By JOHN BENSON
Special to The Gazette
During his years spent teaching math at Medina High School, Charlie Bell always dreamed of taking his soul music singing hobby to a new level.
Surprisingly, the Georgia native found his opportunity a few years ago while overseas as part of the Fulbright teacher exchange program.
â€œWhile I was teaching in Finland, I met this band,â€ said Bell, calling from his home in Newport News, Va. â€œThey came to something I was singing at church. A friend that knew me called them up and said, â€˜You need to see this Charlie Bell guy.â€™ They drove an hour and a half to hear me sing at church.
â€œI was approached after the show by this gentleman who said, â€˜I have a band together, I have a studio and Iâ€™ve been looking for some black guy to sing gospel and some blues and jazz. Iâ€™d like to get together, put together a demo and see if you like what I play and do, and if that fits you and vice versa.â€™ â€
Bell, who is married to retired Medina City Schools school teacher Barbara, said it was a few weeks later in 2006 that he visited the band and magic ensued.
â€œI spent the weekend there, we did some things, and it just clicked,â€ Bell said. â€œSo we started doing some stuff later on that year and then after Christmas started working on some stuff and putting together a concert tour and wow, things happened quickly.
â€œIt was certainly a shock and a surprise to me that this was happening. I certainly didnâ€™t go over to do that but always have dreamed about singing with a band and doing some blues and jazz and soul music. Itâ€™s amazing they know about American music, blues, soul and gospel.â€
The result is Charlie Bell & The Icemenâ€™s debut recording â€œLove One Another,â€ which features originals â€œGo With Youâ€ and â€œOn The Way,â€ as well as covers such as Curtis Mayfieldâ€™s â€œPeople Get Ready,â€ Stevie Ray Vaughanâ€™s â€œTick Tockâ€ and Bob Dylanâ€™s â€œGotta Serve Somebody.â€
â€œOn the CD, Iâ€™m doing the vocals and background vocals,â€ said Bell, a former major in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. â€œMy producer plays the guitar. We have a bass player and drummer also. So itâ€™s a quartet, and the CD is composed of blues, gospel and soul music. We do some cover songs and there are four original songs. I went back to Finland this past summer, and weâ€™re working on a second CD for hopefully in the next year.â€
Bell said current plans call for the band to add more instrumentation and background singers for the new CD, as well as to tour stateside in 2010. In an effort to move closer to family, Bell and his wife are moving back to Virginia. However, he hopes to bring Charlie Bell & The Icemen to Northeast Ohio. For now, heâ€™s just excited about â€œLove One Another.â€
â€œI think everybody would enjoy it,â€ Bell said. â€œThatâ€™s one of the goals that this is music that when people listen to it, they can actually feel some things from it. This isnâ€™t just an ordinary album that you listen to but donâ€™t really listen to. It actually allows people to think about themselves, about life and just some good music that will move you.
â€œEven if youâ€™re not a fan of gospel, blues or jazz, there is something in there youâ€™ll hear thatâ€™s different from other things. I think the CD really has some heart.â€
For more information or to purchase â€œLove One Another,â€ e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Benson may be reached at email@example.com.