Carey Bell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Carey Bell
Carey Bell at the Long Beach Blues Festival, 2003
Background information
Birth name Carey Bell Harrington
Born (1936-11-14)November 14, 1936
Macon, Mississippi, U.S.
Died May 6, 2007(2007-05-06) (aged 70)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Genres Chicago blues, Harmonica blues, Electric blues
Occupation(s) Musician, singer
Instruments Harmonica, bass, vocals
Years active 1956–2007
Labels Delmark, Blind Pig, Alligator
Associated acts Lurrie Bell, Willie Dixon, Louisiana Red

Carey Bell (November 14, 1936 – May 6, 2007)[1] was an American blues musician who played harmonica in the Chicago blues style. Bell played harmonica and bass guitar for other blues musicians in the late 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s before embarking on a solo career. Besides his own albums, he recorded as an accompanist or duo artist with Earl Hooker, Robert Nighthawk, Lowell Fulson, Eddie Taylor, Louisiana Red, Jimmy Dawkins as well as a frequent partner with his son, guitarist Lurrie Bell. Blues Revue called Bell "one of Chicago’s finest harpists."[2] The Chicago Tribune said Bell is "a terrific talent in the tradition of Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter."[3]


Early life[edit]

Bell was born Carey Bell Harrington in Macon, Mississippi.[4] As a child, Bell was intrigued by the music of Louis Jordan. Bell wanted a saxophone in order to be like his hero Jordan; however, Bell's family could not afford a saxophone he had to settle for the harmonica, colloquially known as a "Mississippi saxophone." Soon Bell was attracted by the blues harmonica greats: DeFord Bailey, Big Walter Horton, Marion "Little Walter" Jacobs, and Sonny Boy Williamson I and II. Bell taught himself to play. By the time he was eight, he was quite proficient on the instrument. When he was thirteen, Bell joined his pianist godfather Lovie Lee's blues band.


In September 1956, Lovie Lee convinced Bell to go with him to Chicago.[4] Not long after arriving, Bell went to the Club Zanzibar, where Little Walter was appearing. Bell met Walter and later learned some harp playing from him and his main Chicago teacher, Big Walter Horton.[4] To help further his chances of employment as a musician, Bell learned how to play the electric bass from Hound Dog Taylor.[5]

Despite Bell's learning from some of the greatest blues harp players of the genre, he arrived in Chicago at an unfortunate time. The demand for harp players was decreasing there as electric guitar became the prominent blues instrument. To pay the bills, Bell continued to play bass and joined several bands as a bassist. In the late 1960s, he appeared regularly on the West Side of Chicago with guitarists Eddie Taylor and Royal Johnson, playing both harmonica and bass. In 1969, Bell toured Europe with the American Folk Blues Festival, and played at the Royal Albert Hall in London, appearing on a live recording of the event.

Debut through 1980s[edit]

In 1969, Delmark Records in Chicago released Bell's debut LP, Carey Bell's Blues Harp.[4] Bell played with Muddy Waters in late 1970 and 1971 and later with Willie Dixon's Chicago Blues All-Stars.[4] In 1972, Bell teamed up with Big Walter in the studio and released Big Walter Horton with Carey Bell for Alligator Records. A year later Bell released a solo project entitled Last Night for ABC Bluesway. Bell continued to play with Dixon as well as with his own groups, and in 1978, Bell was featured on the Grammy-nominated album Living Chicago Blues on Alligator. Also, in the 1970s, Bell appeared on two Bob Riedy Blues Band recordings.[6]

During the 1980s Bell continued to record for various labels and to tour. In 1990, Bell teamed up with fellow harpists Junior Wells, James Cotton and Billy Branch to record Harp Attack!.[4] A modern Blues classic, Harp Attack! became one of Alligator Records's best selling albums.[5]

Alligator years[edit]

Despite years in the business and work with Alligator, Bell's first full-length solo album for the label was not until Deep Down, released in 1995. In 1997, Bell released the second album on the label Good Luck Man. Second Nature (originally recorded in Finland a few years earlier) followed in 2004; an album with his guitarist son, Lurrie Bell (who shared the guitar duties with Carl Weathersby on Deep Down).

In 1998, Bell was awarded the Blues Music Award for Traditional Male Artist Of The Year.

Final work[edit]

In 2007, Delmark Records released a live set by Bell, accompanied by a band which included his son Lurrie, guitarist Scott Cable, Kenny Smith, Bob Stroger and Joe Thomas.


Carey Bell died of heart failure on 6 May 2007 in Chicago.[7]


  • 1969 Carey Bell's Blues Harp (Delmark)
  • 1973 Last Night (One Way)
  • 1977 Heartaches and Pain (Delmark)
  • 1982 Goin' on Main Street (Evidence)
  • 1983 Son of a Gun (Rooster Blues)
  • 1986 Straight Shoot (Blues South West)
  • 1988 Harpslinger (JSP)
  • 1990 Dynasty! (JSP)
  • 1991 Mellow Down Easy (Blind Pig)
  • 1992 Breakdown Blues-Live (CMA Rec.) with 'The Cat'
  • 1994 Harpmaster (JSP)
  • 1995 Carey Bell & Spike Ravenswood (Saar)
  • 1995 Deep Down (Alligator)
  • 1997 Good Luck Man (Alligator)
  • 1999 Brought Up the Hard Way (JSP CD 802)
  • 2004 Second Nature (Alligator)
  • 2007 Gettin Up: Live at Buddy Guy's Legends Rosa's (Delmark)

with Louisiana Red[edit]

  • 1980 Reality Blues (L+R)
  • 1983 Boy from Black Bayou (L+R)
  • 1984 My Life (L+R)
  • 1993 Brothers in Blues (CMA Rec.)
  • 1994 Live at 55 (Enja)
  • 2004 The Blues Masters Bad Case of the Blues (Mojo Tone )

Collaborations with other artists[edit]


  1. ^ Biography on Allmusic
  2. ^ Williams, Genevieve (October 2004), Blues Revue  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Knopper, Steve (29 August 2004), The Chicago Tribune  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d e f Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 90. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  5. ^ a b Carey Bell biography on Alligator Records website
  6. ^ Bob Reidy discography
  7. ^ Chicago Blues Harmonica Legend Carey Bell 1936 – 2007 (Alligator press release)
  8. ^ "You Can't Take My Blues". Valley Entertainment-Sledgehammer Blues. Retrieved 17 February 2011. 

External links[edit]