Joe Bell, one of the founding members of The Dirdy Birdies, and a constant source of inspiration, both musical and non-musical, down through the years, died on October 22, 2004. Those of you who have been following the band over the last 10 years or so have no doubt noticed that Joe had been battling what seemed like a never-ending series of physical and medical problems, and you've also no doubt noticed how resolute he was in not letting these problems slow him down. What follows are memories and statements from the people who knew and loved him. Feel free to add your thoughts...e-mail them to

We'll all miss him, but we'll never forget him.

Joe Bell was the coolest guy I ever met. And when I met him, I thought I was the coolest guy I'd ever met.

Here was this kid who was from New Jersey, just like me, but he seemed to be from some place much more exotic. There was something about the way he carried himself.

He wore leather jackets, cowboy boots and no socks. Always with a cigarette and a pencil tucked behind his ear. On most 17-year olds, the look would be an affectation...a costume. But Joe made it work. He was just born to be hip.

Joe opened my eyes to a lot of things, some of which I can't talk about in mixed company. But one thing I can talk about, of course, is the music. Joe and I have been in the same band together, along with a few other folks here tonight, for almost 40 years. Music was the thing that brought us all together, and it's allowed us to maintain a strong friendship, a bond really, for more years than most marriages last. In fact, the band has lasted longer than many marriages in the band!

He seemed to know everything there was to know about music. He could hear something once, and it would be locked in his vault forever.

It was Joe who knew all this secret music. It was secret because to me, who didn't know anything about music other than who was number one on the charts, I hadn't heard of any of these people who he was so familiar with. Joe raised my consciousness, to use a phrase from those days.

It was Joe who could explain not only why the Yardley Mountain Frog Stompers were better than the Beatles, but who the guys in the band were. And you'd believe him. As I eventually realized, the concept was the road less traveled. There was nothing traditional about Joe Bell, except for the music he loved.

Joe had an incredible memory, and he loved to tell stories. This combination was all you needed on a road trip, with Joe talking just about non-stop. Every response from someone in the car would trigger something else from Joe. When you look up the term 'random-access' in the dictionary, there's a picture of Joe.

He'd always say 'I've told you about blah, blah, blah...right?' or 'you know about me and blah, blah blah, right?' and even if I did, I'd hesitate, and he'd just start in. I knew he enjoyed it, so I'd always give him the stage. The last time I was with Joe, we were sitting on Canal Street in New York, eating pizza. Joe was not shy about eating, even when he was sick...from those Indian meals that his mother-in-law would bring him in the hospital, to the seemingly surreptitious visits to Katz's deli we'd make on the way out of the hospital, to those roast pork and sauerkraut dinners that we'd have at Barbara's house on rehearsal nights...Joe loved to eat. Anyway, on that Sunday on Canal St, he said 'you know about my Sinatra connection, right?' Well, this threw me, because I knew I'd never heard that one. And then he said, it wasn't really much...his parents had gone to see Sinatra at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. Joe was just a baby (and the mind reels at that image!) I wonder if his voice was way down there, even then? Anyway, Frank comes out into the audience to sing, and he picks up baby Joe out of his mom's arms, and sings to Joe! I don't know anyone else who has a Sinatra connection. Just Joe. He was the coolest guy I ever met.

Who else would have the nerve to borrow money from one of The Doors so he'd have enough money to buy a ticket to their show? Just Joe. He was the coolest guy I ever met.

He could remember lyrics, arrangements, and of course who first made the song famous even if it was 50 years ago. Or a hundred years ago. He remembered every gig the Birdies ever did. He remembered the weather, how the audience was, how much we got paid, and who made the most mistakes that night. The day after a show, my phone would invariably ring, and I'd hear 'hey star!' in that croak of his, and we'd proceed to dissect the previous night's performance. What worked. What didn't. On that Sunday on Canal Street, we were talking about new songs for the band. He wanted to do 'Christian Life' again, and we talked about where it would fit in the set. We talked about a band trip to Louisville next summer, and how much he was looking forward to it.

He really loved performing. And in spite of all the medical problems he's had over the past few years, he made just about every job. No complaints, no problem. Just like that trip to Louisville...of course he was going. Why not?

If anyone ever had more of an excuse to be grumpy, even just once in a while, it was Joe. But he didn't have time for that. He didn't even complain about hospital food! 'He'd say, 'it's institutional food...what do people expect?'

