failure. He was 68.
Kelly died at his home in Burlington, NC. The singer was born with only one kidney and had been battling renal disease for the last two years.
Kelly had music in his blood from a young age, starting his own vocal group while still in high school. The Vocal Teens opened doors for Mike and one of the people he got to know, Joseph “Joey Vann” Canzano, was the original lead singer for the Duprees. When Vann left the group for a short time in 1961, Kelly was brought in to sing lead, something he did on a number of demo records used to get the group a recording contract.
Unfortunately, before the group hit it big, Kelly left for a solo career and Vann returned to score hits with the Duprees on You Belong to Me, My Own True Love, Have You Heard and a number of others. By 1964 when Vann left the group again and Kelly was brought in as the permanent lead singer, the time of the group’s biggest success was past.
Kelly did stick with the group for the next 13 years as they tried to reinvent themselves for a new generation. While they never made it back to the top 40, they did find some success on the oldies circuit.
After leaving the group in 1977, Kelly quit the music business to work in industry.