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The Traditional Delta and Country Blues

Carey Bell

Carey Bell Harrington, b. November 14, 1936 in Macon, MS, d. May 6, 2007 in Chicago, IL. Bell began to play harmonica after being inspired by the records of Muddy Waters, Little Walter and Sonny Boy ‘Rice Miller’ Williams. He played with a white C&W band and with his ‘stepfather’, Lovie Lee. He moved to Chicago with Lee in the mid-50s, and, besides picking up harmonica tips from Little Walter and Walter Horton, he also learned guitar from David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards, although his main instrument throughout the 60s was bass guitar. Bell was recorded on Maxwell Street with Robert Nighthawk in 1964, and appeared on an Earl Hooker album in 1968. He quickly recorded his debut album for Delmark Records the following year, and appeared on record regularly in the years following, both as leader and accompanist. Bell enjoyed lengthy spells with Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, and in 1988 he recorded what was claimed to be the world’s first ever CD-only issue of a blues album.

Besides being rated as one of the leading blues harmonica players of his generation, Bell was also a very underrated singer, and he ncouraged many of his children to become blues musicians, with the best-known being Lurrie Bell with whom he recorded on a number of occasions. He died of heart failure in May 2007.