D.C. Bellamy Biography by Richard Skelly
After many years as a sideman to singers like Betty Everett, Donny Hathaway, Gene “Duke of Earl” Chandler, Brook Benton, and many other prominent classic R&B singers, guitarist and singer/songwriter D.C. Bellamy released his debut album for the Rooster Blues label, Water to Wine, with America’s Most Wanted, in the fall of 2000.
Gregory “D.C.” Bellamy was born on Chicago’s West Side in March 1949. He grew up in a household surrounded by musical talent, as his half brother was the late Curtis Mayfield, who would often hold rehearsals for his group, the Impressions, in the family’s living room. Bellamy’s grandmother purchased a piano for the family to use, and the children were all encouraged to play it. At age nine, Bellamy got his first guitar as a Christmas gift, and he began playing by ear and singing and playing along with Elvis Presley recordings. Even though he was raised in Chicago, a home for the blues, Bellamy was fascinated with rock & roll as he watched firsthand the success of Mayfield‘s group. But growing up on the West Side, it was hard to ignore the great abundance of blues talent in his own neighborhood, so by the time he was 14 or 15, everyone knew Bellamy was on his way to making a name for himself as a guitarist. Bellamy’s mother, impressed by his earliest efforts at writing his own songs, took measures to ensure that he found people to help copyright his songs and put them into commercial format.
When he was 17, he followed the rising popularity of the Impressions, Jerry Butler, Lou Rawls, and other great vocalists. He was introduced to singer Betty Everett, whose career was clearly on the rise. After hearing a short demonstration of his guitar-playing skills, Everett hired Bellamy for her tour, which developed into a ten-year tenure accompanying Everett on her tours around the world. During times back home, Bellamy freelanced, accompanying the likes of Donny Hathaway, Gene Chandler, Brook Benton, and others. Also back home, Bellamy began working with guitarist and singer Jimmy Reed, and the endless songwriting and guitar-playing possibilities of the art form began to blossom in his mind. His band became the house band at a Chicago club, Beale Street, after singer Bobby Rush left a long residency there. Bellamy’s various bands worked Beale Street for eight years, and he had a chance to play with everyone in Chicago or passing through Chicago at that time, including Artie “Blues Boy” White, Otis Clay, Cicero Blake, Lefty Dizz, and Z.Z. Hill. During this period, he was constantly writing more of his own songs and working on developing his own distinctive vocal and guitar style.
In early 2000, Bellamy returned to the recording studio to record an album under his own name for the then newly relaunched Rooster Blues label. Water to Wine was recorded at Blue Heaven Studios in Salina, KS, not far from his new home base of Kansas City, KS. During this time, Bellamy held a residency at the Kansas City venue Club Paradox. Bellamy is accompanied on Water to Wine, a fine collection of Chicago-styled originals, by drummer James “Spoon” Wilson, keyboardists Harrison Irons and Ray Hopper, lead guitarist Jimmy D. Lane, bassists Louis Villeri and Ben Shult, and harmonica player Dan “Juice” Hettinger. The results are stellar, a fine collection of original songs that don’t sound like anyone else you’ve ever heard in modern blues. Songs like “Water to Wine,” “Next Door Neighbor’s Woman,” and “I Won’t Be Around You” are written in a style that is influenced by his famous half brother, Curtis Mayfield. But on Water to Wine, Bellamy and his band also serve up inspiring cover versions of Peter Chatman‘s “If You See Kay” and John Lee Hooker‘s “Dimples.”