Matt Kelly: Dropkick Murphys' Driving Force


Matt Kelly knew he wanted to play drums at the age of eight. His father Ed Kelly was the drummer for cult 1960’s Psych/Garage band ‘Pugsley Munion’. Ed had his kit set up in the living room for a rehearsal when Matt started hitting them...From that moment on he was hooked on drumming.

 For the next six years Matt studied with drummer/educator Don Kirby at the Music Box in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Encouraged by his father to practice every day, Matt was playing drums and percussion in the Leominster, Mass. High School, jazz, marching, and concert bands.

 Throughout those four years, he was also gigging regularly with well-known local groups - Dive, Bounce, and Get High. In 1997, Ken Casey of Dropkick Murphys asked Matt if he was interested in trying out for the group…Very soon after his audition Matt Kelly got the gig. He has been a member of DKM ever since.


Dropkick Murphys, who originally formed in 1996, have made a huge name for themselves with their well-known St. Patrick's Day concerts, and extensive touring. They have also performed for Red Sox and Bruins celebrations, and at Fenway Park when the Sox won the World Series.

Having been a Sox fan since childhood, Matt Kelly was in baseball heaven playing with DKM at Fenway. Just recently, Dropkick Murphys lead the 2018 Red Sox World Series Victory Parade through the cheering crowds of Boston’s tightly packed streets.

DKM @Red-Sox-Parade.jpg

Sox Manager Alex Cora said “we need this parade to be special... It’s for the greatest team in Red Sox history...We need a band to lead if off with a bang .!!!” We said “give us the ball coach ...put us on duck boat Number ONE - we wanna’ set the tone for the best parade in Boston history.” Alex Cora tossed us the ball and said: “Duck One is all yours boys, give em’ hell !!!”

-- Ken Casey

When director Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award winning film ‘The Departed’ premiered in 2006, Dropkick Murphys became overnight sensations. The platinum selling song "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" was featured on the soundtrack, introducing Dropkick’s music to an even larger global audience. Yet, they have always had a passionate, local grassroots following… Matt Kelly and the Dropkick Murphys call Boston, Massachusetts their home.


On August 25th 2018, The Dropkick Murphys rocked out the brand new MGM Grand Casino in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts. The outdoor weekend performance was a benefit concert for the Thomas J. Sullivan Foundation. Gunnery Sergeant Sullivan was killed on July 16, 2015 in a domestic terror attack while stationed at the Naval Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Springfield native Sullivan was attempting to save his fellow Marines when he was fatally shot during the assault.

When tickets for the benefit went on sale, the show sold out in two hours…All of the night’s proceeds were matched by Dropkick Murphys who were performing free of charge.

A table was also set up by the Sullivan family encouraging people to register for the 3rd annual Thomas J. Sullivan 5K run to further assist with the foundation’s mission.

Matt Kelly was really tearing it up that night kicking the band into overdrive. He has incredible power and feel, but never overplays… Always listening carefully - complimenting the music without being intrusive. Matt has mastered a wide variety of differing genre’s, and time signatures over the last twenty-one years. Matt’s "stylistically complex" and unique interpretations are executed perfectly throughout…He is the definition of a complete and total team player.

Dropkick Murphys played a mixture of new and old tunes, including most of their big hits. The audience danced and sang along non-stop for over two hours. Many of them were loyal fans from Boston who came to celebrate MGM’s opening night festivities. During the final encore, Dropkick Murphys invited the Sullivan family, and a large group of audience members onstage to party along… This has been a long-time tradition of DKM since the very beginning.


"It's very exciting to get to celebrate our friend's life and death in this city, and how wonderful it is for them to get this wonderful casino, and to be part of this exciting event tonight," said Carol Forward of Wilbraham, Mass.

According to his brother Joe Sullivan, co-owner of Nathan Bill’s Bar and Restaurant in Springfield, Mass…In its first year the foundation donated a check to Tommy’s alma mater Cathedral High School made out to the ‘Friends of the Panthers football program for 2015 – 2016. This was a fitting honor for Gunnery Sgt Sullivan since it helped the team out financially throughout the entire season.

The Sullivans have also partnered with ‘Habitat for Humanity’ to build 'Tommy's House' for a deserving military family. This unique collaboration is intended to honor Tommy's memory and generous spirit, according to members of the Sullivan family.

 "As a family, we are as usual humbled and proud," said Dianne Sullivan, Tommy's older sister. "Habitat is an amazing organization. We hope to have a ‘Tommy’s House’ in all 50 states, as veterans are everywhere."  

