As part of the Houston Folk Music Archive, we’re happy to announce that the Vince Bell collection is ready for research. His collection contains lyrics, journals, photographs, fliers, audio and video, and business records related to album creation, promotion, and touring. Bell also donated quite a few books where he is featured, mostly books on Texas singer-songwriters.
Anderson Fair Retail Restaurant, 1974
While the physical collection is available, the digital side will take a bit longer. Over the next few months, we’ll be adding digital files, mostly music, to this collection, as well as post his oral history online.
Calendar drawn by Jean King from 1976 journal
For those not familiar with Bell, starting in 1970, he began playing folk music in clubs across Houston, including Sand Mountain Coffee House, the Old Quarter, Anderson Fair Retail Restaurant, as well as larger venues like Liberty Hall and local universities. He also went on to play the U.S. coffee house circuit.
In the mid-1970s, he spent his time living in both Austin and Houston forming bands and playing solo. In 1980, he worked on the rock ballet Bermuda Triangle with James Clouser for the Space/Dance/Theater. The ballet premiered in Houston at the Miller Outdoor Theater in May 1980.
On European tour with Eric Taylor and Iain Matthews, 1990s
After recording in an Austin studio, on December 21, 1982, he was hit by a drunk driver. The accident damaged his right arm, caused a severe brain injury, and he had a partially paralyzed vocal chord. After the accident, he worked over the next decade to rebuild his life and play the guitar again. This led him to develop a unique picking style and to write new music for his singing voice.
Austin City Limits: Step Inside This House, 2000. L to R: Guy Clark, Matt Rollings, Steven Fromholz, Sam Bush, James Gilmer, Viktor Krauss, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Michael Martin Murphy, Dan Tomlinson, Vince Bell, Eric Taylor, Gene Elders [?], and Pat Bergerson, photo taken by David Roth
In 1994, Bell released his first album, Phoenix
, to wide critical acclaim. He went on tour with The Jayhawks
throughout the U.S. and in Europe. He followed this up with, Texas Plates
(1999), Live in Texas
(2007), and One Man’s Music
(2009), and the DVD New Lamps for Old
. His songs have been covered by Nanci Griffith
, Lyle Lovett
, Little Feat
, Trout Fishing in America
, among others.
He later chronicled his life in two independently published autobiographies, which were later re-published as one book entitled One Man’s Music: The Life and Times of Texas Songwriter Vince Bell by University of North Texas Press.
If you are interested in learning more about the Houston Folk Music Archive, please check out John Nova Lomax’s article.