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lurrie bell

biography | selected discography | awards & nominations

Lurrie Bell "An incendiary fusion of Chicago Blues boilerplate and his own mercurial imagination, hyperkinetic energy, and dazzling technical dexterity."
- David Whiteis - Chicago Reader

"If there is a Chicago blues child who perhaps epitomizes the blues life, it's Lurrie Bell...the premier guitarist in the Windy City."
- Boston Blues News

Born on December 13, 1958, the son of famed Chicago blues harmonica master Carey Bell, Lurrie Bell was raised in a Chicago household naturally steeped in the blues. “Because of my dad there was all kinds of music, growing up in that house,” Bell reminisces. All manner of blues greats would regularly drop by to rehearse: guitarists including Eddie Taylor, Eddie C. Campbell, Jimmy Dawkins, and Eddy Clearwater (Bell’s cousin); harmonica legends like Big Walter Horton; and equally storied keyboardists including Sunnyland Slim and Muddy Waters sideman Lovie Lee, whom Bell came to regard as his “spiritual grandfather.” So it was that at an emphatically young age, Bell taught himself guitar and began playing along during rehearsals. At eight years old, Bell left Chicago to live in Mississippi and Alabama with his grandparents. During this time he played mostly in the church, immersing himself in the passionate expressiveness of the gospel tradition. Soon he was back in Chicago and deep into the blues again.

It was Lovie Lee, Bell recalls with a grin, who "sneaked me into" a South Side nightclub when the young prodigy was fourteen, to make his stage debut. "I don’t remember the name of the song," says Bell, "but it was a blues shuffle. I got some good applause for it; it really inspired me to keep going."

At 15, he formed his first band while attending Crane High School on the city’s West Side. In 1977 at the age of 17, Bell was a founding member of The Sons of Blues with fellow Chicago blues scions Freddie Dixon (son of Willie) and Billy Branch (son of Ben), and performed that year at the Berlin Jazz Festival presented as the New Generation of Chicago Blues. Soon afterwards the group cut three standout tracks for Alligator Records’ Grammy-nominated series Living Chicago Blues. Lurrie had already made his first appearances in the recording studio earlier that year with his father on Carey’s Delmark album Heartaches and Pains, and on Eddie C. Campbell's Rooster Blues album King of the Jungle. Not only was Bell recognized as an exceptionally talented guitarist and musician, his knowledge of different blues styles, his soulfulness and his musical maturity brought write-ups in publications such as Rolling Stone and The New York Times.

At 20, Bell joined the band of Chicago’s acknowledged Queen of the Blues: Koko Taylor and stayed for several years, honing his chops and learning the ropes of being a traveling musician. Bell teamed up again with his father, as a member of Carey Bell’s Blues Harp Band. "It was quite an experience," Bell says fondly. "He always told me I sounded as good as his guitarist, Eddie Taylor, and it made me feel good to hear those comparisons."

Battling and defeating a series of personal demons kept him out of the studio and off the road for a long spell in the late 1980’s, but Bell finally persevered and re-surfaced in the mid-1990’s with a succession of four highly acclaimed records for Chicago’s Delmark label. In 2002 saw the release of the CD Cuttin’ Heads and in 2004 Alligator Records released Second Nature an acoustic duet record with Carey Bell that was nominated for Acoustic Record of the Year by the Blues Foundation in Memphis.

Sadly, Lurrie lost his long-time friend, partner, and mother of his daughter Aria, Susan Greenberg, to cancer on January 20, 2007. Susan was an accomplished and respected artist and photographer who specialized in the blues. She impacted Lurrie's life perhaps more than any other. He credits her with putting him on the right path in life and considers her to be his soulmate who was brought to him by God to bring him to where he is supposed to be.

Lurrie's loss of Susan was soon followed by the death of his legendary father, Carey Bell, to heart failure on May 6, 2007. Carey was Lurrie's mentor and he gave him the gift of the blues. Sharing the stage with his father is among Lurrie's most cherished memories. Their last recorded project together, the live DVD/CD release on Delmark, Getting Up Live ended up to be their most special.

Bell responded by immersing himself even deeper into his music and in 2007 with the generous financial support of the Greenberg family, Bell started his own label Aria B.G. Records and released Let’s Talk About Love, which has been called his most accomplished, deeply heartfelt album yet. On the strength of this record, he was voted Most Outstanding Guitar Player in the 2007 Living Blues magazine Critic's Poll, and was nominated for a 2007 Blues Music Award for Best Guitarist by the Blues Foundation. In 2008 he was named Living Blues’ Artist of the Year.

