Nombre total de pages vues

jeudi 27 juin 2013


EARL BELL/ Memphis Country Blues


    Earl Bell n'est certainement pas un nom très connu des amateurs de blues aujourd'hui même s'il a été dans les années 1950-60 un acteur reconnu du Country blues de Memphis.
          Né le 19 février 1914 sur une plantation près d'Hernando (Ms), Earl est venu travailler à Memphis dans les années 1940, exerçant divers métiers dont celui de garde-barrière. Il avait sans doute appris à jouer très jeune de la guitare puisqu'il semble s'intégrer facilement dans la riche scène musicale de Beale Street, jouant avec différents jug bands ou se produisant seul dans les rues. Bien qu'il ait affirmé avoir enregistré à cette époque, aucune trace de ses disques n'est visible. Il a aussi affirmé avoir beaucoup joué dans les juke joints du Mississippi et de l'Arkansas, aurait connu Robert Johnson et aurait même été le véritable compositeur de Terraplane blues!
          Dans les années 1960, Earl Bell qui continue à jouer sporadiquement dans les rues de Memphis ou au bord du fleuve, souvent en compagnie du guitariste Walter Miller et de l'harmoniciste Memphis Sonny Boy (Marshall Jones) attire l'attention des pionniers du blues revival comme George Mitchell et le suédois Olle Helander qui l'enregistrent enfin en 1964 (il reste plusieurs titres inédits de cette séance) et en 1967. Il participe à quelques petits festivals locaux, grave aussi une très belle version de Catfish blues en compagnie de Memphis Sonny Boy pour le label Adelphi de Gene Rosenthal (il semble qu'il y ait cette fois-là aussi plusieurs titres inédits). Sa santé chancelante, son apparent manque de goût pour tout déplacement hors de sa ville de Memphis l'empêchent de participer davantage au blues revival, notamment avec une tournée en Europe qui lui aurait donné une plus grande visibilité.

 En fait, il n'enregistre plus qu'un titre "live" en 1973 et décède le 12 juillet 1977 à Memphis.
          Sa courte œuvre est, à quelques exceptions, très difficile à trouver, la séance de 1967 n'ayant jamais été publiée en LP ou en CD et impossible à obtenir en Europe!. Sans être un géant du Memphis blues, Earl Bell mérite d'être mieux connu et apprécié.
                                                              Gérard HERZHAFT

             Although not a major Country bluesman, Earl Bell - born on February 1914 in Hernando, Ms - was a quite well-known figure in and around Memphis for three decades.
             He seems to have played with several Beale Street jug bands during the 1940's after he came to live in Memphis. He said he was constantly playing the juke joints in Mississippi and Arkansas. Still according to him, he would have known Robert Johnson, being the composer of his "Terraplane blues"! He also said he had recorded before and just after the war but no evidence of those could be found.
             Whatever it is, Earl has worked many jobs in Memphis, hauling freight, railroad employee, factory worker... While playing regularly in the streets of Memphis and along the Mississippi river, often with guitarist Walter Miller and harp player Memphis Sonny Boy (Marshall Jones).
             But it is only with the blues revival that Earl had at last the opportunity to record, first in 1964 for Swedish radio producer Olle Helander in 1964 (several titles are still unissued!), then in 1967 for George Mitchell, a lengthy session that has never been issued in LP or CD and that is even impossible to buy as .mp3 download from Europe!
             In 1970, Gene Rosenthal from Adelphi records waxes Earl Bell with his long-time partner Memphis Sonny Boy for a wonderful version of "Catfish" (it seems that there are also some unissued titles from that day?).
             At that point, Earl could have toured Europe that  certainly would have given him a greater recognition. But Earl - with a flailing health - was very reluctant to travel too far from his Memphis home. He appeared only in small local festivals, recording only one more title in 1973.
             He died in Memphis on July, 12th, 1977.
                                                                              Gérard HERZHAFT

Earl Bell, vcl/g. Memphis, Tn. 26 mai 1964
01. Terraplane blues
02. Travellin' man
Earl Bell, vcl/g; Walter Miller, g on +; Johnny Woods, hca on *. Memphis, Tn. septembre 1967
03. Black panther
04. Crawling kingsnake
05. Dust my broom
06. Jump on down
07. K.C. blues
08. Leave in the morning
09. Rocky mountain
10. Telephone is ringing
11. Terraplane blues
12. Two trains running
13. Vicksburg blues
Earl Bell, vcl/g; Memphis Sonny Boy, hca. Memphis, Tn. juin 1970
14. Catfish blues
Earl Bell, vcl/g. Memphis, Tn. 13 mai 1973
15. Travellin' blues

18 commentaires:

  1. Interesting recordings Gerard, I've never heard Earl Bell before and these are really rough, raw, unpolished blues.

    As always, many thanks for these.

