Kelly Keller, best known as proprietor and part-owner of New Orleans’ Circle Bar, died in her sleep on Saturday morning. A native of Eunice, Kelly attended LSU and lived in New Orleans during the 1980’s before moving to Boston. After several years in Boston she moved to New York, where she booked the now defunct Coney Island High nightclub. Kelly returned to New Orleans in the late 1990’s to open the Circle Bar.

Kelly’s contributions to the city’s music scene are immeasurable. As manager of the Circle, she helped nurture countless young local and national musicians by providing a small, intimate environment in which to play. As a music lover with impeccable taste, she helped rediscover scores of forgotten local legends such as Barbara Lynn and Classie Ballou, helping to give them the credit and appreciation they deserve. The Circle Bar is the kind of place where you can see a local punk act one night and Eddie Bo the next, and that consistent quality and diversity was entirely attributable to Kelly’s love and dedication to the music of this city. Her expertise in this field helped pave the way for events like the annual Ponderosa Stomp and this coming weekend’s “Tryin’ To Mess My Mind” show at the Rock ‘n Bowl.

Her death is a tragic loss to the city, but also a tragic loss to those of us who knew her personally. Her smiling face and warm personality were just a small indication of what a great person she was. She made such a hugely positive impact on the lives of so many people, and for this she never gave herself credit. She was passionate, sincere, and lived life to its fullest. We will never be the same.

A funeral is scheduled for tomorrow at 2 p.m. in Eunice.

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