2009 found him pairing up with Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch in the recording “Chicago Blues: A Living History” which garnered him his first Grammy Nomination for Best Traditional Blues Recording. And in 2010 a follow-up to that recording was made “Chicago Blues: A Living History (The Revolution Continues)” also featuring Buddy Guy, Magic Slim, and Ronnie Baker Brooks which came out in June 2011. Lurrie was once again voted “Most Outstanding Guitartist in the Living Blues 2011 Critics Poll.

Currently he's working on a project of acoustic blues and gospel of the kind he often played with his dad and at church in Mississippi and Alabama was a child. At last count Lurrie Bell has now appeared on over 50+ recordings either as leader or featured sideman.

Lurrie Bell’s elegant and intense guitar playing and passionate vocals have made him a favorite at clubs and festivals around the world and have earned him a reputation as one of the “leading lights” in the future of the blues.

For Lurrie Bell, life right now is, as it has always been, all about the music. "Being able to record, to get up onstage and perform, makes you want to get up in the morning and face the day," he says with relish. "Every day."

Lurrie Bell Website:

selected discography:

2012: “The Devil Ain’t Got No Music” – Aria BG Records

2011: Chicago Blues: A Living History (The Revolution Continues) – Raisin’ Music with Buddy Guy, Magic Slim, Billy Boy Arnold, Ronnie Baker Brooks, and Billy Branch

2009: Chicago Blues: A Living History - Raisin’ Music with Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer and Billy Branch (Nominated for 2009 Grammy – Best Traditional Blues)

2007: "Let’s Talk About Love" – Aria B.G. Records

2007: "Getting Up: Live" - Carey Bell and Lurrie Bell DVD/CD - Delmark

2004: "Second Nature" - Carey Bell and Lurrie Bell - Alligator Records

2002: "Cutting Heads" - Vyper Records & Isabel Records/France in 2004

1999: "Blues Had A Baby" - Delmark

1998: "Kiss Of Sweet Blues" - Delmark

1997: "700 Blues" - Delmark

1996: "Dynasty" - Carey Bell and Lurrie Bell - JSP Records/UK

1995: "Mercurial Son" - Delmark

1994: "The Chief" - with Eddie Clearwater - Rooster Blues

1992: "Good Candy" - with Lovie Lee - Earwig Records

1989: "Everybody Wants to Win" - JSP Records/UK

1984: "Son Of A Gun" Carey Bell and Lurrie Bell - Rooster Blues

1982: "Chicago's Young Blues Generation - Evidence w/Billy Branch and Sons of Blues

1980: "Living Chicago Blues Vol. 3" - Alligator Records w/Sons of Blues and w/Lovie Lee

1978: "Living Chicago Blues Vol. 1" - Alligator Records w/ Carey Bell

1977: "King Of The Jungle" w/Eddie C. Campbell - Rooster Records

1977: " Heartaches and Pain" - Carey Bell - Delmark

awards and nominations

Grammy Award Nomination

2010 Best Traditional Blues Album (Nominee) (For Chicago Blues: A Living History CD)

National Blues Music Awards From Blues Foundation:

2010 Best Traditional Blues Album (Nominee) (For Chicago Blues: A Living History CD)

2010 Best Blues Guitarist – Nominee

2009 Best Blues Guitarist – Nominee

2008 Best Blues Guitarist – Nominee

2007 Best Blues Guitarist – Nominee

2009 Best Traditional Male Blues Artist – Nominee

2008 Best Traditional Male Blues Artist – Nominee

2008 Best Blues DVD – Nominee (Carey & Lurrie Bell – “Getting Up”)

Living Blues Awards:

2008 Blues Artist of the Year (Male) – Critics Poll

2010 Most Outstanding Musician (Guitar) – Critics Poll

2009 Most Outstanding Musician (Guitar) – Critics Poll

2008 Most Outstanding Musician (Guitar) – Critics Poll

2007 Most Outstanding Musician (Guitar) – Critics Poll

2008 Blues Artist of the Year (Male) – Reader’s Poll

Chicago Reader:

2008 Best Chicago Blues Musician – Readers Choice