Opening up the show for Dropkick Murphys on August 25th 2018, were Flowers & Kain. Drummer Nate ‘Nasty’ Scott has been the backbone of New London Connecticut’s Flowers and Kain for over ten years. Nate meets the high demands of the group due to his incredible diversity in a wide range of styles. He has a ‘deep pocket’ with serious attitude behind every hit.

‘Nasty’ is a crowd pleaser who thrives on positive vibes from the audience He’s always watching for a cue from guitarist ‘Killah’ Kain, or bassist J. Varsity to keep the crowd moving with more extended solos. You will also hear Nate rapping his favorite verses with vocalist Bobby Flow while finding the perfect tempo to keep the tracks in line. The rhythmic duality between J. Varsity and Nate Scott show that they are indeed musical brothers. Nasty’s raw feel captivates an audience during every concert… B. Flow can stop a beat on a dime just to let the audience catch on to a poetic verse. Flowers & Kain are presently recording new originals at Sonalyst Studios in Waterford, Connecticut.

Matt Kelly’s Equipment Specifications

 SJC Custom Drums

Avedis Zildjian Cymbals

Pro-Mark 5A Shira Kashi Oak Sticks

Evans Drumheads

Snare – Genera Dry

Toms – G2 Clear

Bass Drum – EMAD Clear Batter

 Many thanks to Mike Ciprari of SJC Custom Drums for providing all of the specs on Matt Kelly’s equipment…

 “SJC Custom Drums craft high-quality drums based on your unique needs. From the sound, look and feel they can manufacture your dreams into reality… SJC Custom Drums is proud to have a collaborative culture, and willingness to push the limits”.

-- Mike Ciprari

 Matt's Kelly’s kit is:  8x12 rack, 14x14, 16x16 floors, 20x22 kick. He uses a few different snares but mostly 6.5x14. Emerald green acrylic, Custom wood badges, Hand wood burned Celtic symbols on claw style wood hoops

 Matt's European kit is:  8x12, 14x14, 16x16, 18x22 6 ply Maple toms - 8 ply Maple kick with a custom Black Oxide wrap, and chrome hardware


The Claddagh Fund

Dropkick Murphys charitable foundation ‘The Claddagh Fund’ was founded in 2009 by band frontman, Ken Casey. The Claddagh Fund honors the three attributes of the Claddagh Ring: Friendship, Love & Loyalty. Their mission is to raise money for the most underfunded non-profit organizations that support vulnerable populations in our communities.

For more information on The Claddagh Fund…

Please visit:

 Dropkick Murphys

Al Barr – lead vocals
Ken Casey – bass guitar, lead vocals
Matt Kelly – drums, bodhran, vocals
James Lynch – guitar, vocals
Lee Forshner – bagpipes, tin whistle
Tim Brennan – guitar, accordion, vocals
Jeff DaRosa – acoustic guitar, banjo, bouzouki, keyboard, mandolin, whistle, vocals.



Dropkick Murphys Discography

 Do or Die - 1998 
The Gang's All Here – 1999

Mob Mentality - 2000
Sing Loud, Sing Proud! – 2001

Live on St. Patrick’s Day From Boston, MA - 2002
Blackout - 2003 
The Warrior's Code - 2005 
The Meanest of Times – 2007

Live On Landsdowne - 2010 
Going Out In Style – 2011

Live at Fenway – 2012

Signed and Sealed in Blood – 2013

11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory - 2017


Dropkick Murphys Official Site

Follow Dropkick Murphys on Facebook

 Video - I'm Shipping Up To Boston - Dropkick Murphys

This story is dedicated to U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Thomas J. Sullivan and his family. Tommy made the ultimate sacrifice for his country… He will never be forgotten.

 As an Iraq combat veteran, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan received three Purple Hearts, including one posthumous medal for the Chattanooga attack. Tommy also earned the Good Conduct Medal (4), Combat Action Ribbon (1), Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal (1), Korean Defense Service Medal (1), Recruiting Ribbon (1), Iraq Campaign Medal (2), Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (5), Armed Forces Service Medal (1), Humanitarian Service Medal (1), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal (1), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal (1) and the National Defense Service Medal (1).

 GySgt Thomas Sullivan Memorial Page on Facebook


By Cpl. J. Gage Karwick, Marine Corps Forces Reserves

July 29, 2015

 “I would like to thank Dropkick Murphys and their management team for honoring all of my requests… Backstage Pass - Photo Pass, and a Copy Of The Set List... Wish it were always this easy to write an article.” - David Barsalou