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Archive for Thursday, October 7, 1999

GUITARIST SPREADS ANTI-DRUG MESSAGE

October 7, 1999

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A Lawrence musician who was busted for selling drugs is turning his life around.

Guitarist Dan Kelly knows he's screwed up his life. But he's trying to turn that around.

In 1997, law enforcement officers raided his house and he was arrested for selling drugs. He pleaded to five charges -- two other charges were dropped. He received a 24-month sentence and spent six months in jail.

He's on probation now and will soon complete his court-ordered drug treatment program. He works as manager and sous chef at Teller's and is determined to be a good father to his three young daughters.

And he's telling his story to students at the Paseo Academy of the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Mo., through a program backed by Downbeat magazine; Pellom McDaniels, defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons and member of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities Coming Up Taller Initiative; and the Mutual Musicians Foundation in the 18th and Vine district in Kansas City, Mo.

On Sept. 28, his talk was taped by the University of Missouri-Kansas City and will be broadcast beginning in January on StarNet, a nonprofit satellite network funded by the state board of educations in North Carolina, Florida, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

An estimated 1,125 schools in 22 states will hear his 30-minute message, according to Tom Alexios, head of special projects for Downbeat. Kelly's talk is one of a series of success stories to be broadcast by the network.

"I just tell my story," the 29-year-old musician said. "I tell them, 'Do what you want, but I want you to know what will happen if you get mixed up in drugs.' I don't preach. I tell them how I lost feeling in my hands because of the needles, that it's something I never can have under control. That's one of the hardest things."

Kelly said he's been part of the Lawrence music scene since 1995. One band, Sugar Freek, broke up because of his involvement in drugs. After his release from jail and return to Lawrence, guitarist- friend Shane Murray asked him to play in his band. Kelly turned the offer down because he didn't feel like he was ready for it.

"On Feb. 1, he called again and I said yes," he said.

The band, called Truth, has played about 30 gigs in Lawrence and is recording a CD, "Conspiracy to Commit," at Lawrence's Mercy Record Studio. The CD is expected to be released in November.

Members of the band are Kelly, lead guitar; Murray, rhythm guitar; Dave Melody, drums; Rene Blake, vocals; and Randy Spangenberg, bass.

The band has made it a priority to do community service. Murray and Kelly are conducting guitar clinics, and Melody is doing drum clinics at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. Before Thanksgiving, they hope to be involved in a food drive with Kansas University's Canterbury House and the Jubilee Cafe, which serves the homeless.

"We're trying to do a lot for the community," he said. "Instead of talking about it, we're doing it."

Kelly, who began using drugs at age 15 and whose probation ends in May, says he's never felt freer.

"My life has changed drastically," he said. "I see the things I could have done a long time ago but I was too involved in drugs. I wasted a lot of years. "

"I have more meaning in my life now and something to look forward to. I have more heart; I have more soul. " I've had my chances and chances, and I almost blew it. I'm not going to blow it this time."

-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is jbiles@ljworld.com.

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