Carey Bell

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Carey Bell Harrington
harmonica, vocals, drums, guitar, bass
born: November 14, 1936 in Macon, Mississippi
father of Lurrie Bell


Carey Bell was born in Macon, Mississippi on November 14, 1936. A fan of Louis Jordan, Bell originally wanted a saxophone, but economic realities forced his grandfather to buy him a harmonica instead. He taught himself to play the instrument by the time he was eight, and began playing professionally with his godfather, pianist Lovie Lee, when he was 13. In 1956, Lee convinced Carey that Chicago was the place to be for aspiring bluesmen, so the two made their way north. Almost immediately, Bell went to see Little Walter perform at the Club Zanzibar at 14th and Ashland. The two became friends and Walter delighted in showing the youngster some of his tricks. Carey went on to meet and learn from Sonny Boy Williamson II, but it was Big Walter Horton who really bowled him over.

Carey learned his lessons well, gigging around the city's South and West Side blues clubs with Lee. But by the late 1950's and early 1960's the gigs were drying up for harp players as the electric guitar began to take over as the predominant instrument of Chicago blues. Bell decided to increase his worth by becoming a bass player (learning the ropes from Hound Dog Taylor). He quickly mastered the instrument and began getting gigs as a bassist with Honeyboy Edwards, Johnny Young, Eddie Taylor, Earl Hooker and Big Walter. While playing bass in Big Walter's band, Bell studied every harp trick in the book firsthand from one of the all-time great harmonica players.

Bell, back on harp full-time, recorded behind Earl Hooker in 1968 for Arhoolie. By 1969 Bell was fronting his own band. His friend Charlie Musselwhite brought him over to Bob Koester at Delmark Records who promptly signed Bell and recorded Carey Bell's Blues Harp. Bell spent 1971 traveling and recording with Muddy Waters before teaming up with his mentor Big Walter to record what was to be Alligator Records' second-ever release, Big Walter Horton with Carey Bell. He followed that with Last Night, an album for ABC/Bluesway. Willie Dixon chose Bell for the featured role in his Chicago Blues All-Stars, with whom Bell worked regularly throughout much of the 1970's, both touring and recording. Bell then made his first solo recordings for Alligator, in a featured spot in 1978 on the Grammy-nominated Living Chicago Blues series.

By the 1980's, Bell had established himself as a giant among blues harmonica players. He recorded albums as a leader and as a sideman for a variety of labels both in the United States and Europe, and was constantly playing live. In 1990 Bell, along with fellow harpslingers Junior Wells, James Cotton and Billy Branch, got together and recorded the W.C. Handy Award-winning Alligator album Harp Attack!. In 1995, Bell's first full-length solo album on Alligator, Deep Down, secured his reputation as a monster harpist. His follow-up, 1997's Good Luck Man, pushed the blues farther out with Bell's rich vocabulary of deep harmonica solos and tough city vocals fueling a mix of classic blues grooves and contemporary electric sounds. Bell continues to perform solo shows (often accompanied by his son Lurrie), and as part of the Muddy Waters Tribute Band.

Essential Carey Bell album: Deep Down

- Carey Bell's Blues Harp [Delmark 622, May 1969] with Lurrie Bell, Jimmy Dawkins, Pinetop Perkins, Eddie Taylor --- Audio Cassette
- Last Night [BluesWay 6079, 1973] with Dave Myers, Pinetop Perkins, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Eddie Taylor
- Heartaches and Pain [Delmark 666, 1977] with Lurrie Bell, Aron Burton, Sam Lay, Bob Riedy - Audio Cassette
- Harpslinger [JSP 211, 1988] with Andy Pyle on bass
- Mellow Down Easy [Blind Pig BP-4291, 1991] with Eddie Boyd, J.T. Brown, Willie Dixon, Albert King, Kevin McKendree, Muddy Waters
- Harpmaster [JSP 250, October 1994] with Lurrie Bell, James Bell, Steve Bell, Tyson Bell
- Deep Down [Alligator 4828, 1995] with Lurrie Bell, Lucky Peterson, Carl Weathersby
- Good Luck Man [Alligator 4854, October 1997] with Will Crosby
- Brought up the Hard Way [JSP 802, March 1998] with James Bell, Lurrie Bell, Tyson Bell, Lefty Dizz, Louisiana Red, Andy Pyle
- Harpslinger [JSP, August 2004] reissue on Hybrid SACD

Big Walter Horton / Carey Bell:
- Big Walter Horton with Carey Bell [Alligator AL-4702, January 1973] with Eddie Taylor
- Harp Legends Volume 1 [Catfish 104, August 1999]

Carey Bell's Blues Harp Band with Lurrie Bell:
- Goin' on Main Street [Evidence 26055, 1982] with Billy Branch, Odie Payne, Bob Stroger, Hubert Sumlin

Carey and Lurrie Bell:
- Son of a Gun [Rooster Blues 2617, 1984]
- Dynasty! [JSP 222, 1990] with James Bell, Steve Bell, Tyson Bell
- Dynasty! [JSP 276, 1996] with James Bell, Steve Bell, Tyson Bell