Jeff, he also loved to talk about you. He was so proud of how you were doing in school, your science competitions, your basketball prowess, and the latest girl that you had your eye on. He always talked about what great company you were, and how much help you were to him...that you were buds.

Joe used to do this bit on stage about his grandfather, who was a Unitarian minister in the south. How they used to burn crosses on front lawns down there, but in the case of Unitarians, they used to burn question marks. And I guess that big question mark is what's on all our minds tonight...why did all this happen?

It's a real cliché to say that someone who isn't with us anymore wouldn't want us to be sad. That saying must have been written with Joe in mind, because if he knew that anyone of us here tonight had to readjust our schedules, or go the slightest bit out of our way to get here, he'd be very uncomfortable. So let's try not to be sad. Let's think of what he gave to all of us.

We'll all miss him, but we'll never forget him.

Jack Pignatello

When we started college in 1964, I had no idea that music was in my future. Not so for Joe Bell, his knowledge and interest in music was obvious from the first day you met Joe. Joe lived away from home in Webster Hall, I was just a "commuter". I did not get to know him until the infamous creation of the Dirdy Birdies Jug Band at the MSC Carnival in 1965. A group of us biology majors joined by some liberal arts folks formed the beginning of a musical experience that continues until today.

Joe wasn't a performing member of the band to start but he was always there in the background providing musical inspiration and gentle persuasion on arrangements and material. My most vivid early memory of Joe Bell was when he tried to "teach me" how to sing. We sat in the stairwell of the MSC Auditorium and he encouraged me, gave me guidance and listened to some pretty poor interpretation of sultry singing. It was supposed to be a duet with Joe providing the baritone voice that I cannot get out of my head even as I write this. His rich voice echoes in my brain, I loved his low, gravelly voice - so sooth, so sexy. Well we never did get to do that duet publicly, it never met Joe's high standard for performance.

He was very fussy about the jug band being "tight". It is somewhat an oxymoron… jug band/tight - but Joe had his standards. He always wanted to practice, even the old songs, actually especially the old songs. One special practice led up to one of our most memorable statements in band history by our ex-banjo player Stephanie - "I didn't come all this way just to play My Gal". We used that statement almost every time we got together… it just summed up our commitment to get the arrangements and the harmonies right. Besides it was all about the social event, all about the friendship. The only one in the band that remembered every arrangement, chords and harmonies was Joe. The rest of us struggled to remember our parts, Joe remembered everyone's part.

I am the unofficial historian of the band, I take mementos from almost every gig, I keep a voluminous scrapbook of every event, I even have an excel spreadsheet to record what we have done. When I shared my records with Joe, he said - "I see a few gigs missing, I will make a list for you". A few weeks later at a practice in my living room, Joe brought an extra size sheet of white felt paper with a long list of over 50 events written in pencil with great detail on time, place, who played with us and any remarkable events. His memory is legendary and he enjoyed recapturing performances on a song by song basis. If anyone missed a note, a word a beat - Joe noticed.

Our band has a revolving list of participants. Depending on availability and desire to play, we would draft individuals with talent and a passion to play. I did not use the term musician because a few of us are just musical apprentices, passionate to participate in the fun of performing. Joe could be demanding at times, he was passionate about our performances and took each seriously - another oxymoron … serious/jug band music. But it was true, Joe was both passionate and serious about our music.

I don't remember when Joe started to use a wheelchair, but that was because his inability to walk never stopped him. He treated his ailments with little regard to his quality of life. He enjoyed where ever he was with whomever he was with, with great joy. He was the most positive person I have ever known. Nothing got Joe down there was always a large silver lining to whatever happened to him. When Joe first got his knee replacements, I remember him bounding up my front steps for practice showing everyone his new found mobility. Even though he was wheelchair bound for the last few years, his spirit and enthusiasm was never dampened.

Before each practice we had to allow time to review Joe's recent musical experiences. He always went to performances - usually people I had never heard of. In fact, most of the music and bands that Joe talked about I had never heard of, but I realized that I was in the presence of someone that really knew the quality of music and the people who practiced the art. He loved to talk and had this great ability to tell a story.

