Golfing stars from Columbia County are nothing new. A successful musician is a little out of the norm. Someone who is accomplished in both is a downright phenomenon.
Josh Kelley, a member of Lakeside High School's 1999 state championship golf team, now stands on the cusp of music stardom.
The 23-year-old former Martinez resident recently released his major-label debut, For the Ride Home, on Hollywood Records and has an adult-contemporary hit with the album's first single, Amazing.
"The guys from Hootie and the Blowfish are some pretty good friends of mine, so I'm playing in their charity golf tournament next year," Kelley said via telephone from his home studio in Oxford, Miss., where he has lived since he started college with a golf scholarship at the University of Mississippi.
"I still play a pretty good bit of golf when I have time," he said.
Former Lakeside High School student Josh Kelly has released his first CD as a singer-songwriter.
Kelley attributes growing up near Augusta for helping develop his golfing skills, but he also attributes the city for fostering his musical talents as well.
Kelley said he cut his musical teeth playing local clubs such as the Soul Bar, Red Lion Pub and The Firehouse as a 15-year-old guitarist for the now-defunct band Inside Blue, which also featured Pat Blanchard and Kelley's younger brother, Charles.
"I can't believe we were doing that. It was crazy. I was 15 playing in bars," Kelley said. "Growing up in Augusta I sort of developed this rock/blues style at an early age. By being allowed to play clubs and by the city not being huge, it allowed me to play those live shows at a young age and learn how to work a crowd. Augusta's influence was huge on me."
Kelley has since graduated from the nightclub scene and has opened shows for the Dave Matthews Band, Third Eye Blind and the Goo Goo Dolls.
Late-night television has embraced Kelley as well. In the past month, he has been featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn.
His next nationally-televised appearance will be Sept. 11 on The Wayne Brady Show, which airs locally on NBC affiliate WAGT (Channel 26) at 11 a.m.
"I'm having a wonderful time," Kelley said. "Last year I was in art class. Now, a year later, I have a top-10 single and a hit song, and I'm on a national tour. It's freaking me out."
For the Ride Home has sold nearly 40,000 copies since its June release and recently broke into the top 200 in album sales. It's an impressive feat for a debut artist.
The much-maligned Napster served as a conduit for Kelley's success. While in college studying graphic arts, Kelley would record songs as MP3s and upload it onto Napster. He would then seek out Napster users downloading music from artists similar to himself, such as Dave Matthews or James Taylor, and then send them his songs. One of those songs found its way to a Hollywood Records musical talent scout, who sought Kelley out and offered him a record deal.
"I got this deal last August on my first day back to school," Kelley said. "I got it on my own without a manager. They asked me if I could quit school. I talked about it with my parents and decided it to give it a shot with their support. I promised to finish it later. I was a good student with a good GPA, and I owe it to myself and my parents to finish."
His mom, Gail, who lives in Evans, and his dad, John, who lives in Augusta, played a major role in Kelley's desire to become a singer/songwriter.
"Me and my brothers have always played music together, and I started at age 10," he said. "I started golf at age 5. The days usually consisted of school, then golf, then dinner and then music. It was like an everyday cycle."
For more information on Kelley and his music, see his Web site at www.joshkelley.com.
Kelley will open up for Jewel at the North Charleston Coliseum in North Charleston, S.C., on Sept. 19 and Chastain Park Amphitheater in Atlanta on Sept. 20.
Tickets for the North Charleston show range from $30 to $40. Ticket prices range from $33.50 to $46.50 for the Atlanta concert and are available at TicketMaster outlets or online at www.ticketmaster.com.
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