Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cancer Claims Richard Bell at 61

June 18, 2007
By Graham Rockingham
Hamilton Spectator

Richard Bell, an orginal member of Hamilton rock band Crowbar, who went on to record with Janis Joplin and The Band, has died of cancer at the age of 61.

Bell, who passed away Friday, June 15, at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital, had performed in recent years as keyboard player with Canadian roots-rock performers such as Colin Linden, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and Kathleen Edwards.

Considered one of the greatest blues-rock keyboard players Canada ever produced, Bell first came to prominence in the late '60s when he teamed up with Hamilton harmonica player Richard Newell (King Biscuit Boy) as part of the Ronnie Hawkins Band.

Newell and Bell were part of the original lineup of the Hamilton-based band Crowbar, which had a No. 1 hit in the early '70s with the song, "Oh, What a Feeling (What a Rush)".

“The opening bars of "You Done Tore Your Playhouse Down" (on Official Music by King Biscuit Boy with Crowbar) was one of the greatest blues piano intros I’ve ever heard”, said former Crowbar lead singer Kelly Jay in an interview from his home in Calgary.

Bell left Crowbar to join Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band, performing on her final album and touring with her on the Festival Express train across Canada. After Joplin’s death, Bell moved to Woodstock, N.Y., and Alabama, working as a session musician with people like Paul Butterfield, Joe Walsh, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan and John Sebastian.

In 1991, Bell joined The Band and performed on their final three albums (Jericho, High on the Hog and Jubilation). The Band folded after the death of Rick Danko in 1999 and Bell went on to play with Colin Linden, Bruce Cockburn, the Cowboy Junkies, Burrito Deluxe and many others.

“Richard Bell was the best musician I ever met, period”, said Linden, a Nashville-based producer and a member of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings.

Linden, a close friend, flew to Toronto last week to be close to Bell in his final days. Linden is helping organize a tribute to Bell, which will take place Wednesay at 2 p.m. at the Steamwhistle Brewery in Toronto.

[Article forwarded by Marty Murray]

To view John Gibbard's photos of Hamilton's "Blues with a Feeling 2007" (a tribute to King Biscuit Boy), click here:

[Link forwarded by bassist Neil Nickafor -]

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