The Red Kelly Collection is a special collection
of the Tacoma Public Library. Established in 2003, the collection
documents the career of jazz bassist, sometime politician and
jazz club owner Thomas ‘Red’ Kelly, and collects and
preserves materials related to his life and music.
Kelly’s story is part of a much bigger story — the
history of American music in the post-World War II years. In recounting
his story, the Library will also tell the story of the countless
musicians who found themselves playing ‘America’s
music’ in clubs in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Las
Vegas and other cities across the United States and Europe. This
portrait eloquently captures a time in our nation’s past
when Big Band music dominated the airwaves and concert halls.
In the 1950s when the raging popularity and sheer number of Big
Bands declined, these musicians changed with the times. Their
music reflected the influences of bebop, cool jazz, pop and rock
styles. They, like Red, found ways to keep the sounds of the Big
original material for the collection came from Tacoma jazzman
Thomas ‘Red’ Kelly and includes photographs, correspondence,
news clippings, scrapbooks, artwork, sound recordings, and ephemera.
This material is being augmented through the collection of oral
histories with Kelly’s contemporaries and through the addition
of photographs, music and ephemera from musicians who played with
Kelly throughout his career.
Acquiring the Red Kelly Collection was the first
step in creating a valuable archive for writers, researchers,
historians and our community. Here’s what happens
1. Preserve and document the images, recordings
and other material in the collection;
2. Expand the archive through oral histories, additional
photographs, recordings and related memorabilia;
3. Create a website that tells Red’s story
and the story of 'America's music' in the post-war years.. This
website will feature a searchable database of all the photographs
and other material in the collection. What you are viewing is
simply a promotional version of what will be a more comprehensive
and interactive site.
4. Design and create a major exhibit that uses
Red’s story to provide an overview of ‘America’s
music’ in the post-war years. The exhibit would be shown
locally and regionally. This is a long-term goal of the project.