Both of Joe's sons were official members of the troop. Joe's dedication to his sons was obvious. And they stayed by him making sure that his needs were met. Both were put into the awkward role of marketing tapes, CDs and other paraphernalia. Both helped Joe in and out of the car, up and down steps, and keeping track of his intake of food and drink. Joe loved food, big meatball hero, cheeseburger, fries, you name it he enjoyed whatever he ate.

Joe brought new material for us to consider to each practice. The material was varied and helped to enrich our repertoire resulting in a set list that touched every type of music. He enjoyed the companionship and always enjoyed a good meal. Meals that I enjoyed to prepare because he showed his appreciation so genuinely, he loved to eat. His favorite was roast pork, roasted potatoes and sauerkraut. The last time that I spoke to Joe just before he entered the hospital he requested "spaghetti and meatballs". We will celebrate our friend Joe at our next practice starting with a big dinner of spaghetti and meatballs. We will all be thinking of Joe and I myself plan to cry while I think about all of his contributions to the quality of my life. Joe would not want anyone to be saddened by his death but I am not sure he understood how much he touched all of our lives.

But by far, my favorite memory of Joe is his special rendition of Wild About by Lovin'. It is, by far, my favorite Dirdy Birdies Jug Band song. His interpretation goes right to my soul - it was the song I most looked forward to playing. He would put me into a trance while he crooned; I closed my eyes and felt his music. It was that special way he looked at me during the third verse that made me feel so special. That last verse where he speeds up the song and gives it that boisterous, gravelly voice just gets my adrenaline going. I treasure some of the taped versions from live performances.

As historian, I often recorded some of our live performances. Joe was never happy about those recordings because they had imperfections and he always set the bar high for perfection. But I am so happy to have those recordings of Joe, his voice is so moving, so right to the heart, that I would never want to forget how he gave songs a real personality. That was Joe, unforgettable voice, unforgettable personality, story teller, great father and food connoisseur. We miss you Joe, and we will have that memorial spaghetti and meatball dinner in your honor. And we will tell stories trying to fill the void, but it will never be the same. The Dirdy Birdies Jug Band will continue; Joe would be devastated if we didn't keep that music alive. So long my friend.

Barbara Brummer

Joe Bell was one of the first persons who paid attention to a rather nerdy, overly enthusiastic student politician. I really have no idea why he picked me out to be his friend but I can recall the day that I realized that he liked me. Being liked, or accepted by one's peers is something that a new college freshman, or at least this new college freshmen hoped for. I was walking into the snack bar, at Life Hall, when Joe spoke with me about coming to a meeting of Senate where he would present me as his "little brother". This was all so cool. First of all this hip upperclassman has selected ME and secondly, as I was to find out, Senate was composed of student leaders in the arts, sciences, students politics etc... I was being asked into the inner circle (at least Senators believed this) of Montclair State College. What made this invitation so meaningful in my life was the fact that EVERYTHING that has followed in my life was a result of this encounter with Joe Bell.

I have never thought about this until now but I can see that it was and is A Wonderful Life that would not have been quite the same without Joe Bell. Joe was my Jimmy Stewart (though he would probably cringe at the comparison).

Senate was, but no longer is, a fraternity devoted to inspiring the members to reach for lofty goals based on the sharing of knowledge and experience within the "brothership". At each meeting of Senate a brother would make a presentation about something that was a of interest to them. Joe, remember we are talking about a 18-19 year old, gave an inspiring talk on American folk music. Using recording, as examples, Joe held me spellbound with the variety and the passion of his knowledge and love of these American songs and artists. It began my passion, opened my mind and has, to this day provided me with so much pleasure.

Back to It's A Wonderful Life....we are all linked one to another. Joe's linking me into Senate and one on one to others at Montclair State led me to be inspired to travel to Europe, obtaining a grant for my Master's degree, seek a short career at MSC, followed by a career in travel and 2 wives later happily ensconsed near to Joe's genealogical hallowed ground in South Central PA. I could go on and on but suffice it to say that what we say or what we do lives on 100s of years after us. Had it not been for my knowing and loving Joe Bell I would have been, at least, different. I believe I would have been poorer in spirit without Joe and others like him that I have known over my lifetime that took the time to share something of themselves with me.

Joe was also my roomate for a brief time. Joe organized his half ofthe room "creatively". Let's just say that Joe wasn't an A type nor a B like me. What I do recall fondly about being Joe's roomate is the music and the first hearing of various Beatle albums as well as such lesser knowns as The Holy Modal Rounders.

