While listening to one of Adam Gussow’s insightful harp lessons based on a Carey Bell recording, I was reminded of a talent that is not so well known. I thought I would bring together some examples of his playing.
From the American Folk Blues Festival 1983 with Louisiana Red and Jimmy Rogers on guitars:
Originally influenced by jazz players , so much so, that he would have liked to have learned to play the saxophone. Due to financial limitations he had to accept the ‘Mississippi saxophone’ or blues harp.
In 1956 Bell moved up to Chicago to try his luck and soon was drawn to the likes of Little Walter and Big Walter Horton. He was also influenced by Sonny Boy Williamson II. To make ends meet Bell developed his talent on bass guitar .
Bell played harmonica (harp) and bass for other blues musicians during 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 and Jimmy Dawkins. He even played with Muddy Waters , Willie Dixon,Howlin Wolf and Earl Hooker.
….and here he is playing bass
Here is a recording from 1964 on Maxwell Street with Bell playing with Robert Nighthawk (Cruisin in a cadillac)
Another from the American Folk Blues Festival of 1983 accompanying Louisiana Red (guitar/vocals) and with his friend and godfather Lovie Lee on piano.
And here is a great clip which shows Bell’s virtuosity and feeling on the harp -Easy to Love you. This is from the 1982 American Folk Blues Festival and recorded in Germany. He is accompanied on guitar by his son Lurrie Bell and notice the chromatic harmonica and the range of his playing.
Here is another great blues from 1981 – ‘A man and his blues’ -with Hubert Sumlin and Lurrie Bell on guitars. Again Carey gets a wide range of sounds out of his harmonica. Great interplay between guitar and harp.
Carey Bell and the sons of blues -American Folk Blues Festival (1982 Germany) – apart from the sensitive and joyous harp playing check his relationship with guitar playing son Lurrie Bell.
When you feel confident with Carey’s style why not work on some harp of your own with a great lesson from the wonderful teacher, Adam Gussow: