Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Legend of Tommy Bell

Flint Expatriates was created to answer weighty questions about bars and lounge singers. But I don't know the answers in this case. Any readers out there who can help?
Guy Merritt said...

I've got a two-pronged question that, I suppose, isn't really as relevant as it should be in this thread. Nonetheless, I thought I'd ask. A long, long time ago I used to go to a bar up on Pierson Road, with my first wife, and I think - unless it's one of those false memory syndrome things - (1) the the place was called Ali-Babas (or Alladin's, maybe - it was about a block east of The Fireside on Pierson), and, (2) that I caught a singer there by the name of Tommy Bell. The guy fronted his own band and was a great singer. Years later I was working, as a musician, at a casino called the Peppermill in Reno, Nevada. Our band alternated sets with Tommy Bell and, well, it was just a real surprise to run into him out there. Found a page on the net, recently, that referred to him as a "Reno Legend" so, it appears, he really found a home out west. Did anyone ever see Tommy Bell, and, was that place called Ali Baba's or the Alladin...?

— Guy Merritt...Still crazy—and still in Flint—after all these years.

26 comments:

  1. If your duo was called Leslie and Guy at the Oar House on Fenton Rd., I remember seeing the ads for it in The Flint Journal. I was never there though. I sent you a message on your website about a montn ago, after seeing your post on another blog.

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  2. I had my first legal drink at the Fireside. My friend and I had both turned 18 and were seniors in HS and we decided to stop there. I had no idea what to drink in a bar so got what my mom always had. Tom Collins. Yuck. Some old-and I mean old-geezers tried to pick us up and I told them my name was Ursula. I have no idea where that name came from.

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  3. Ali Baba's was the correct name.If I remember it sat east of clio near Cloverlawn.

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  4. Dave Barber commented on your note "The Legend of Tommy Bell":

    "It was Ali Baba's! Own by Joe and Shaheen Shaheen. Interestly enough they also owned the Alladin which was on Corunna Rd. That club came later. I saw Tommy Bell too and I agree he was a fine entertainer. It also seems to me I saw him in Vegas once.

    Guy, I also remember you performing with my first cousin Mike Pavelich. I hope you are well. I always enjoyed your music."

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  5. I remember the bars and the owners, Ali Baba's - Fireside - Ore House. Shaheen Shaheen - Jack Uhlmeyer- Bill Latreille. Each had a partner. Uhlmeyer sold his half of the Fireside and bought El Torro on Davison Rd. This was sixties and seventies. I wasn't much of a drinker then, but had some business dealings with them. I think they were all members of the Genesee County Beverage Assn. My wife was the secretary and ran the credit union. I knew alot of the owners and entertainers back then. Note: I didn't type "THE": El Torro. Doug!

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  6. To the anonymous poster: Yes, my first wife's name was Leslie and, approximately 1000 years ago, we played at The Oar House for Bill Latreille. More and more - along with thinking places smell like old people and realizing that I'm smelling myself - I find myself thinking, "Wow - was that a long time ago....".

    And a big "shout out" to Dave Barber. Hope this finds you well, should you see it... I saw Michael when he visited Flint (from Norway) about 5 months ago. As a kid who grew up poor, on Leith Street, he's come (or gone) a long way - heading up an opera company in Norway. Great to hear from you, Dave.

    Guy

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  7. Thanks for answering that question, Guy. I also seem to remember someone who went by the name of Mo Hyatt who played there and was also a overnight DJ at WKMF.

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  8. And this is why the internet - to borrow a euphemism from the 70's - is a "blast". There was, indeed, a fellow who played at The Oar House (man, I really think they could have found a better name for that place) named Moe. I would have never recalled this had someone not asked... As I recall, his last name was Hyatt. The guy did a "single" and was quite talented. Nothing gimmicky (no drum machines, etc. - quite popular back then) and all he did was play a Fender Rhodes eletric piano and sing. The guy was excellent and I have no idea what route he took after my few meetings with him at The Oar House. Searches on the net bring up nothing using that name. I recall the guy as being somewhat aloof and not particularly social, so, I reckon he's not some big "net jockey".

    But - yep - he worked at the Oar House as an entertainer.

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  9. Hey, Guy, at least your friend Bill came up with a better club name than Dorothy Lafferty did. :)

    BTW, I went to HS with Leslie, but I didn't know her well. That is why the advertisement in The Flint Journal caught my eye.

    And I had heard Mo Hyatt on the radio before I saw the ad in the paper.

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  10. For those who don't know, there was (and possibly still is) a whole underground of people like Mo Hyatt who work (often briefly) at and hang out at radio stations in the middle of the night.

    Also, in that same building, people like Cleodia Miles would attract a wide variety of people who would come in and even bring in tapes and records they wanted him to play. Sometimes he did. Those creatures were Flint's closest versions of Wolfman Jack.

    Another example of a radio DJ/night creature was nowadays Kennedy author and award winning animator Dale Kenneth Myers.

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    1. My Dad, Cleodia "In the Night" Myles wish he could've played all the demo tapes he was given from people that dropped by. Unfortunately, he passed in March 2012..he wanted everyone to have a chance to make it. Thanks for remembering him as I read your comment today (12/6) which happens to be his birthday.

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  11. Sadly, Tommy Bell passed away a few years back.

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  12. Wow, what a flash back this website is. My brother in law called one day to say he found it. He lives in LA. Yes, we lost Tommy in 2007. Leaving Michigan in 1979, we often reflected on all the crazy times. Tommy and I were married 32 years and if I had the chance, I'd do it again and again.
    Mrs. Tommy Bell,
    Sparks, NV

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    1. Hi Mrs Tommy Bell,
      We first heard Tommy sing at the Reno Hilton (may have the venue wrong) but it was definitely in Reno Aug & September 1995 & again when we visited in 1998. We loved his band & Tommy was such a fine entertainer, he even remembered us from our previous trip. We are Australians. My husband (a drummer) videoed Tommy singing (don't think we were supposed to) but we will try & get a working camera to replay it & upload it to Youtube.

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  13. I knew Tommy around the time he was at Ali Baba's and I was on the drums with Bob Adado at the Fireside. A couple of years or so later I left Bob at the Tender Trap and went back to the Fireside with my own trio - Tommy out front, and Greg Mavec(sp?)on B3. Tommy was a great singer - one of the best.

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    1. Hello John,

      I remember you, Tommy, Bob Adado, and Greg from the Fireside. I used sell you drumsticks at Shore's Music! I worked at Shore's and played in local bands until I left Flint in '76 to travel on the road with a group. Currently in San Jose, CA.

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  14. Hey Guy,
    I knew Tommy Bell. He actually did a song of mine on his album. It's called "So Hard Loving You". Tommy passed some years ago from a heart issue that he had.
    He was a great guy and a great singer.
    We are working on a vid right now for you tube...so in a few days go there and do a search for "So Hard Loving You" Tommy Bell.
    Be well
    Ron Barry

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  15. For those wishing to hear Tommy Bell the song is posted on youtube. It's called "So Hard Lovin You". The vid was something put together on the fly just to get the music out there. I hope you enjoy it.

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  16. Wow memories... I also played in a band that alternated sets with the late great Tommy Bell. which would mean that if my memory was better i would remember you too! my name is Rudi Spain and i play in a band called Buckboard. we did all the shifts at the peppermills and western village in sparks. that was about '82 through 86' now i'm gonna go see the tommy bell video and share it on facebook with my friends!

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  17. I went to school and numerous wedding gigs with Mavec.Tommy Bell was awesome so was his brother.He played with my old man a pretty good guitar player Pete Vincent

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  18. Gee! My band alternated sets with Tommy Bell at the Peppermill and Western Village in Sparks! Did all the shifts too... day, swing and graveyard at one time or another around '83 or '84.... It was a drag when the phone in the dressing room would light up during a break and the manager would tell ya to "tone it down" because You are pulling players off of the slots... could'nt win... I once shot a BA at Tommy from the dressing room while he was performing which didn't faze Him at all... after the song was finished he announced to the audience that "I just saw the ugliest slot machine I ever saw"...the audience didn't see it or get it, but Tommy's band did!

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  19. I went to see Tommy play in The Hilton in Reno & Tahoe he blew me a away, I have heard many of the greats & Tommy was up there with the best of them he should have been a major star with all that talent & skill we think of him often & I am sad he is no longer with us.

    PS. If Larry reads this I send my best to you & Jimmy & the crazy guitarist I treasure the gigs I was lucky to be at in USA & I have them on film & when I change the format I'll load them on Utube..

    Will

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  20. Greg Mavec was a close friend of my husbands',all through school .Was the best -man in our wedding..Him & Greg would go to the Durant Hotel so Greg could play back in the 70's..He could "tear -up" a Hammond organ..Lost him much too soon ...

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  21. Tommy played in my lounge -- Airway Lounge -- in Waterford, off and on for years. I had a reel to reel of his entire night until a later DJ stupidly erased it. His best song then was "She's A Lady". All of this was in the 70's before going to Vegas and/or Reno. Sorry to hear he passed. Had a lot of fun with the band.

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  22. Is this the same Tommy Bell....brother of drummer Larry Bell from Lansing?
    We all grew up together in Lansing. Larry and I had a trio back in the day starting in Everett HS and went in the Navy together on "The Buddy Plan". Larry wound up playing drums in the Navy for 4 years and later toured with the Glenn Miller band and later with Mariam McPartland.
    Where is Larry now?
    Brian Amato

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    1. Brian, Larry fell ill in 2007. He has been in a nursing home since then. The diagnosis MS. He is very thin, frail and not much quality to his life. His wife & 2 children live here in Reno, NV too but when visiting him, I can still see that little bit of the spitfire he used to be.
      Cindy Bell, Tommy's wife, Larry's sister in law.

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