On my 49th birthday I was blessed to be surprised and surrounded by so many of my friends. Joe Bell was there and presented the highlight of my evening, a poem he had written about this nerdy guy who once appeared in the snack bar at MSC to begin a journey with one of the greatest souls who have touched down on planet friend, brother and roomate...Joe Bell.

Joe Kloza

What can I say about Joe? There are so many things I remember about him, and probably twice as many that I have forgotten. We were friends for nearly forty years, and he played an important role in my life. Where can I begin? At the beginning I suppose.

I can't remember the circumstances of how we first met, but I'm sure it was sometime in 1965, my freshman year at Montclair State. Joe was different from most of the people I had met on campus. He was a year ahead of me, and that much wiser in the ways of the world. Years later Joe was fond of the phrase "rather bohemian". That was him to a T. He was simply a cool guy, with a shining intelligence that made him stand out from the crowd .Late night discussions in dorm rooms about every topic imaginable were just as important as what we were being exposed to in our classes, maybe even more so. We were young and our heads felt like they were filled with electricity.

Music and books were a common denominator in our friendship, and throughout the years we never tired of sharing with each other new discovers in music and a good read. Joe was one of the first real musicians I ever knew, and our common interest in folk music and rock n' roll cemented our friendship early on. We and our friends would eagerly await the latest album by the Beatles , the Stones, Bob Dylan etc., and stay up to the wee hours of the morning listening to them over and over again by candlelight in someone's dorm room. One of my vivid memories of those times was of Joe's dorm room. Joe was never known for his neatness. The floor of his room was piled everywhere with clothing and record albums, both in and out of their jackets. There was only a narrow path through the rubble that lead to his bed. But oh what musical treasures were strewn about that room! The Holy Modal Rounders, Mississippi John Hurt, Jesse Collin Young, Michael Hurley, and on and on. An education in folk music and beyond.

Joe and I went to quite a few music shows together in those days, mostly in small clubs in NYC. The Grateful Dead, The Doors, the first show ever in the U.S. by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. I remember once when we went to see the Stooges play , Iggy Pop climbed up onto our table and then stood with one foot on each of our shoulders while he belted out a song. Wow.

And then there was the Dirdy Birdies Jug Band. When the Birdies formed, Joe was busy being a would-be rock n' roll star with a band called The Plague. Very hip, playing electric blues, folk/rock in round wire-rimmed sunglasses a la John Lennon. But Joe was a mentor to the band from the beginning. So, when half way through a two week engagement at Gerde's Folk City I came down with mononucleosis, Joe was the logical person to take my place. By the end of the 60's he was the Birdies guitarist, and remained a Birdy to the end. Joe was always self-deprecating about his abilities on guitar, but the truth was that his playing was the engine that drove the band's sound and style. No rehearsal could be productive without Joe. He could figure out any chord progression for a new song, and had his hand in every arrangement. I know that the band meant a great deal to him, as it does to me. I guess what makes the Birdies so special is the fact that it's really like a family; a core group of long-time friends, making music together and having fun. Could it get any better than that? To me Joe was the father figure in that family. Even when arthritis stole from him the ability to play guitar, his importance in the band never diminished, he simply concentrated on his resonant bass vocals that anchored the harmony, and growled out some fine, driving lead vocals.

But Joe's involvement with the Dirdy Birdies was obviously only a small part of a very rich life. First and foremost he was a family man. He spoke very lovingly to me of you Barbara, and was always very proud of Josh and Jeff , grateful for all the help they gave him, and proud of their accomplishments. I know he had many friends other than our mutual circle of friends, and was involved in the life of the community he lived in. Community, like family, meant a great deal to him.

I suppose that when I think of all the things that made Joe the unique person that he was, the thing that stands out the most was the courageous way he dealt with all the health problems that came his way; the graceful determination with which he lead his life. While his health problems and disabilities obviously had a big impact on his life, he never let them define his life. It seemed as if to him they were merely an inconvenience to be dealt with so that he could do what was really important: the next family trip, the next Birdies gig. He had every right to be angry about the hand that had been dealt to him, but I can't ever remember seeing him angry about anything. I'm sure he did get angry at times, we all get angry sometime, but honestly, I can't remember him ever showing it. When talking about Joe with mutual friends, the topic of Joe's extraordinary way of dealing with his health problems came up so often, it was almost a cliché. We were all amazed at his attitude. How astonishing and rare was his ability to face such hardship with grace, determination, and humor!

