The first impression when watching and listening to the Kelly Bell Band is what a talented group of musicians. Once you get to know them a little better you realize what an incredible band of human beings. The entire time you are with them they humbly deflect the praise and attention from themselves to shine the light on others. For instance Kelly wanted to make sure his sound engineer Karl Weidman was mentioned, crediting this man’s talents for making him sound good and Robert Figueroa and Stephanie Reissner for “making it all happen.” They wanted to be sure to give a shout out to Karen Fritz at Navy Entertainment as well for all her help organizing their trips to entertain the troops.
It has been an emotional past few months for the Kelly Bell Band, full of the most incredible highs and some sad lows. This fall the band found out they were nominated in the Maryland Music Icon category for the Maryland Music Awards, which is coming up on Dec. 2 at Rams Head Live. The guys are blown-away by the honor and are very thankful to be recognized. Unfortunately former band member Nick Selvi recently passed away as well as Kelly’s father. Kelly speaks of the Kelly Bell Band as being a family and it is never more evident as when such dark times hit. The band rallied behind Kelly as the consummate entertainer’s voice cracked with emotion while performing on stage within 24 hours of learning his dad died. Kelly actually felt bad, as if he was letting the audience down, because he was not giving them his peak performance. He said he was so thankful to have Word by his side, just singing louder, supporting him. Kelly said feeling the guys beside him gave him the strength to carry on.
Kelly explained how the band really is a group collaboration with no musical limitations. Everyone has the opportunity to step up and the ability to execute whatever gets brought to the table. The band is also coming up on their 20th anniversary and will be holding a special CD release party next year. Kelly said he actually hopes to release three CDs next year. The Live 20th Anniversary Concert recorded at the 8×10 Club (which rumor has it might be a double-live CD), an acoustic CD, and a live recording from their annual Quiet Waters Park concert. The Quiet Waters CD will be yet another way the Kelly Bell Band will be giving back to the community, as all proceeds from the sales will go towards saving the park.
Kelly must have one of the biggest hearts in the music business. He endlessly gives his time and talent to support and entertain the United States troops and consistently turns up offering his services for charity events. Kelly is a man who thoroughly enjoys entertaining. He remembers the exact moment he knew being on stage is what he was meant to do. A 12 year-old Kelly attended the B. B. King concert at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. Clarence Carter and Bobby Bland were the opening acts. Kelly says when he saw all the ladies in the audience fanning themselves like they were in church, overcome with the power of Bobby Bland’s performance, he knew right then and there in at that moment he wanted to make people feel that way too. He has succeeded. At every Kelly Bell Band concert you can hear ladies in the crowd saying they find his velvety vocals very sexy. Musically Kelly has been influenced by Heavy Metal and the Blues including bands such as Black Sabbath and Motorhead to the vocals of Aretha Franklin. Though he does play the guitar, Kelly feels since he is surrounded on stage with such talented guitarists like Ryan and Ira there is no need for him to play with the band. As if his great heart and musical talents weren’t enough to make him an exceptional individual, Kelly is also a highly educated man. He holds four degrees, one in Mental Health, one in Psychology and two in Social Work.
Rahsaan Wordslave Eldridge
Rahsaan, goes by the nickname Word, which is short for his stage name Wordslave. As rapper and backing singer with the Kelly Bell Band for the past eight years, Word brings his wit and incredible positive energy to the band. Rahsaan soul really shines forth when he sings. His uplifting spirit touches all those who hear it. He credits singing with his mom in church as his introduction to his vocal path. Word says his father was really into music and played the flute and percussion. A graduate from Towson University with a degree in voice, Wordslave recently had a CD release party and concert for his recent solo project, Dollar out of Fifteen Cents. You can find his music on Soundcloud. Wordslave is a multi-facetted artist with a message of resilience and triumph. When discussing his singing gift, he shifted the focus to his sister, highlighting her voice as something that was really extra special. In his downtime Word, true to his name, enjoys writing.
Ira Mayfield, Jr.
