Freda Kelly was secretary to Brian Epstein and the British rock band The Beatles from 1962 through 1972, and president of the group’s official fan club. Kelly worked with the band as it rose from local popularity to world-wide fame, and through its dissolution. A 2013 documentary, Good Ol’ Freda, chronicled Kelly’s ten-plus year association with the group and its members.
Kelly was born in Dublin to Irish parents. When she was 13, her family moved to Liverpool, where by the early 1960s she had found work as a typist. She became a fan of the Beatles after seeing them perform at the nearby Cavern Club, and soon became a devoted regular – by her own estimation, attending almost 200 of their shows, usually during her lunch break. The lunchtime shows were more casual than the evening performances, and in time Kelly struck up friendships with the members of the band. When Brian Epstein undertook the management of the group at the beginning of 1962, he asked Kelly – already a familiar face to Epstein and the band – if she wanted a job as his secretary. Kelly, 17 years old at the time, took the job against her father's advice.
One of her first tasks was organization of a Beatles Fan Club. Unwisely, she supplied her home address as the club’s mailing address, and her house was inundated with hundreds of letters every day. Later she changed the official address to that of Epstein’s office. Kelly was responsible for responding to fans’ letters, often staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning to do so. She was also oversaw publication of a monthly fan club magazine.
Kelly had almost daily contact with the Beatles in the band’s early days, when they would frequently visit Epstein’s office. Over time Kelly became a trusted confidante to each of the Beatles, who valued her hard work and discretion.
In 1965 Epstein moved his offices from Liverpool to London. Kelly wanted to move to London as well, but her father forbade it. Epstein and the Beatles, not wishing to lose her services, offered to let her continue her employment in Liverpool with visits to London a few days a month, which arrangement was acceptable to Kelly's father.
After Epstein's death in 1967, Kelly continued to work for the Beatles. She married and became a mother, but officially ended her work for the group only in 1972, and even then continued to respond to fan club mail for three years thereafter.
After leaving the Beatles’ employ, Kelly took other secretarial jobs. She resisted repeated offers to write a book about her experiences, gave away most of her Beatles memorabilia to fans in the mid-1970s, and rarely – if ever – spoke of her time with the band. Following the birth of her grandchild, however, she agreed to allow a documentary to be filmed, and turned to filmmaker and family friend Ryan White. At the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, they raised almost $60,000 for production costs.
Good Ol 'Freda premiered at the SXSW Film Festival 2013 in Austin, Texas. The title of the film comes from the 1963 Beatles’ Christmas album, a special record created each year by the group for its fan club members. On that recording George Harrison thanked Freda Kelly for her work, and the other three Beatles call out "Good old Freda!"
- “Good ‘Ol Freda” follows Dubliner’s ten years with the Beatles, IrishCentral, September 20, 2013
- The Beatles' trusted Freda Kelly was 'knocked out' the first time she saw them, Irish Mirror, November 8, 2015
- 'Good ol' Freda': The loyal Beatles secretary talks about life with the Fab Four for the first time in 50 years, Daily Mail, November 26, 2013
- Beatles' Secretary Recalls Madness of Early Days, Rolling Stone, Sept. 11, 2013
- PROFILE: Freda Kelly Executivesecretary.com, September 25, 2014
- Good Ol' Freda: the Beatles' secretary tells her story The Guardian, November 16, 2013
- Longtime Beatles secretary reminisces in ‘Good Ol’ Freda’, Washington Post, Sept. 19, 2013
- Beatles’ secretary Freda Kelly finally breaks her silence: Protecting John Lennon’s affairs, sleeping at Ringo Starr’s house, Foxnews.com, August 28, 2013
- Retracing a Long and Winding Road, New York Times, August 29, 2013
- The Beatles’ Secretary, Good Ol’ Freda, Breaks Silence in Exclusive SXSW Interview, Daily Beast, March 14 2013
Good Ol’ Freda official website