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Ed Bell

Ed Bell's Paramount record of his own "Mamlish Blues" is the kind of performance that has the power to suspend the listener in the eternal present moment. Its simple, repetitive, ascending, and descending scale evokes a magical sensibility that is echoed on the flipside, "The Hambone Blues," and the other two titles he cut in Chicago in September 1927. Bell's modest but substantial recorded legacy places him in league with more famous individuals such as Blind Boy Fuller, Tommy Johnson, Charlie Patton, and Robert Johnson. The magic that waits within Bell's recordings to be discovered by open-hearted listeners was clearly defined by trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, philosopher, and educator Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith, who once said that growing up in the Mississippi Delta among blues musicians taught him "to feel that whatever I play relates to a gigantic field of feeling. To me, the blues is a literary and musical form and also a basic philosophy. When I get ready to study the mystical aspect of black people, I go to the blues; then I feel that I'm in touch with the root of black people."

Ed Bell was born in 1905 on the Davis Plantation near Fort Deposit, AL and moved with his family to Greenville where African-American string bands had been active for a long time. His older cousin Joe Pat Dean took young Ed to Muscle Shoals in 1919 where the boy learned to play the blues firsthand. Legend has it Dean soon resented Bell's popularity; his own career would be cut short when a jealous husband took him out around 1924-1925. Bell spent the first half of the decade gradually decreasing his involvement in agricultural labor while devoting ever more of his life to music, running with a posse of young players which included guitarist Pillie Bolling. Throughout the '20s, Bell was on the road a lot, gigging in Pittsburgh, PA and Toledo, Youngstown, and Cincinnati, OH. Bell's first four recordings, including the best-known, "Mamlish Blues," were cut in Chicago in September 1927 and released on the Paramount label. His next opportunity to record occurred in April 1929, when he cut eight sides for QRS at a studio in Long Island City, NY. Bell was identified on the label as Sluefoot Joe; Clifford Gibson of St. Louis sat in on guitar and piano. The rest of Bell's recordings were made in Atlanta, GA in 1929 and 1930. These records were released on Columbia with Bell now billed as "Barefoot Bill from Alabama," and his old friend Pillie Bolling sat in on some of the sides. According to his half sister Pauline Porterfield, Bell eventually wearied of the blues musician's life and crossed over from the sacred to the secular, becoming a Baptist preacher, marrying and establishing himself in Montgomery, AL as a reverend at the head of his own congregation. Once a regionally respected bluesman, Bell achieved the office of Moderator of the Southern District later in life and passed away in Greenville in 1966. ~ arwulf arwulf
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Rough Guide To Unsung Heroes Of Country Blues, Vol. 2

1. Bothering That Thing

2. She's A Fool Gal

3. Niagra Fall Blues

4. The Cat's Got The Measles

5. Lonesome Man Blues

6. This Will Bring You Back

7. Mississippi Bottom Blues

8. Snatch It And Grab It

9. Guitar Rag

10. Lonesome Atlanta Blues

11. Ragtime Millionaire

12. Man Trouble Blues

13. Grand Daddy Blues

14. Religion Is Something Within You

15. Rag Baby

16. Hey Mama - It's Nice Like That, Pt. 2

17. Poor Boy Blues

18. Shake Me Like A Dog

19. Down The Big Road Blues

20. Woman Woman Blues

21. Dupree Blues

22. Mama Don't Rush Me

23. Alabama Blues, Pt. 1

24. Bye Bye Baby Blues

x

Track List: Richer Tradition Country Blues & String Band Music

Disc 1

1. Guitar Blues

2. Time Ain't Gonna Make Me Stay

3. Sundown Blues

4. Salt Lake City Blues

5. Whiskey And Gin Blues

6. James Alley Blues

7. Goin' To Leave You Blues

9. A Chicken Can Waltz The Gravy Around

10. Bamalong Blues

11. Man Trouble Blues

12. Blue Coat Blues

13. Frisco Whistle Blues

14. Two Ways To Texas

15. Gravel Camp Blues

16. T And T Blues

17. Death Bell Blues

18. C.C. & O. Blues

19. Middlin' Blues

20. Rolling Log Blues

21. Kyle's Worried Blues

22. Bull Frog Blues

23. Sobbin' Woman Blues

24. Miss Meal Cramp Blues

25. The Unknown Blues

Disc 2

1. Jail House Blues

2. Blues, Just Blues, That's All

3. String Band Blues

4. Black Cat Blues

5. Dirty Guitar Blues

6. Boodle-Am-Shake

7. Quill Blues

8. The Jug Band Special

9. Cold Morning Shout

10. Violin Blues

11. Easy Winner

12. G. Burns Is Gonna Rise Again

13. I Got A Gal

16. Adam And Eve

17. Runnin' Wild

18. Giving It Away

19. Jackson Stomp

20. Old Hen Cackle

21. Travelin' Railroad Man Blues

22. Old Hen Cackle

23. Ted's Stomp

24. Dusting The Frets

Disc 3

3. Mean Conductor Blues

4. Back Door Blues

5. Spanish Blues

6. Helena Blues

7. I Heard The Voice Of A Pork Chop

8. Rising River Blues

9. She Could Toodle-Oo

10. Weak Minded Woman

11. Old Rock Island Blues

12. Cairo Blues

13. I Ain't Givin' Nobody None

14. Showers Of Rain Blues

15. Framer's Blues

16. If I Call You Mama

17. Never Drive A Stranger From Your Door

18. Mississippi Swamp Moan

19. Paddlin' Madeline Blues

21. South Carolina Rag

23. Poor Jane Blues

24. Window Pane Blues

25. Hot Jelly Roll Blues

Disc 4

1. Labor Blues

2. Goin' Away Blues

3. No Baby

4. Early Mornin' Blues

5. Dreaming Blues

6. Weeping Willow Blues

7. Way Down In Arkansas

8. Wild About My Loving

9. Indian Squaw Blues

10. Florida Bound

11. God Didn't Make No Monkey Man

12. Tallahatchie River Blues

13. Diamond Ring Blues

14. Bedside Blues

15. Lonesome Midnight Dream

16. Billy Goat Blues

17. That Won't Do

18. Ghost Woman Blues

19. 'toby' Woman Blues

20. Rollin' Dough Blues

21. Starvation Farm Blues

22. Farewell To You Baby

23. Teasin' Brown Blues

24. Married Woman Blues

25. Dago Blues

x

Track List: Suitcase Full Of Blues

1. The Gone Dead Train

2. Frisco Whistle Blues

4. Going Away Blues

5. Poor Boy, Long Ways From Home

6. Florida Bound

7. Pea Vine Blues

8. Rambler Blues

9. Up The Way Bound

11. Slidin' Delta

13. M & O Blues

14. Georgia Bound

15. Number Three Blues

16. Sunshine Special

17. Illinois Blues

18. I Wonder To Myself

20. Mean Conductor Blues

21. Suitcase Full Of Blues

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