by Robert Bell
Brinkley native Al Bell got his professional start in the '60s as a DJ in Little Rock before conquering the world of soul and R&B as one of the key figures — and later chairman and owner of — the legendary Stax Records.
He had a hand in launching the careers of such giants as The Staple Singers, The Emotions and Isaac Hayes, and produced records for Sam and Dave, Booker T and the M.G.’s, The Bar Kays, Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Albert King, The Dramatics and many more. He released the soundtrack for Melvin Van Peebles' classic film "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song," which featured a score written by Peebles and recorded by a nascent act called Earth Wind & Fire. In later years, Bell was president of Motown Records Group, and he also had a label, Bellmark, that released Prince's single "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World," as well as a couple of little hits you might remember called "Whoomp! (There It Is!) by Tag Team and "Dazzey Duks" by Duice.
He serves on the boards of directors for several nonprofits and schools and has earned numerous awards, including a 2011 Grammy Trustees Award for his contributions to recorded music.
In other words, the man is a living legend and he lives right here in Little Rock.
Now, Bell is back on to the airwaves of Central Arkansas as the host of "Al Bell Presents American Soul Music," a three-hour show that made its radio debut last week. The program got started as an online show back in 2009, but now you can also hear it on HeartBeat 106.7-KHLR every Friday night at 7 p.m.
"Music is the great emotional trigger of the human soul," Bell said in a press statement. "Nothing elicits a memory, nothing inspires a mood and nothing moves people to action as thoroughly as does a great song." The purpose of his show, he said, is "to cause the listener to 'feel good' emotionally and psychologically — good enough to feel like dancing!"