MM Series #58 / Recorded Dec 04, June 05 / Huntsville AL, Hillsborough, NC
In the fall of 1996, I was driving back from Louisville, Kentucky, when I spotted a van, which on its panels was written Adolphus Bell, One-Man Band. As the years passed, I kept hearing about a one-man band playing on the streets of southern cities. In the summer of 2004 my friend, Mudcat gave me a telephone number on the One Man Band, he was down in Birmingham, Alabama. I called him up and he told me:
“I have been doing music my whole life. I never have had any other kind of work. I am 60 and I am ready to go. I have played the streets for 35 years as the One Man Band. I am the best at what I do! No one can do it like me! There are others, but they just do not have the experience. I just look forward in getting out there and doing my music.”
“I used to tell people when I was playing on the streets that one day I was going to have a CD. I did not know when or where it was going to come. You see I never had the respect, consideration or courtesy until I met Music Maker. I was born in Birmingham, grew up north in Pittsburgh. George Benson lived near us and he is the one that got me started on the guitar.”
“I call my guitar Pawnshop. Each time it goes into the pawnshop it gets bluesier when it comes out, like it sounds, funkier. I’m serious; I will be missing it, like it was in jail. I cannot sleep at night and that is a Gibson 1960 model, it has a lot of sentimental value to me. In matter of fact, it went to jail with me in 1974; I was playing in a park in Atlanta, Georgia. They put me in jail. I was in the news One-Man Band got a jail sentence. You know they put my guitar in jail, my drum, the whole city was upset! They called the mayor’s office and asked: why did you put that man in jail, we are taxpayers-what did he do wrong? The mayor’s name was Jackson he has passed on now. They did not put me in jail for robbing or stealing; they put me in jail for playing the blues. I said if a judge kept me in jail for playing the blues, he is a dirty judge. Any way, the people both white and black demanded my release, and they let me go. I am history in Atlanta. That city has been very good to me.”
“This music thing is no joke. You got to dedicate yourself to it or leave it alone. I have dedicated my life to it. It is my life. It is my gift. Each person has a gift. It may be your personality, the way you talk to someone, dance, sing or even push a broom. You make that floor look shiny; make it stand out like a shining star. Be good at what you do, if you are shining shoes, I don’t care what it is, cutting a yard. Anything I do, I do it good. I like to have pride, respect. This is what motivates others, when they see your good works. Because somebody has got to start something to show some love. I don’t want to ever change. I will be the One Man Band until the day I die.”
-Timothy Duffy, President MMRF
Adolphus Bell was born on June 5, 1944 in Birmingham, Alabama. His father a coal miner died two months before he was born. Growing up in Luverne, Alabama he went to work as a child as a farm laborer. His mother moved the family to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. At the age of 22 he began his pursuit of music full-time, a few years later discouraged from keeping up with band members he developed his One Man Band. Adolphus has been playing on the streets, house parties and since the late 60s has been an activist, constantly performing on the streets of urban ghettos for the kids, trying to ease their frustrations with his music. In 2005 Adolphus has been booked at major European festivals and is looking forward to traveling further with his music.