Considered a recording industry legend, Al Bell has been responsible for shaping the American music scene for over 40 years. From his humble beginnings as an air personality in Little Rock, Memphis, and Washington, DC, to his position as Chairman of Stax Records and subsequently the president of Motown Records, Bell’s dynamic leadership style led him to become known as one of the premier business executives in the recording industry. His innovative promotional efforts promulgated the “Memphis Sound” internationally and made Stax the second-largest African American-owned business in the 1970s.
After helping engineer the sale of Motown to MCA/Boston Ventures Group, Mr. Bell discovered Tag Team and released Whoomp! There It Is, which sold over 5 million single units. This record was one of the biggest selling singles in the history of the recorded music industry. He later was asked by Prince to release a single record for him, after his record label – Warner Bros. – turned him down. Mr. Bell released the record and, with his unique style of marketing and promotion, gave “The Artist” his biggest-selling single ever, titled The Most Beautiful Girl In The World.
Mr. Bell has to his credit an impressive list of accomplishments, honors, and awards, but to him his career has meant much more than making hit records, turning artists into “stars,” and earning awards. It has meant developing talent behind the scenes as well. It has meant discovering, training, and nurturing the careers of record executives all over the country. It has meant being sought after for individual advice and counsel. And it has meant answering phone calls at all hours of the day and night as he takes the time to encourage those who seek a career in his beloved music industry.
In the recently published book chronicling the history of Stax, titled Soulsville USA: The Stax Records Story, Rev. Jesse Jackson is quoted on its cover saying, “Stax was not just a record company. It was a sound. It was a piece of culture. It was a moment of conscience and experience of mankind. At the right time, it meant a lot to us. People still heavily borrow upon the tradition of Stax and the lineage laid down by the very special genius of Al Bell.”