In recent years, Joe and I had developed a tradition of meeting every spring in the Berkshires, to take in the art at some really fine museums in the area and stay overnight at the Williamstown Inn. I really looked forward to this trip and I think he did too. In the evening, after we had spent the day at the museums, we would have a nice meal at the inn (Joe always savored a good meal!), and then we'd go back to one of our rooms and talk the evening away. We'd talk about every topic imaginable, just like we did in dorm rooms and apartments when we first became friends: art, books, politics, movies, what our families and friends were up to, plans for the future. This year Joe couldn't make the trip at our usual time because of the chemotherapy and radiation therapy he was receiving, but he had every intention of simply postponing the trip until later in the year. We had no doubt that this would happen.

As he was to many people, Joe was a great friend to me. It's going to take me awhile to get my brain wrapped around the idea that he is really gone. It's just not right. I am going to miss him very much, and will remember him dearly.

Rich Fedorchak

In the early 70's I drove out to Joe's place in Santa Monica and he graciously put me up. We spent many nights drinking, smoking and playing music. At the time, he was really into Gram Parsons, and we spent alot of time on his first two albums.

I remember Jane Fonda lived right down the street. Anyway, it was a Friday and we got an itch to head down to Mexico for a few mindless days. We took my '69 VW bug, Orange Marmalade, and hit Tijuana in no time flat. A sinister guy on a street corner took one look at me and said, " sure look like you could use some pooosy." We left town fast, trying to avoid all the Mexican kids jumping in front of my the car. We ended up taking the road down the Baja heading toward Ensenada. There were no gas stations or places to stop to eat. We talked for hours and listened to a country station coming somewhere out of Texas, El Paso, I think.

We heard along the way that some poor surfer had been attacked and killed by a great white. We found a dilapidated hotel near the beach in Ensenada and sat on a sun bleached veranda drinking frosty margaritas and laughing at nothing. I don't remember a whole lot about those days, but it was always great to be in Joe's company. He was a real prince--in a very holy modal sense. I'll miss him. I'm sure he would tell us to stop moping and sulking and play some music. That would be Joe.

Pete Agnoli

I have been playing violin with Joe Bell and the Birdies for several years now and had been a fan of the band before that, I remember hearing Joe 12 years ago at a teen arts festival and being moved by his honest humorous and very creative style, the jokes I heard then I still use today, when I started playing with Joe I was aware he was dealing with some physical problems but it never seemed like he was aware of it. Joe had a way of going out to whoever he was with and making them feel like they were the most important person there, I really appreciated that , specially cause I was new on the block and wasn’t sure I fit in. I will always try to keep that spirit Joe had close to my heart , I only hope I can make others feel the way Joe made me feel.

Dave Rimelis

I don’t know how this is gonna go….I’ll get to other stuff but first and foremost, Joe was one of the best guitar players I ever heard. Not like the greats you would think of who are famous and all that, but just something about how sweet he made every song he played sound. One song which comes to mind right off the bat was and I don’t know the name exactly was like ‘I don’t have a million dollars, baby, in the bank…I don’t have a thousand dollars, baby, I can’t spend…..I don’t have a million baby, I don’t have a dime now baby… All I really want is one of you do do n do do do . Just a few chords, but the way he played! (The way to a man’s heart is through his ears..). Thinking now… I think he got this tune from some friend named Michael who was in a band back then called maybe ‘the little flowers’ ( I think they were from Bucks County, but I recall they were playing in Greenwich Village at the time). I know he loved this guy’s music totally.

Joe really tore me up with two other tunes especially…One was Dark as a Dungeon which many people probably reading this can hear him singin now if they think about it…But the other was Dylan’s ‘One Too Many Mornings’. Joe created a version of this song which totally blew me away. I learned his version and whenever I play the song I always mention that ‘this is the joe bell version’….

Well there were lots of other songs… He had a sense for what was great American music and he’d just say..hey listen to this and out would come something from Country Joe or Tom Paxton or Jessie Colin Young or the Stones or some unknown secret treasure musician. I could just listen to him play and sing and I didn’t want him to stop. ………………… be continued…….

Bill McGowan

The stories here about Joe Bell bring back such memories of playing with the Birdies several years ago. He was remarkable for his unforgettable voice, his love of and stories about music, his courage, but most of all, and how rare this is -- when he asked you how you were, he genuinely wanted to know.