    Bob Mac

  2. Ah!!! Superb stuff Gerard. Really interesting artist and a great collection. Thank you very much.

  3. Very nice. The site is nice too, I've been a visitor for year.

    I to am anonymous.

  4. Thanks for posting this. I had a track or two by him on the 70s Rounder LP "Beale Street Mess Around" but had rather forgotten him over the years. Nice raw sound.

  5. Hi Gerard, is that you in the big photograph with Muddy & BB? I don't recognize the other two guys.

    1. Sugar Blue, Taj Mahal, Muddy,B.B., Gérard... Lyon (France), july 1979... A great night of wonderful music and great people. Muddy had to play in London the next day and his plane was leaving early in the morning, so he stayed all night long onstage, backstage and in the lobby of the hotel, chatting, telling tales and reminiscences of his childhood in Mississippi...

  6. Great, must have been a blast. Sugar Blue was young then, who's band was he in at that time? I never met him or Taj but did meet both Muddy & BB in Australia in mid-1970s, wonderful friendly guys. Hope you can put up more photos like this Gerard.

    Bob Mac

    1. Thanls Bob Mac, glad you appreciate! At that time Sugar Blue was livig in France and had an all French band with his girlfriend playing the bass. On this night there was also a set by Luther Allison, he was also then living in France. Taj played a long set first alone and then with a full band with a lot of percussions... B.B. and Muddy had their usual bands and they played each a very lengthy set. All the best.

  7. Gérard,
    got a message from Max Hoeffner (painter and very knowledgable blues connoisseur from Argentine) claiming that four of the George Mitchell recordings on your "Complete Earl Bell" compilation (as well as on the Fat Possum collection "The George Mitchell Collection, Volume 4, Disc 5" as well as in The Bible, New Testament I, 2nd ed.) actually are recordings of the following musicians:
    - Telephone Ringing - Abe McNeil
    - Black Panther - Abe McNeil
    - 2 Trains Running - Abe McNeil
    - Leave In The Morning - Walter Miller
    As I'm not good at determining artists "by ear", could you please enlighten me about what were your sources when compiling your "Complete Earl Bell" ?
    Thanks in advance !!!
    and best regards
    Stefan Wirz

    1. Thanks Stefan. Those tracks that are not available from Europe and that have only been downloadable as .mp3 in the Us had been given to me through mail and as Earl Bell.s tracks. But of course Max can be right . I took the disco from Blues Discography Volume 1. Anyway those tracks are good ones . All the best

  8. Interesting development Gerard. Upon closer listening what's your verdict. Could tracks #3,#8,#10,#12 be other artists than Earl Bell?

    1. See my answer below to Stefan Wirz. I guess this enigma will be solved in a short time now. All the best

  9. Thanks Gérard for your answer --- meanwhile I have asked George Mitchell for an opinion and he wrote me he'd answer as soon as he had listened to those tracks (which I now made accessible for him)
    One thing is sure (after I listened myself to those tracks in question): On "Two Trains Running" the musician sings "Come On In, McNeil", so at least this riddle is obviously solved by the man himself ! ;-)
    Will report if and what George Mitchell has to say ...

    1. Thanks Stefan. As I told you, those tracks have never been published on LP or CD form and were only downloadable in North America (!!!). So, after several years of trying to hear them, a good soul finally sent me those very hard to get tracks. I think George Mitchell will solve this enigma.

  10. Merci pour cette découverte j'adore ! Je viens d'acheter vos livres sur kindle et je me suis commandé l'encyclopédie du blues. je reviens au country blues après des errements musicaux (jazz et autres) et vos écrits sont magnifiques ! Pour info j'ai aussi une stella gene Autry comme dans votre roman Catfich blues ;) !

    1. Merci beaucoup de vos appréciations. J ai toujours essayé de faire partager ce que j ai ressenti dès le début avec ces musiques, qu'elles sont prenantes et riches parce que les gens qui les ont créées étaient au sens propre extra-ordinaires.

  11. thank you Mr. Herzhaft,
    some excellent Blues, new to my ears.
    great stuff.

  12. excellent! thank you for all . have a happy new year .
    little ushi