Harmonica Great Harrington Dies at 70

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A great name in music is dead. Blues harmonica player Carey Bell Harrington died this week at the age of 70.


Harmonica great Carey Bell Harrington died of heart failure in Chicago this week. He was 70 years old. Carey Bell, as he was known, could trace his blues pedigree back to Sonny Boy Williams, Little Walter and Big Walter Horton. He studied with them all. He could play funky up-tempo blues, melodic ballads and soulful renditions of all of the Chicago blues classics.

Born in Macon, Mississippi, young Carey Bell wanted to play the saxophone, but his family could only afford a harmonica. He was playing professionally by the age of 13. Like so many Mississippi blues men before him, Mr. Harrington went north to Chicago for a tour with Muddy Waters and became a member of Willie Dixon's Chicago Blues All-Stars.

When a harmonica gig started falling off, Carey Bell learned the electric bass. Eventually he became a bandleader. And in 1998 he won the Blues Foundation's Blues Musical award for traditional male artist of the year. Carey Bell recorded a number of albums with his son, guitarist Lurrie Bell, including this year's Getting Up Live.

He had 15 children with a number of different wives and girlfriends. I got the kid plays harmonica, one plays drums, oldest kid on bass, he told a reporter in 2004, got enough kids to make my own band, I guess.

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