Walt Houck

There was no electricity nor central heat in the TAVERN at HISTORIC RICHMOND TOWN. That didn't matter when Joe Bell & his band of Birdies came to perform! The Tavern was lit with the power of Joe's personality & talent and was always warmer for his presence!

Although I'm no longer at Historic Richmond Town, the memories of many a pleasant (oops! make that hilarious) evening keep me entertained as well as the terrific CDs to which I can listen. The latest CD was signed by all the Birdies & I treasure it!

He will be missed by all who knew & loved him. I hope the Birdies can manage to muddle through without Joe!

Judy McMillen
Director of Education (former)
Staten Island Historical Society at Historic Richmond Town

I am saddened by the loss of Joe Bell. I met Joe in 1963 at Montclair State College. He was one of the all-time good guys. My friends and I were among the first fans of the Dirdy Birdies and have continued to root for Joe and the Birdies ever since. A hero and, more important, a great human being has been taken. The aptly named Joe Bell will forever resonate in my consciousness. Death be not proud. Play on, Birdies, Joe would expect no less. I hope there will be a memorial concert.

Karen Beatty

If you can remember it , you weren't there. 'Jugs over England' tour sometime mid to late 1980s.....

I remember squeezing Big Joe into a small B&B bedroom in Ealing, West london, along with the redoubtable Bill. We couldn't afford the Savoy for some reason.

It was the Birdies 'Spinal Tap' tour. Magical memories all the way. 12 hours driving to Darlington in a van suited to half our number and playing to a bemused nightclub audience of about 7 who expected disco (though gallantly organised as a labour of love by local resident, Pete Boddy, who also died earlier this year). Trying to find sufficient comfortable billets for everyone. The audience getting up on the stage in Wales and singing to the band in appreciation of their just having sung to them. The buzz of playing the famed Half Moon, Putney. The Hells Angels' cafe in Croydon and the inimitable 'Jingles'. The student night at the Drayton pub. Stron's PA.

And through it all was Joe. Loving every moment, rolling with every twist, uncomplaining at the sheer amateurishness of it all. He personified patience.

I speak for every Brit who met him; he was above all other things a gentleman, and to boot, a great ambassador for the people of the USA. And, yeah,now you mention it, he was a great musician too.

God bless you, Joe. I can picture you now, first right of the angel playing harp, left of Bill on fiddle. Holding it all together. Our loss is their gain.

Bruce Cherry
General Factotum 'Jugs over England tour' , and the UK's Number One Birdies fan

I remember short stretches of conversation with Joe, because I always met him in groups with the Birdies and mutual friends where all of us were singing and talking and telling stories. But I remember one thing especially about Joe: He always made you feel that you were important to him when he talked to you. I think it showed that he genuinely liked people-because he was comfortable with himself. Maybe that's why he dealt with his own illness with such grace and courage. I will try to remember this when I feel like griping because I have a difficult task. I'm happy to have met him.

Bob Horan

1969. West Morris High School - Chester, New Jersey. Who's the kid with the long hair? - he's a TEACHER???!

Mr. Joe Bell was a new teacher at my high school, and as required by the management, had to oversee an extra-curricular "club" of his choice. Our school had the Chess Club, the Poetry Club, the Homemakers Club...Mr. Bell came up with something called the "Guitar Appreciation Club".

Sounded good to me. What was probably understood by the administration as a club devoted to studying Segovia, and classical guitar - was in reality a full-blown weekly jam session during school hours! Imagine a couple dozen kids and their guitars banging out The Beatles, Cream, Canned Heat, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan. I remember he shared the "roots of rock" with us - from Leadbelly to Led Zeppelin, explaining how it all fit together. Mr. Bell was more than a teacher to us teenagers. He was COOL.

I heard the news today, oh boy: "Tomorrow afternoon we will have a special assembly...a music presentation by the Dirdy Birdies Jug of WABC's Big Break contest - featuring our very own Mr. Bell!".

How GROOVY could high school get? Everybody knew what the Big Break was. Wow, Mr. Bell is in the band? We couldn't wait. Well, what can I say? The Birdies were phenomenal. My buddies and I formed our own "Flick's Tavern Jug Band" within the month.

Decades pass......

