Chicago blues guitarist battles mental illness with music

February 11, 2010 9:56:33 AM PST
Chicago's blues guitarist Lurrie Bell is considered by some to be one of the most talented blues guitarists of his generation. This is a major accomplishment for Bell, especially since he has been struggling with mental illness most of his life.

Lurrie Bell has been performing for 40 years. He is a regular at Buddy Guy's.

Bell said he has been confused about life for a long time.

"I had an accident, had a concussion, had to stay in hospital as a kid for six months, and the effects of that stayed with me for years and years and years," said Bell, "and it caused me to feel kind of depressed and felt like I didn't fit in with society.

"I didn't feel so depressed when I picked up the guitar or picked up the harmonica or sung a number. It made me feel like everything was gonna be alright."

Last fall, Bell was one of the recipients of the 3Arts Artist Award. Esther Grimm is the executive director.

"Our mission is to support Chicago artists, and not just any Chicago artist, we have a focus on women, people of color and people with disabilities working in the music, theater and visual arts," said Grimm.

Bell's history with mental illness and talent exemplifies why he was selected for the $15,000 award.

"He's exceptionally talented. He is recognized locally to a certain extent in our city. He hasn't received a major award like this before," Grimm said.

Bell's first CD, Let's Talk About Love, was recorded in 2007.

With the award, he is able to get started on his new CD.

"It's gonna be a gospel and blues traditional CD," said Bell, "and I'm gonna use part of the money for that. Part of the money I'm gonna use for far as transportation to get me around, get me to certain jobs."

Lurrie Bell performs at Buddy Guy's every Thursday and Friday.

For more information on Lurrie Bell and 3Arts Artist Awards go to or