Sherman Bell’s love of music began when he was a child in San Francisco during the 1950s, and it continues to grow to this day.
Now a musician and DJ in Maricopa, Bell brings a lifetime of experience to his local entertainment gigs.
Bell credits his mother for getting him involved with music. She always encouraged him to sing, and as he grew, he learned to play the drums, horn and saxophone. He has worked with recording artists such as Bobby Freeman, Red Fox and Sly and The Family Stone, and he has been able to build a life around playing music in San Francisco, and now in Maricopa.
“My mom got me involved with music at an early age,” Bell says. “One day, on a second grade field trip, I came across a man playing the song ‘Personality’ on a ukulele. Without really thinking about it, I started to sing along. Before I knew it, a crowd came to watch. Everything I’ve done has grown from there.”
Bell has never lost his singing roots, and he continues to perform to this day. When he entered high school, he took up the horn and the saxophone as well. He and some friends formed a musical group known as The Marcels.
“It was always a great time when we played together,” Bell says. “We never made it big ourselves, but we did get to back up some great performers.”
As a jazz performer in San Francisco in the 1960s, Bell has been put in some unique situations. His opportunity with Sly and The Family Stone came through chance and – recreational decisions, he says.
As Bell recalls, his musical group, now known as The Players, was performing next door to Sly and The Family Stone’s show. The original group set to back up Sly was a bit too “happy” to perform. The Players stepped in, and even made an appearance on television with the group.
“I’ve been at the right place at the right time,” Bell said. “We were fortunate enough to back up Sly and The Family Stone on a live show. As the camera panned out, you could see The Players performing.”
Soon after, The Players would be approached by a young man who had written a song that he could not perform due to a stutter. Although Bell could not recall the young man’s name, The Players agreed to play the song in a Veteran’s Day parade. The song, “Them Changes,” would earn The Players two awards from the parade committee, and eventually would be bought from the young man and turned into a hit by Buddy Miles. Bell still sees the opportunity of being the first person to perform that song as one of the highlights of his career.
As Bell’s career progressed, The Players were given the opportunity to professionally record a song with Fantasy Label. Their record “Lighten Up” never had much commercial success.
Eventually Bell would leave San Francisco and relocate to Sonoma County, California, with his brother. He would continue playing music there, but just on a local level. He organized the first and only “Hot Pants Revival” dance for Sonoma County. It was a block party-style festival he would one day like to bring to Maricopa.
Bell found his way to Maricopa in 2004. Health issues sidelined him from playing instruments, but he developed talents as a disc jockey, as well as a photographer. Currently, one of his photographs hangs in the Great Western Bank.
“Music is another form of art,” Bell said. “I had a few foot surgeries and wasn’t able to perform like I used to. So I DJ when I can’t perform live music, and I found a love for photography.”
According to Bell, people have told him that after looking at his picture in the bank, they began to feel better about their day. For Bell, this means more than any record contract or money ever could.
“Anything I can do to help, I’ll do,” Bell said. “That’s what I’m about. Helping people. I’m not physically strong like I used to be, but if I can help with my voice or my art, I’ll do what I can.”
Since settling in Maricopa, Bell has performed in his church and at the yearly festival hosted by Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church. Recently, he joined the musical group “Touch of Class.” They don’t plan to get a record deal, but Bell is excited to be playing music once again.
“Music is in my heart,” Bell said. “I love it, and it kept me out of a lot of trouble. I’m never gonna quit. They’ll have to put a saxophone in my coffin.”