Kelly “Mr. Chill” Hoppe is a Canadian musician who is well-known for his work with the Canadian rock/blues/reggae band, Big Sugar. He was jokingly given the nickname “Mr. Chill” by his bandmate, Gordie Johnson, in 1996, after deciding to give up drinking coffee. Hoppe played harmonica, saxophone, keyboards, and the melodica for Big Sugar from 1994 until his retirement from the band in May of 2017.
Kelly was born in Windsor, Ontario in 1954, one of five children born to the Hoppe family. Hoppe graduated from the University of Windsor in the mid-1970s with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications. After this, he worked as a news film editor for the local CBC station. He did this for about 8 years before deciding to pursue a career in music. Hoppe played in a few local bands in the 1980s, including The Dougalls (1981-86) and the Windsor Dukes (1986-1994). Gordie Johnson, who was also living in Windsor at the time, developed a friendship with Hoppe and briefly played bass for the Windsor Dukes before creating Big Sugar in Toronto in 1988.
Hoppe’s first fore into music was in high school where he learned to play the trumpet. However, he did not develop his passion for music until his adult years. In fact, he decided to learn the harmonica – the instrument for which he is most famous – at age 22 after hearing the work of American blues legend, Little Walter, for the first time. Unlike the trumpet, Hoppe felt a natural instinct for the harmonica, and over the years he has also mastered the saxophone and keyboards.
Hoppe recorded 6 studio albums and 1 live album with Big Sugar. The band has earned 2 platinum records (Hemi-Vision and Heated) and 2 Gold albums (Five Hundred Pounds and Brothers and Sisters, Are You Ready?). After many successful years together, Big Sugar briefly disbanded between 2004 and 2010. During this time, Hoppe formed a new group called Mr. Chill and the Witnesses. They recorded their debut album, “Cold Testament,” in 2007 at Windsor’s Sharktank Productions. Big Sugar reunited in 2010, and Hoppe resumed recording and touring with the band, which included a gig at Bluesfest Windsor on July 15, 2016.
Since 2014, Hoppe has been a member of the philanthropic Windsor group, The S’Aints, which features distinguished local musicians, The Tea Party’s Jeff Burrows and Leamington singer/songwriter Jody Raffoul. Sales from their musical recordings and annual Christmas concert are donated to local charities.
Hoppe and his wife, JoAnne, still live and work in Windsor.
Andrews, Coral. “Big Sugar’s Chill at the blues fest.” The Record (August 5, 2016).
Chen, Dalsen. “Mr. Chill has not time to live up to name.”Windsor Star (September 23, 2008).
Meeke, Bill. “Playin’ the blues keeps a certain local dance band hopping.” Windsor Week insert, Windsor Star (July 31, 1984): 17. (no link available).
Sharktank Productions. http://sharktankpro.com/
Shaw, Ted. “Holiday album and concert bring local musicians together.” Windsor Star (November 6, 2014).
Thompson, Carolyn. “Windsor rock group The S’Aints concert and CD fundraise for food banks.” Windsor Star (December 9, 2015).