Blues singer, guitarist, and songwriter Ed Bell (1905-1960s) is “the most influential Alabama artist in pre-war blues recordings,” according to the Encyclopedia of Popular Music.
Through he was born on a plantation in Fort Deposit, Bell moved to Greenville as a child.
An older cousin took Bell to Muscle Shoals in 1919 where he learned to play the blues.
He spent much of his adult life as a traveling musician and sometimes recording artist, performing under the pseudonyms Sluefoot Joe and Barefoot Bill.
Barefoot Bill’s songs tended to be of imprisonment and voodoo themes.
He is best known for his recording of Mamlish Blues, released by Paramount records in 1927.
Bell eventually became tired of life as a traveling blues musician and became a Baptist preacher, married and settled in Montgomery.
Bell died in Greenville in 1960, 1965, or 1966. One source suggests he may have died during a civil rights march, while other sources suggest his death was due to natural causes, murder on account of his involvement in the civil rights movement, or black magic.
Excerpted from the publication “Six Facts about Black History in Butler County” by the Greenville-Butler County Public Library.