James Cotton / Junior Wells / Carey Bell / Billy Branch:
- Harp Attack! [Alligator 4790, September 1990] with Lucky Peterson, Johnny B. Gayden, Ray Allison, Michael Coleman - Audio Cassette

Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater & Carey Bell:
- Chicago Blues Session, Vol. 23 [Wolf 120869, June 1998] with Casey Jones, Bob Stroger

He appears on the following albums:
Sleepy John Estes - Electric Sleep [Delmark 619, 1966]
Sleepy John Estes - 1929-1940 [Smithsonian Folkways 8, 1967]
Hubert Sumlin - Groove [Black & Blue 33511, 1976]
Various Artists - Living Chicago Blues, Vol. 1 [Alligator 7701, 1978]
Eddie "The Chief" Clearwater - The Chief [Rooster Blues 2615, 1980]
Various Artists - Living Chicago Blues, Vol. 3 [Alligator 7703, 1980]
Blues Queen Sylvia with Jimmy Dawkins - Midnight Baby [Evidence 26057, November 1983]
Various Artists - Genuine Houserockin' Music IV [Alligator 104, August 1990]
Various Artists - The Alligator Records 20th Anniversary Collection [Alligator 105, July 1991] 2 CD set
Eddie "The Chief" Clearwater - - Help Yourself [Blind Pig 4792, July 1992]
Koko Taylor - Force of Nature [Alligator 4817, November 1993]
Various Artists - Prime Chops: Blind Pig Sampler, Vol. 2 [Blind Pig 8002, November 1993]
Various Artists - Low Blows: An Anthology of Chicago Harmonica Blues [Rooster Blues 2610, September 1994]
Sunnyland Slim - Decoration Day [Evidence 26053, October 1994]
Various Artists - No Free Rides: A Budget Blues Sampler [JSP 1, 1995]
Various Artists - Evidence Blues Sampler: Four [Evidence 26058, April 1995]
Various Artists - Hoodoo Man Blues [Indigo 2055, March 1996]
Various Artists - The Alligator Records 25th Anniversary Collection [Alligator 110, March 1996] 2 CD set
Various Artists - Born with the Blues [Indigo 2057, May 1996]
Various Artists - Up Jumped the Blues [Music Club 241, November 1996]
Various Artists - Blues Harp Greats [Easydisc 7023, January 1997]
Various Artists - Blues on Fire [Easydisc 9007, January 1997]
Jimmy Rogers - Blues Blues Blues [Atlantic 83148, October 1998]
Various Artists - Blind Pig Records: 20th Anniversary Collection [Blind Pig 2001, April 1997] 2 CD set
Various Artists - House of Blues: Essential Chicago Blues [A&M 161280, May 1997] 2 CD set
Various Artists - I Asked for Whiskey [Indigo 2028, April 1997]
Various Artists - Essential Blues Harmonica [House Of Blues 161300, August 1997] 2 CD set
Hubert Sumlin - I Know You [AcousTech, May 1998]
Memphis Slim - Lonely Nights [Spotlite 15117, November 1998]
Angela Brown - Thinking out Loud [Blueside 108, February 1999]
Various Artists - Earwig 20th Anniversary Collection [Earwig 4946, October 1999]
Jimmy Dawkins, Lefty Dizz, Brewer Phillips & The Houserockers - Bad Avenue [JSP 101, February 2000]
Various Artists - Rooster Blues Records: 1980-2000 Sampler [Rooster Blues 2637, April 2000]
Eddie "The Chief" Clearwater - Reservation Blues [Bullseye Blues 619636, September 2000]
Various Artists - Born with the Blues [St. Clair 7160, January 2001]
Various Artists - Blues: The Chicago Years [St. Clair 7147, February 2001]
Various Artists - The Best of Harmonica Blues [Wolf 120105, April 2001]
Various Artists - National Geographic: Destination Chicago [Sugo 105, July 2001]
Various Artists - The Alligator Records 30th Anniversary Collection [Alligator 112/13, August 2001] 2 CD set
Various Artists - Roots Music: An American Journey [Rounder 610501, October 2001] 4 CD Box set
Various Artists - Blues & Soul Sessions [Sessions 204, February 2002] 2 CD set
Various Artists - 50 Years of Jazz & Blues: Blues [Delmark 905, April 2003] 2 CD set
Various Artists - 50 Years of Jazz & Blues [Delmark 50, April 2003] 4 CD + 1 DVD Box set
Various Artists - Box of the Blues [Rounder 612171, August 2003] 4 CD Box set
Various Artists - Genuine Houserockin' Christmas [Alligator 9202, September 2003]
Various Artists - This Is The Blues Harmonica, Vol. 2 [Delmark 780, November 2004]
Various Artists - South Side Chicago Blues [Delmark 912, April 2005]
Various Artists - Alligator Records 35X35 [Alligator 2021, April 2006] 2 CD set

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