|This biographical article relies too much on references to primary sources. (September 2008)|
He played in nightclubs in New York City in the late 1950s. By 1962, Bell decided to devote his energies to working as a studio musician both in New York and Los Angeles, California, developing a "watery" guitar sound popular in instrumental recordings in the 1960s. Although he only recorded occasionally under his own name, Bell left an indelible mark on hundreds of hit pop recordings. Vinnie played on Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York", for one. He also invented a number of electric guitar models, including the first electric 12-string guitar, and the electric sitar, using it on such hits as "Green Tambourine" by The Lemon Pipers, and the main theme from the 1970 film, Airport. The latter sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. It also won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition in 1971.
According to Joel Whitburn's Top R&B Singles 1942-1995, Bell was responsible for the 1959 instrumental, "The Clouds", credited to The Spacemen, written by Julius Dixson and released on Dixson's Alton record label. This reached #1 on the Billboard R&B chart, becoming the first #1 song on any chart released by an African-American owned independent record label. However, Bell's involvement in this record is uncertain, and other sources give the main performance credit to pianist, Sammy Benskin.
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- "Airport Love Theme" (US # 31, 1970; AC # 2, 1970)
- "Nikki" (1970) Did Not Chart
Sources: Billboard Top Pop Hits, Billboard Archives
With Clark Terry
- Mumbles (Mainstream, 1966)