Kelly Willis

Although the work of new traditionalist singer/songwriter Kelly Willis earned widespread critical acclaim, she found little in the way of comparable commercial success; her sound, a smart hybrid of country and rock, simply assimilated both musical styles too well to gain acceptance in either camp. Born in Oklahoma and raised in the Washington, D.C., area, she began performing in her boyfriend (and future husband) Mas Palermo's band at the age of 16. Her powerhouse vocals were so popular with club audiences that soon the group was renamed Kelly & the Fireballs in her honor. After Willis graduated high school, the band moved to Austin, Texas, only to break up six months later.