Prince Georg’s County, MD native and Washington Redskins fan Ira has been with the Kelly Bell Band about 14 years. A little known fact about Mr. Mayfield is that not only is he a self-taught guitarist, he is left handed but plays the guitar right handed. Most lefties might take the guitar and turn it around to play left handed upside down or restring the guitar, but Ira just picked it up and played right handed. His fellow bandmates expressed their constant amazement at Ira’s ability to create chords and sounds they’ve never heard. By picking up an instrument and figuring things out for himself, Ira had the freedom to explore and experiment with the guitar in ways a schooled musician does not. Like the rest of the band, Ira credits Jimi Hendrix to be a major musical influence. His said one of his favorite Kelly Bell songs is “Chasing the Sun”. Ira says in his spare time he really doesn’t listen to that much music, he prefers to play. Although he did say he likes to listen to music when he cleans. This comment drew much laughter from the guys. After all, he just finished stating he doesn’t listen to that much music.
Annapolis native Ryan has been playing lead guitar in the Kelly Bell Band for 5 years. Kelly describes Ryan’s intimate knowledge of every bit of the instrument as truly remarkable. You can tap into his vast expertise at Ryan Fowler’s Guitar Experience and on his blog. The Kelly Bell band is sponsored by PRS Guitars. Ryan said he feels extremely fortunate to have access to play so many beautifully crafted instruments. Everyone in the band chimed in to say if given the chance you must tour the PRS Factory. (PRS Factory tours happen to be opening up to the public again in 2015) When asked about his musical tastes Ryan said he tends to look backwards in music and enjoys the older Blues, such as Albert King. He likes listening to music in his spare time and you can find him jamming to some Johnny Winter, Prince or Stevie Wonder when he’s not playing.
Derrick has been the bass player for the Kelly Bell Band for about three years. Prior to joining the band Derrick played with some other local acts such as Jimmie’s Chicken Shack and Rebel Amish Radio. As a kid he received a drum set for Christmas. His brother received a guitar but was on Derrick’s drums so much he used to complain to his parents that he never got a chance to play. It was around this time that the first KISS album came out. That is when he really got attracted to playing music and wanted to play the guitar like Ace Frehley. It was around the age of nine that he got his first Les Paul copy. By eleven or twelve he was forming a band with his friends. Everybody played the guitar so he decided to switch to bass. They would practice songs like Tom Sawyer by Rush. Derrick said he really enjoys playing in the Kelly Bell Band because they challenge him, yet give him the freedom to do his own thing. Kelly and they guys said they were all very impressed with Derrick’s versatility and feel very fortunate to have him with them. He cites Larry Graham and Victor Wooten as some of his favorite bassists as well as Michael League from Snarky Puppy.
Alex hails from Edgewood, New York and has been playing with the band a bit over 3 years. A graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Music, Alex is considered the Musical Director of the Kelly Bell Band. As a young boy he played the guitar, piano and clarinet. By the age of 12 he switched to the saxophone. Today he plays Tenor and Soprano Saxophones as well as the Flute for the Kelly Bell Band. Usually Alex is on background vocals, but he will be stepping up to lead on “Day Tripper” during the band’s performance December 5 at the 8×10 Club’s Come Together Benefit show. (Proceeds from this celebration of Beatles music will go to the Maryland Food Bank.) There will be performances by some of the area’s top bands. (Click here for more information on this event or to order tickets.) Although his home town is in New York, Alex followed his father’s football traditions growing up and is a Denver Broncos fan.
John Robert Buell
At 1 ½ years John Robert Buell, from Laurel, MD, is the newest member of the Kelly Bell Band family. The band said they were thrilled to have the drummer join them. He is a valued and respected member and Kelly says they are stronger musically with his presence. John Graduated Cum Laude from Berklee College of Music earning a degree in music with a focus on performance and music business. His involvement with music began as a child when he was a member of the Maryland Boys Choir. He sang in a competition held in Toronto as well as at the French Embassy. At the age of nine John started playing the piano but soon picked up the drums instead. He credits taking the private lessons and his teacher for pushing him musically. A man with a wide variety of musical tastes, you could find him listening to anything from the Wu-Tang Clan or Tribe Called Quest to Led Zeppelin and Bob Segar. John enjoys grilling in his spare time, especially if it is wrapped in bacon.