An appreciation

Graeme Hunter Kelling was born in Paisley, brought up in Motherwell and attended The High School of Glasgow. His passion for music developed at an early age and he taught himself to play guitar while still at school.

I first met Graeme in the Ritz Bar in Glasgow in 1979, a meeting place for musicians close to The Hellfire Club studios where he and many of his peers wrote, rehearsed and recorded. On being introduced, I was completely bemused by someone who had the linguistic ability to be totally charming and utterly offensive at the same time. We instantly became friends.

Graeme's interest in the arts, politics and culture was fuelled by extensive travel throughout Europe with his parents and younger sister during school holidays, and he had only recently returned from working on a sheep ranch in New Zealand, a trip undertaken for the sheer adventure and to help him focus on his future. He began to immerse himself in the vibrant music scene in Glasgow at that time, earning a living in a variety of jobs, attending as many gigs as possible, writing for a fanzine and always playing guitar.

The post-punk explosion of music and bands in the early eighties provided Graeme with the opportunity to join his first band, Tune Cookies.

Over the next few years he gained experience as a session musician and developed an almost languid playing technique which was just part of his very cool style.

He played with a number of bands, including On a Clear Day, Precious, and The Painted Word before successfully auditioning for Deacon Blue in 1986.

The release of Deacon Blue's first album, Raintown, on CBS Records in 1987, and their first appearance on Top of the Pops were personal milestones, although he delighted in telling friends that his grandmother had suggested that the next time he appeared on TV a nice white shirt would be far smarter.

The success of Raintown and subsequent albums changed everything. Deacon Blue dominated his life during the next few years, with constant touring, recording and TV appearances and he spent most of his time away from Scotland, living in London and Manhattan in the late eighties and early nineties before returning to Glasgow permanently in 1992.

Any chance meeting with him could result in heated political debate, appreciation of his favourite new authors or lengthy ruminations as to whether S J Peploe was indeed the most talented of the Scottish Colourists. This was always with such a humorous undercurrent.

When Deacon Blue broke up in 1994 Graeme developed his creative talents further, writing, co-writing and producing theme music for television.

Unusually well-read in classic and contemporary literature, he had always written poetry, lyrics and prose for his own pleasure and now he combined his love of words and his love of food to write restaurant reviews for The List magazine, and contribute significantly to Peter Irvine's guide book, Scotland the Best.

In 1992 Graeme fell in love with radio & TV producer Julie Smith. They married in 1997 and Graeme's sheer joy at the birth of their first child, Alexander, in 1999 and his total devotion to Julie was evident; he spoke of little else but his new family and immersed himself completely in his role of husband and father.

This happiest of times was cut short when he was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas early in 2000. Successful surgery was followed by a long period of recovery and a short spell of remission during which he worked when possible, and played several dates with the re-formed Deacon Blue in 2001. A second child, Grace, was born in December 2002.

Graeme dealt with his illness with dignity, courage and characteristic dry humour. Friends will recall his passion for life, his sensitivity to others, his capacity to give and receive love and his devotion to his family, who brought him such joy.

Graeme Kelling is survived by his wife Julie and children Alexander and Grace, his parents and sister.