By Corey Deiterman
By William Michael Smith
By Jef With One F
By Craig Hlavaty
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Sonya Harvey
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Nathan Smith
Bell and flatpicker extraordinaire Mickey White then formed the Hemmer Ridge Mountain Boys and hired on as Van Zandt's band for tour of the west, a liquor-drenched trek that was captured in songwriter Richard Dobson's 1998 book, The Gulf Coast Boys. Later the Boys backed Lucinda Williams on her second album, Happy Woman Blues. The Boys disbanded in the early '80s, and Bell went on to play bass with a rock band called the Louvres and with Andy King and the Blues Mechanics. Eventually he dropped out of music and toiled an "empty" eight years as a box salesman.
When Bell re-entered music, it was again through the door of the Old Quarter. He officially reopened the club in 1995 in Galveston. Within a week Van Zandt booked a gig, the first of two there before his death. Since then the club has attracted talent that normally wouldn't step foot onto Galveston. And yet Bell was still in the shadows.
Enter Barry Snell. The San Antonio attorney wanted to meet the Rex of "Rex's Blues" fame, and to hear his music. The two hit it off immediately, and Snell thought it an injustice that Bell had never made a CD of his own. So in 1997 they went into the studio with some of Bell's friends and made Wrecks' Blues. Shaken by the death of Van Zandt earlier that year, Bell did not want to take center stage, and as a result the album featured only songs written by Van Zandt. It was, at best, a tentative step toward artistic freedom.
Much the same could be said about Dog's Life. Yet for a guy who has been in the shadows for three decades, the album is indeed a bold step. As the title suggests, Bell is content these days. "I'm living a dog's life, I really am. I get to fish all the time. I've got a house, a lovely wife, a club and a golf cart."
What more could a man need? Except, perhaps, a little overdue recognition.
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