If you are a fan of thrash metal, you have probably seen a “Kelly” body guitar in the hands of thrash metal masters such as Megadeth. Did you know that Kelly model is a heavily modified version of Gibson Explorer series? Kelly design has been around since the early ’80s and was popularized by actually Marty Friedman of Megadeth.
It was designed and named after Bradford Kelly, the guitarist of the band “Heaven” in the early ’80s. Jackson Kelly models have classic pointy Jackson headstock as well as it looks edgy and pointy in all terms. In this review, I’ll be talking about JS series Kelly models which definitely promises to give you the classic Jackson tone without busting your bank.
During my service in the musical instruments industry, I have played dozens of Jackson models as well as a lot of Kelly models with different options.
Let’s hear my first encounter with a Kelly. It was back in 2014 when I just started working in the industry.
This was a Jackson JS32T Kelly model with Satin Black colour option. Of course, I was playing Megadeth riffs! 😉
Recorded with a Rode VideoMic Pro and a Marshall AVT50 amp + an old Boss SD2.
In another review that I did for Jackson JS11 Dinky model, I mentioned that Jackson Guitars changed the body wood on Dinky models from basswood to poplar. When I have checked their website for Kelly models, I see the same change for Kelly series too. But the ones you are hearing on this page all have basswood body.
Even though, this body type is not for everyone I remember having sold dozens of them in a month which was really surprising.
So when we had more time, I decided to record the full video of another Kelly that we just sold. Let’s hear it in more details, but this time recorded with Marshall JVM205C valve amp + Shure SM57 microphone.
As you can hear, even on the clean channel of a valve amp it tends to break up a bit because of Jackson’s high-output pickups which make this guitar a natural-born metal axe!
Back in the day, I remember having had 3 colour options as Snow White, Satin Black and Viola Burst. However, I wasn’t able to find the Satin White version on the official Jackson website, probably discontinued.
I also had the chance to play and record its Floyd Rose bridge version which is Jackson JS32 Kelly w/FR. Since it’s completely identical with hard-tail version, you can just go to Jackson JS32 Kelly w/FR review page and have a look and hear the guitar.
|Body||Poplar or Basswood*|
|Radius||304.8mm to 406.4mm Compound Radius|
|Frets||24 Jumbo Frets|
|Pickups||2 Jackson High Output Humbucker|
|Bridge||Jackson TOM Style Bridge with String-Thru Body|
|Tuners||Jackson Sealed Die-Cast|
|Finishes||Snow White?, Satin Black, Viola Burst|
As I mentioned in my Jackson JS11 Dinky review, the build quality, details and even packaging at this price range is impossible to have with many other competitors. I literally had played dozens of Jackson Kelly models in a month and never bumped into a problematic one.
You will have a compound neck profile which gives you much better playability across the neck and a great resonant and aggressive sounding guitar.
As you have heard or seen in my review videos, I try to play lots of bits of music from different styles and I should warn you that Jacksons come with quite high-output pickups and I suggest you have a look for different options if you only want to play with cleanish, a bit overdriven tones. But if you are after aggressive sounds, especially for thrash metal genre, grab yourself a Jackson Kelly 32T today!