Is the Trampled By Turtles song 'Kelly's Bar' inspired by a real place? It sure is


Kelly's Bar in Red Wing, Minnesota
Kelly's Tap House Bar & Grill in Red Wing, Minn., is referenced in the title and lyrics of Trampled By Turtles' song, "Kelly's Bar." (Luke Taylor | MPR)
Kelly's Tap House bartender Mitch Anderson talks about Trampled By Turtles' song "Kelly's Bar"
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At Kelly's Tap House in Red Wing, Minn., customers are gathering at the bar, securing seats in view of the televisions tuned to the evening's Twins game versus the Houston Astros. Looking at the caps and shirts worn by many of the customers and staff, it's clear the Minnesota Twins are a source of pride for the folks at Kelly's.

But now, there's also a song. "I've been getting phone calls left and right," says bartender Mitch Anderson. "Random people saying, 'Do you know you have a song, "Kelly's Bar"?'"

Watch Trampled by Turtles perform live at The Palace Theatre, Saturday, May 5 at 10 p.m. CDT.

On February 13 of this year, Trampled By Turtles dropped the single, "Kelly's Bar," as part of the announcement for their upcoming album, Life Is Good on the Open Road. The song "Kelly's Bar" opens with the lines:

I was sinking like a stone in Red Wing, Minnesota
At a bar called Kelly's right next to the train…

Kelly's Tap House is situated on West Old Main Street in Red Wing; gaze out the rear window of the restaurant, and the train tracks curl immediately past the establishment before the view widens out toward the Mississippi River and the adjacent bluffs. Mitch Anderson has no doubt as to the song's inspiration.

Anderson, whose parents own Kelly's Tap House, remembers Dave Simonett as a regular customer during the time Simonett lived in Red Wing. "He'd come down a couple nights a week," Anderson recalls. "He was really quiet; no one really knew who he was at first, then someone outed him as the singer for Trampled By Turtles. So then I was kind of like, 'You're a famous guy and you've been sitting here and you haven't even told us about that?' So I got to know him that way."

Bartender Mitch Anderson of Kelly's Bar in Red Wing
Bartender Mitch Anderson remembers Dave Simonett frequenting Kelly's in Red Wing. (Luke Taylor | MPR)

"Kelly's Bar" actually made an appearance on YouTube about a year before it ended up becoming a Trampled By Turtles release. "That was when it was from Dead Man Winter, so just Dave's solo act," Anderson says. "We'd play it down here for people, and people thought it was pretty cool. It didn't really take off until once [Simonett] got back with Trampled By Turtles."

Once released, the song caught fire — buoyed by the news Trampled By Turtles had got back together and were releasing new music. For Anderson and his coworkers at Kelly's Tap House, that's when the phone calls began. "I have a buddy that just called me about a week ago, he lives down in Alabama. He said 'I'm sitting at a bar right now and they're playing Kelly's Bar by Trampled by Turtles.' So I thought that was kind of cool. It's random people who like Trampled By Turtles, because they're a widely known band. The whole country knows about them."

Anderson says the regular customers at Kelly's think the song is "pretty awesome. They would love to hear [Simonett] down here singing it." The song has also brought in new business. "People have been coming in saying that they wanted eat at the place that Trampled By Turtles were singing about," Anderson says.

The last time Simonett performed in Red Wing was during the Big Turn Music Festival in mid-February; Simonett played a set at the St. James Hotel, but not before he stopped at Kelly's for a visit with his friend Mitch Anderson.

"I said, 'You couldn't say anything about your favorite bartender?'," Anderson laughs. "So he left me out of the song, but he said, 'Maybe in the sequel.'"


Kelly's Tap House Bar & Grill - official site

Trampled By Turtles - official site

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2 Photos

  • Kelly's Bar in Red Wing, Minnesota
    As the lyrics declare in the Trampled By Turtles' song, "Kelly's Bar," the establishment is indeed "right next to the train." (Luke Taylor | MPR)
  • Kelly's Bar in Red Wing, Minnesota
    Customers gather at Kelly's Tap House Bar & Grill in Red Wing, Minn., ahead of a Twins game telecast. (Luke Taylor | MPR)

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