September 12, 2001 - the day after the infamous 9/11. While looking for the latest news on the internet, I stumble upon Music Radio 77's website. I collect WABC airchecks, so I had to check it out. There's a section on the Big Break - and the Dirdy Birdies Jug Band. ***DING*** "I remember them!" I send the Birdies' an email.

They sent back a Birdies CD, autographed by Mr. Bell (he did sign it "JOE"), and I had my love of jug music rekindled. Thanks for everything, Mr. Bell. Your life made a difference.

Dave Chrenko

Joe Bell was transformational: in his presence and in his singing. We found out how transformational in presence as we experienced the reponse of love and admiration from the staff at Haverstraw Rehabilitation Hosp (New York State.) In singing, anyone hearing his raspy, baritone renditions of "Wild About My Loving Baby" and "Standing on a Rock" will appreciate Joe at his lusty best!

Love to you Joe at your next gig.

Lyme, NH

The Mother Vineyard Jug Band crew passed a bottle of tequila around the room the other night in memoriam to a great spirit. My wife Beth said Joe always made her feel like he was really listening when you talked with him and I'm sure our toast was heard and the tequila bottle is a little lower due to the measure shared in heaven. I know I think of him every time we play "rich gal" he is missed but more important he will never be forgotten.

All the best

Michael C.

I was proud to have met this fellow.
A brave and elegant man.
And a hell of a musician.


Man that is so sad , I know you-all were best of friends and I will have a drink for him !

the passing of a friend diminishes us all.....

Hat City

Words are never adequate in the face of death. Perhaps we can offer comfort to Joe's family and take comfort ourselves in the joyous music Joe created. I would like to think that Joe would like us all to continue to look to his music and that of the Dirdy Birdies for inspiration and light. Sharing the music is the best way to honor Joe's memory.

Stephanie P. Ledgin and Ted Toskos

I'm very sorry to hear this news. I am not close to the band, and did not know Joe, but I can well imagine how hard this must be. My deepest condolences.


I'm sorry to hear once again about Joe Bell. Having only met him that one time at the Oxford gig in August, I could sense his appreciation for you and how much he cherished your friendship thru the years. it was almost as if he was proud to meet me, as in "any friend of Jack's is a friend of mine".


I am sorry to hear about Joe's death. Though I did not know him, I am inspired by the life he led. God bless him and his family.

Peter Karp

Your email relating the passing of Joe Bell hit me like a ton of bricks. I was able to catch only 3 live performances of your group, but I must say that I was always disappointed to learn that you folks would be playing somewhere and my wife and I would be occupied with prior plans. I will always consider myself fortunate that I was able to attend at least those 3 performances which included your fellow musician and hard and fast friend. I enjoyed your performances for several reasons. The first is that I found your music to be of the higher quality bluegrass, or blues that I love so deeply.I have literally hundeds of CDs, and many of them are bluegrass, country western,and blues. Whenever I have friends over and we listen to that music, I always make sure to impress them with your music. The second reason that I have enjoyed your performances is that I always love to watch people who enjoy their work. I know that it is difficult to make all the performances that you do, and that it is a lot of shlepping. But when you folks entertain,one can see the enjoyment that you have for your music and for each other. This is passed on to your audience and they love you that much more for it.

No doubt Joe Bell will be missed greatly, as he was one of the founders of the band. I offer you my deepest and sincerest condolences. Now I can only say that I am sorry that I didn't catch more of your performances together.

I know the weight is heavy right now, and the loss seems overwhelming as the death of any loved one usually is.Whatever your decision regarding the future of the band will be difficult.I can only say that as an outsider, I feel the band must go on . Judging by the way you all so greatly enjoy performing, and that the band is such a huge part of your lives, if the band were to cease this would create a greater emptiness in the fact that you will have stopped doing the thing you all love.

Once again my deepest and sincerest sympathy,
Herb Goldberger

Dear Band,
I did not know Joe, but I'm so sorry to hear that a dear friend of yours passed away.

Thinking of you.

It is such a shame to lose Joe, who has been the inspiration of so many great stories of gigs and road trips that will be told over and over through the years.

God rest his soul, and may he keep on playing.

Mike Morris

My sympathies to your band for the musical loss, and Joe's family. I am sorry that we never had a chance to hear him play at the winery.


Mary Mester
Music Director

VERY sorry,

Jack C.

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Last Updated: August 16, 2005