W. C. Handy Awards 2005

The blues will always be the roots of my musical tree. It began with elvis, then big mama thornton, memphis minnie, mississippi john hurt, leadbelly, muddy waters, son house, robert johnson, howlin’ wolf, tampa red, slim harpo, blind blake, blind willie johnson, on to chicago when it got electrified, bb king, muddy, buddy, cotton, broonzy, butterfield, bloomfield, musslewhite, little walter, even the kansas city headcutters all swirl around in the great melting pot of american rock and roll.

For me, bb will always be the true ambassador of the blues. When i was a kid, i was back stage at the boston arena and he was as kind to me as anyone before or since, urging me to” keep playing”, and “of course you can play the blues, don’t let nobody tell you different”. I kept the strings he played on my guitar for years….little did i know then just how many of my heros i would meet and play with in my life of playing music, and how many would pass in my lifetime.

Professor Doug BellI was thinking about willie “big eyes” smith today, and how it seems i was with him only yesterday, it was in 2005 at the w c handy awards memphis in may. Since then, little milton, pinetop, robert jr., honeyboy have all gone on. I was looking today at the awards booklet that they all signed, and realize just how lucky i have been to have met these legends, let alone to have played on stages and green rooms, hotel rooms, bars, buses and private homes. it’s astonishing to me, really, they were just photos that i stared at, printed words i would read over and over, and sounds from my record player, endlessly played.

Doug Bell and Honeyboy EdwardsIt was howlin’ wolf, james cotton and bb king who took the time and inspired me one on one to play it if i feel it, and don’t give up. as i think about that year at the handys, i had a ball with hubert sumlin’, willie,piney, honeyboy, charlie, the homes brothers, robert, shorty, slim, we had just lost little milton, and talked about that and what he had contributed. He was a huge influence on bb, maybe as much as t bone. this year i had the opportunity to play with honeyboy at the house of blues in boston, and to have a wonderful interview conducted backstage by media boss. They recorded the interview and the performance with us and brad whitford of aerosmith. I cherish this recording and will make it available to everyone in the near future. jim carty, blues historian, and dj conducted part of the interview with me, and had some great questions about robert johnson, and sweet home chicago, of which “honey” had some very interesting things to say.

Doug Bell and Gary US BondsAnyway, i treasure the morning starbucks chats with musslewhite, smuggling pinetop candy, hanging with the homes brothers and telling stories and jokes, spending hours with hubert, who is just a character, getting to know the backstories of quarter to three, and new orleans, songs by gary u s bonds. i told him i heard his firsrt song on the radio, and RAN to j j newburys dept store in franklin ma. to buy it, he thought that was the funniest thing ever. i explained to him, that music has that effect on me, and he couldn’t believe some kid from the suburbs hears a song and has to literally run out to buy it. i do have a fantastic DVD that juke joint media did, but never got clearances from all the artists, a shame really, but at least i can view it here in secret, like some big art collector that has a stolen renoir!

Anyway, i’m feeling happy/sad today and thought i would share some photos and a story. These men shaped much of my life in music, and whether you know it or not, they have shaped yours, and for the better.

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