Mark your calendar for special event honoring former area musician April 26

Guest commentary - Tony Callaio
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Wyoming Area alum Bill Kelly has been in the music business a very long time. So many people are familiar with his work with The Buoys, then Jerry Kelly, followed by Dakota.

Bill, who will turn 68 in June, grew up in West Wyoming in an area known to locals as Toy Town. He graduated from Wyoming Area in 1969. After graduation, his attention turned to playing music professionally when The Buoys were formed in the early 1970s.

The band played locally at just about every school gym like St. John’s on Williams Street in Pittston, the Hearthstone Pub in Dallas, bazaars, bars, proms and the West Pittston Armory.

The Buoys were comprised of Bill, Fran Brozena, Carl Siracuse, Chris Hanlon, and Bill’s best friend throughout the years Jerry Hludzik.

Eventually, the group met up with songwriter Rupert Holmes who penned “Timothy” as well as “Bloodnot,” The Prince of Thieves,” “Tomorrow,” “Absent Friend” and another hit by the band called “Give Up Your Guns.”

In 1971, “Timothy” went as high as No. 17 on the U.S. charts and, in the blink of an eye, Bill and his gang were on their way.

Bill was the lead singer for most of the band’s work, but was supported by Jerry Hludzik and the two, along with the rest of the band, created great harmonies. Jerry would also sing lead from time to time and that formula held true throughout their career and partnership together.

After The Buoys broke up, Bill and Jerry created The Jerry-Kelly Band and played for several years, only to rebrand and reboot with another manifestation called Dakota in 1980.

If anything has held true throughout Bill’s music career it’s that he and Jerry have remained partners. Those two were our version of Lennon and McCartney.

Under the Dakota moniker, Bill and Jerry toured the country as the opening act for rock band royalty, Queen.

After seven years as Dakota, they disbanded in 1987. Bill relocated to Nashville and Jerry to the Philadelphia area. Jerry did all he could to keep the Dakota name alive but it wasn’t the same without Bill’s voice.

From time to time, special reunions have taken place over the last few decades, but the most important reunion of them all will take place April 26. Jammin’ for Jerry – A Benefit Concert for Jerry Hludzik will take place at Genetti’s Grand Ballroom, Wilkes-Barre. Doors open at 7 p.m. Cost is $15 for advance tickets and $20 at the door.

Jerry, now 66, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years ago and has been out of the limelight. Bills have been mounting up for the Hludzik family and proceeds from the benefit with help defray medical costs.

“I’m sitting at my house and I had just gotten off the phone with Jerry and shed some tears and I said to my wife, ‘I just can’t sit here and watch my best friend just fade away,’” Bill said by phone. “I didn’t know what to do and I thought something musical would be the best thing to do.” Out of that came the idea of a concert to benefit Jerry.

Other bands participating and some reuniting for this special event are Stonebridge, Arc Angel, Strawberry Jam, Flaxy Morgan, Idol Kings, Daddy-O and the Sax Maniacs. Flaxy Morgan will be the house band playing with many of the guest artists.

Special guest will be Danny Seraphine, original drummer for the legendary group Chicago. According to Bill, Daddy-O will play a handful of Chicago tunes with Seraphine sitting in on drums.

Jerry will also perform along with his longtime sidekick Bill Kelly and his son Eli Hludzik. “Jerry has a tough time singing and he can’t play guitar anymore and we are going to let him participate as much as his mind lets him,” Bill said.

It’s going to be a special night, not only to help a good friend of Greater Pittston but also to hear so many other bands that have graced us over the years with incredible music. For further information or to buy tickets in advance, go to https://www.genetti.com/upcoming-events. If you’d like to contribute to Jerry’s Go Fund Me account, go to: https://www.gofundme.com/9a6pz-jerry-hludzik-medical-fund.

Bill said at the end of the night all the performers will be invited on stage to perform “Timothy” one last time. “It’s going to be special and I just want to see Jerry’s face, his smile; he doesn’t smile a lot these days and I want him to sing as much as he can,” Bill said.

Bill added this concert wouldn’t happen if it weren’t for Pittston’s Richie Kossuth of Rock Street Music, who is providing sound and lighting for the event.

Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating illness and we can only wish Jerry and his wife Annie the best.

In the meantime, I’ll soak up every musical note played at Genetti’s on April 26 and relive my yesteryear. I hope many of you can make it as well.

Jerry, Godspeed my friend.

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Guest commentary

Tony Callaio

Reach the Dallas Post newsroom at 570-991-6387 or by email at news@mydallaspost.com

Reach the Dallas Post newsroom at 570-991-6387 or by email at news@mydallaspost.com