Al Bell, chairman of the Memphis Music Foundation and one of the driving forces behind Stax Records, has received one of the highest honors the music industry offers, the Trustees Award given by the Board of Trustees of the Recording Academy® to be given during Grammy Week on Saturday, February 12, and acknowledged at the Grammy Award telecast. Bell now joins the pantheon of musical icons who have received the prestigious honor, including the Beatles, Berry Gordy, Duke Ellington, and Stax Records’ co-owner Estelle Axton.
In 1965, a young radio disc jockey from Brinkley, Arkansas, named Alvertis Isbell joined a fledging record company in Memphis, Tennessee, to help promote the music it was churning out in an old converted movie theater. That small label was Stax Records, and Al Bell became known to be one of the driving forces that helped change music history.
Decades later, in 2009, he became the chairman of the board of directors of the Memphis Music Foundation (MMF), the main organization charged with promoting the city’s musical legacy, current artists, and future plans.
“This is great news for Al Bell and Memphis Music,” said Dean Deyo, president of the Memphis Music Foundation. “Al started developing young artists during his Stax days over 40 years ago and continues to nurture artist development as chairman of the Memphis Music Foundation. Memphis music is something very special and one of the main reasons for its success has been Al Bell. It just may be a bit early to give him a Lifetime Achievement Award, because he is not done yet. Al Bell is just getting started.”
“The phone call I received from Neil Portnow, president of NARAS’ Grammy Foundation, letting me know that I was going to be a recipient of the Trustees Lifetime Achievement Award,” says Bell, “was both humbling and honoring. This is the most meaningful recognition I could have ever hoped to achieve from my industry. I sincerely thank NARAS and the Grammy Foundation for honoring me with their highest award.”
For Isbell, given the name Al Bell in 1957 as radio announcer in Little Rock, Arkansas, whose famous radio sign-on was “This is your 6-feet-4 bundle of joy, 212 pounds of Mrs. Bell’s baby boy, soft as medicated cotton, rich as double-X cream, the women’s pet, the men’s threat, the play boys pride and joy, the baby boy Al Bell,” — the Grammy Award marks his lifetime of work in the music industry.
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