William Bell - Biography
Record Producer - Songwriter - Entertainer - Business Man
In a distinguished career as a singer, songwriter and producer, William Bell has come to define the essence of “soul.” Born in Memphis but based in Atlanta since 1970, William Bell was one of the pioneers of the classic Stax/Volt sound, joining such other illustrious musical forces at that label as Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & the MG’s, Albert King, Eddie Floyd, Carla and Rufus Thomas, The Staple Singers and the Bar-Kays, among others.
William recorded his first sides as a member of the group the Del Rios. In 1961, he made his solo recording debut with the classic single, “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” which became one of the fledgling label’s first major hits.
After a two-year stint in the Armed Forces, William released his first full-length album in 1967, the classic The Soul of a Bell, which included the Top 20 hit single, “Everybody Loves a Winner.” That same year, blues great Albert King recorded what came to be his signature tune, “Born Under a Bad Sign,” also written by Bell, which has since become one of the most-recorded blues songs.
Among his other classic hits at Stax were “Any Other Way,” “Never Like This Before,” “A Tribute to a King” (William’s personal tribute to Stax legend Otis Redding), “I Forgot to be Your Lover,” his internationally-acclaimed duet with Judy Clay, “Private Number,” and the perennial Christmas music favorite, “Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday.”
In 1970, William moved to Atlanta and struck pay dirt in 1977 with “Tryin’ to Love Two” on Mercury Records, which topped the R&B charts and eventually spent more than six months there.
As a songwriter, William Bell’s compositions have also been recorded by such diverse stars as Otis Redding, Eric Clapton, Billy Idol, Lou Rawls and Rod Stewart, among many others.
In 1985, William launched Wilbe Records in Atlanta and issued the album Passion, which produced three chart singles in the U.S. and was a major hit in the U.K. “I Don’t Want to Wake Up Feeling Guilty,” a duet with Janice Bullock from that album, stayed on the American charts for close to nine months. A song from that album, “Headline News,” was released as a single in England and was later voted one of the top ten records in 1987 by the readers of Blues & Soul magazine in the U.K.
In addition to releasing more of his own albums in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, William began to produce and develop other artists for his Wilbe label, which is nationally. After 1992, he took a break from recording, but continued to perform around the world. Some of his performing highlights during that period included the renowned Montreux Jazz Festival in 1995 and three memorable nights during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta that saw him paired with such fellow Memphis legends as Rufus Thomas and Ann Peebles.
1997 turned out to be a very rewarding year for William, as he reaped accolades from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, winning their R&B Pioneer Award; and The State of Georgia, which inducted him into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame by then-governor, Zell Miller.
In 2000, he returned to the recording studio and released “A Portrait Is Forever”, an album of all original songs, on his Wilbe label.
Other awards he’s received over the last few years include the prestigious W.C. Handy Heritage Award in 2003; and that same year, he received the BMI Songwriter’s Award for his tune, “Put That Woman first,” recorded by Jaheim. In 2004, he received the Joe Pope Pioneer Award, presented at the Beach Music Awards. In addition, Wilbe Records was voted “Record Label of the Year” in 2004 at the Southern Konnection Radio and DJ Conference, and was voted “Record Label of the Year” in 2008 and 2010 by the Jus’ Blues Foundation.
William is also a member of the Memphis Music Hall of Fame and featured prominently in the Stax Museum.
After an absence of over five years, William Bell released a brand new studio album, “New Lease on Life” in the spring of 2006, whose title track is already riding high on the southern soul charts. “New Lease on Life” is packed with the kind of classic songs and grooves that fans of William have come to expect. In addition to “New Lease on Life,” other standout songs in an album full of highlights include the testifying “Playaz Only Love You (When They’re Playing),” the soulful duet with Jeff Floyd on “Somebody’s Gonna Lose A Good Woman” , plus “My Body Don’t Know”, “Got An Island Feeling”,“Treat Her Right (Like a Lady)”, the gospel-influenced “Save Us” and “Every Sunday Morning.”
William also continues to produce and develop a number of new artists on his Wilbe label, such as Jeff Floyd, Lola, Dave Morris & Reginald “Wizard” Jones & The “Total Package Band”.
William Bell “Live In New York City”, his only live recording, is also now available!
In 2012 William performed with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and made three appearances in Concert at the Lincoln Center in New York City. Also he performed for the Smithsonian Festival in Washington DC, which drew almost a million people in three days.
In 2013 William complete a successful tour of Europe, has filmed a movie with Snoop Dog, now known as Snoop Lion, which will be released soon.
He was honored to perform for the President of the United States at the Whitehouse, to rave reviews.
Additionally William continues to be involved with the STAX Soulsville USA functions and the STAX Music Academy Kids, performing with them on numerous occasions.
William's latest project he's been honored to be involved in, is the "Take Me to the River" feature film, celebrating the inter-generational and inter-racial musical influence of Memphis.
Click here for more information.
William Bell continues to be a major force in the music industry!
Contact: Wilbe Productions, Inc. / for booking engagements or product 770-996-1500770-996-1500 / Fax: 770-996-6822
LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY!
NEW & FIRST EVER "LIVE" CD by William Bell !
“This is what it’s all about,…THIS IS SOUL LADIES & GENTLEMEN!,…the MC announces. And with a listing of classic songs recorded by the main attraction this evening, he introduces The Legendary William Bell, followed by rapid fire drum & horn section call & response,… this performance is under way,…
LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY!
William Bell” Live In New York City”CD review
This particular CD is just the kind of Live! music project that avid music collectors can’t wait to get a hold of & brag about how rare of a find it is, how hard it was to obtain, all the while keeping it cautiously within arm’s reach of his audience, only to be locked away, never to be seen again.
Not this time collectors! This one is for the masses! The only thing rare about this is that it is the only Live! Release from Mr. Bell who gives a stellar vocal performance the whole way thru.
The 1977 hit ”Easy Comin’Out, Hard Goin’In” kicks off the experience, with a brief vamp of the Tyrone Davis hit” Can I Change My Mind” effortlessly mixed in.”Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday” follows like you’ve never heard it before! Of course that’s the beauty of Live! renditions. Plenty of extensions, ad-libs, tempo changes, etc,…
When I say you’ve never heard it like this before, I’m not exaggerating.”Everyday,…” is greased, teased,& ultimately pleeeeezing to the ear.
Now you’re primed for the anthemic ”I Forgot To Be Your Lover”/”You Send Me”medley, laced with some really nice Hammond B-3 organ playing & some” words to the wise” from W.B.,…”if you got a good thing ,don’t go around braggin’about your good thing, cause everybody’s looking for a good thing,…”. A tribute to The Big ”O”, the late great Otis Redding is in order for the next few selections. Of course, W.B. penned & recorded the fitting ”Tribute To A King ”in remembrance of Otis shortly after his untimely passing. On Live,… he borrows & superbly reworks tunes from the ”king’s” catalogue like” Hard To Handle”, ”Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa”, & is joined by former Stax label mate, Eddie Floyd, to perform Mr. Redding’s signature song” Dock Of The Bay” which in itself is well worth the price of admission.
The final selection is appropriately William Bell’s debut single ”You Don’t Miss Your Water ”which is as brilliant as ever, complete with dynamic vocal stylings & a killer saxophone solo.
In summary,… job well done! ”Live In NYC” is the next best thing to being there!
To paraphrase the MC, “THIS IS TRULY WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT,… THIS IS SOUL MUSIC LADIES & GENTLEMEN,…AT IT’S FINEST! INDEED.
Lee Henzel, Host of ”Blues Therapy” WRFG 89.3FM, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.