Lurrie Bell, son of the blues harp great Carey Bell,
has been steeped in the traditions of the blues
since his birth on December 13, 1958. At the age
of six, Lurrie picked up a guitar that he found
lying around the house, and taught himself to play.
Lurrie grew up around many of Chicago's blues greats
- he was literally schooled in the blues. Role models
and mentors included not only his father but his
grandfather, former Muddy Waters pianist Lovie Lee,
as well as others such as guitarists Eddie Taylor,
Eddie C. Campbell, Jimmy Dawkins, Eddie Clearwater
(a cousin), harmonica master Big Walter Horton,
piano legend Sunnyland Slim, ace bass player Bob
Stroger, and many more.
From the ages of 8 to 15, Lurrie left Chicago to
live in Mississippi and Alabama with his grandparents.
During this time he played in gospel churches, immersing
himself in the passionate expressiveness and emotional
commitment of the venerable gospel tradition. After
moving back to Chicago, he continued to play in
church; attending Crane High School, he also formed
his own band, and played Soul, R&B and Blues.
The first time Lurrie performed publicly on stage
with a blues band was at the age of 16 with Willie
By 1975, Lurrie was close to graduating high school,
but decided to leave at the invitation of his father
to join his band. After savoring a taste of the
life of the professional bluesman, Lurrie never
looked back. He found himself in demand, and some
of the music's leading lights offered him jobs in
their bands. Soon he was being celebrated internationally
as a rising musical genius. He was also noted for
the soulfulness and maturity of his singing, which
was astounding for a blues musician at such a young
age. He garnered write-ups in major publications
such as Rolling Stone and the New York Times, touting
him as a rising star. But tragically, the onset
of mental illness in his early '20s stopped Lurrie
from fulfilling this destiny.
For nearly two decades, Lurrie struggled. Despite
several short stays in institutions, he received
little ongoing treatment, and he eventually became
homeless. By the early '90's, he didn't even own
a guitar. However, his passion for music remained
unrelenting. He often spent his days walking around
the city, playing harmonica. At night, he'd still
find his way to blues clubs, where he'd stand at
the edge of the stage blowing harp, hoping to be
called up. Usually Lurrie was ignored or even barred.
Nonetheless, many times he was still able to strap
on a borrowed guitar, and play down torrents of
fractured lightning, before handing it back and
disappearing again into the night. Some mornings
he'd show up at the Maxwell Street Market, dirty
and disheveled after days of roaming the streets,
find a band, and pour forth an epic version of a
blues classic like Buddy Guy's "A Man And The
Blues," astounding long-time observers and
casual tourists alike with the depth of his passion,
and the height of his musical powers. Moments like
these have become legends in the annals of Chicago
blues. To this day, Lurrie remains beloved as a
musician, and deeply respected as a man for the
courage and perseverance he showed during those
Even while he was struggling, record producers continued
to seek him out. Bandleaders hired him, whenever
he was able to play and sing, as a sideman in their
bands. He also recorded some well-received disks
under his own name. Lurrie's discography, as leader
and sideman, lists over 70 recordings.
Sideman or co-bandleader
· Carey Bell's Blues Harp Band · Carey
and Lurrie Bell Blues Band · Koko Taylor
and Her Blues Machine · Sons of the Blues
· Mississippi Heat · Son Seals Blues
Band · Jimmy Dawkins Blues Band ·
Eddy Clearwater · Lovie Lee · Roosevelt
"Booba" Barnes · Eddie Shaw and
the Wolf Gang · Vampin' Blues Band
Finally, in 2000, Lurrie began to receive some of
the professional help he had needed for so long,
and he began to regain control of his mind and his
life. He has also started to rebuild his music career,
and the results have been astounding. His technique
is more powerful and focused than ever, yet the
incendiary intensity that's always characterized
his music- through good times and the bad - is undiminished.
Lurrie leads his own band, "Lurrie C. Bell's
Blues Band,", and tours Europe about 2-6 times
a year. Word is spreading to a new generation of
blues fans that Lurrie is back, better than ever,
and this time he's here to stay. In the liner notes
to the Lurrie's 1997's "Blues Had a Baby"
(Delmark Records), producer Scott Dirks writes:
"Regardless of how many times you hear Lurrie
Bell play, he will do something to surprise you.
To say he is creative and inventive is an understatement
- each time he picks up a guitar he seems to have
forgotten where the limits are, what boundaries
existed the last time he played, and he fearlessly
sets out on a new exploration."
** 2005: Lurrie is the subject of a documentary/portrait
by independent filmmaker Paul Marcus: "Mercurial
Son: The Blues Of Lurrie Bell". A book chapter
(2006) is devoted to Lurrie in a book by David Wheitis,
published by The University of Illinois Press.
** Has recorded over 60 albums to date, and counting.
He can also be heard on many Delmark Recordings
[under his own name, and/or as a guest star on such
recordings by Tail Dragger (2005) and Mississippi
Heat (2005)]. Lurrie also recorded for Alligator
Records, Isabel Records (France), and JSP (England),
among other labels.
** His CD "SECOND NATURE" (Alligator Records)
was nominated for the 26th W.C. Handy Award. The
Chicago Tribune also named that recording as # 1
CD on its "Year's Best Recordings" list.
** 2005: Awarded "BEST TRADITIONAL BLUES GUITARIST"
by Trophees France Blues.
Press Releases and Quotes:
"I think he's the best blues guitar player
in Chicago." – Bob Koester, owner, Delmark
" Bell (is) consumed with an intense and fervid
musical imagination; he plays with a near apocalyptic
fury, as if determined to break boundaries and create
a new musical vocabulary."
– David Wheitis, Journalist and Blues Critic.
Writer for Living Blues and the Chicago Reader
"He may be the greatest blues guitar player
that ever lived." Billy Branch, Sons Of Blues
(who played and recorded with Bell for seven years)
"Perhaps the most talented blues guitarist
of his generation … eclectic, accidental genius."
– The Boston Phoenix
"(Lurrie Bell) is the premier guitarist in
the Windy City." – Boston Blues News
"… an eloquent blues guitarist with a
sound and feel of his own." – Robert
Palmer, Rolling Stone