Blues Bytes


November 2023

D.C. Bellamy
Water To Wine
Rooster Blues Records

DC BellamyOne of my favorite blues labels of the late 8’0s/early ’90s was Rooster Blues Records. Through the efforts of Jim O’Neal’s label, I was able to expand my blues music horizons significantly, discovering artists like Booba Barnes, Eddy Clearwater, Willie Cobbs, Lonnie Pitchford, Super Chikan, Lonnie Shields, Johnny Rawls, and many others.

As producer, O’Neal let the artists play as if they were in their normal setting, staying out of the way as much as possible, and the results were always memorable. The label disappeared for a few years in the late ’90s, but resurfaced in 2000 with a flurry of new releases and repackaged previous releases.

One of the gems of that resurgence was an anthology set (which I reviewed for Blues Bytes way back in June 2000), which featured songs from their catalog as well as a few tracks from upcoming albums. One of those sneak preview tracks was from a Kansas City-based blues man named D.C. Bellamy. Though he was located in KC, Bellamy was born Gregory Washington in Chicago and was a half brother of R&B legend Curtis Mayfield.

 Inspired by Mayfield at an early age, Bellamy was playing blues and R&B bands around Chicago as a teen-ager and toured around the world with singer Betty Everett for ten years, working on the side with Donny Hathaway, Brook Benton, Gene Chandler, and Jimmy Reed, among others, while working all along to develop his own songwriting and vocal style.

Bellamy relocated to Kansas City to raise his daughter, playing the blues with several of the local artists at a neighborhood bar called the Club Paradox, where they began hosting jam sessions as the Third Street Blues Band. During these sessions, Bellamy began stepping out as a front man. It was just a hop, skip, and a jump to recording his own album, which became Water To Wine via Rooster Blues Records. Bellamy wrote nine of the 12 tracks and is joined by James “Spoon” Wilson (drums), Harrison Irons (keyboards), Ray Hopper (organ), Dan “Juice” Hettinger (harmonica), Ben Shult and Louis Villeri (bass), and guest guitarist James D. Lane.

Given Bellamy’s musical background, it’s no surprise that that his music mixes blues with R&B. His vocals are raw and gritty while his guitar work is pretty much blues with little to no traces of rock. His compositions are clever and distinctive, ranging from “Make Love,” “Just Foolin’ Yourself” (which gives a nod to his time with Jimmy Reed) and the title track, which deftly describes a certain lover’s romantic prowess.

Another Reed-influenced tune, “I Ain’t Gettin’ What I Used To Get,” features Lane on lead guitar. “Next Door Neighbor’s Wife” is probably his best original tune. Bellamy’s lyrics are first rate throughout the album, inspired by his half brother.

The three covers are pretty interesting and unique. The cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Dimples” is updated nicely with a smooth, R&B sound, as is Marvin Gaye’s “Hitch Hike.” The wistful album closer is the humorous Memphis Slim tune “If You See Kay.”

When Water To Wine came out, I can remember really being impressed with Bellamy’s total musical package --- a great blues singer and guitarist, as well as a clever tunesmith with a definite knack for distinctive lyrics. Bellamy only recorded one more time, again for Jim O’Neal (on O’Neal’s Stackhouse Records), but his second release, Give Some Body to Somebody (reviewed in November 2006), was just as impressive a display of his talents

Sadly, D.C. Bellamy passed away unexpectedly on November 3. It’s a shame that an artist of his talent didn’t get the opportunity to record more than he did, but what he did record was top notch, especially Water To Wine, which is well worth seeking out for those who want to hear what a talent he was.

--- Graham Clarke



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