D.C. Bellamy, a Kansas City bluesman with an 'extra something special,' dies at 74
D.C. Bellamy, a popular band leader on Kansas City blues stages, grew up in Chicago listening to his half-brother, Curtis Mayfield, rehearse with the Impressions in their living room. Bellamy's own songs were recorded by stars such as Coco Montoya and Otis Clay, and he toured with the Chi-Lites, the Staple Singers, Bob Seger and others.
D.C. Bellamy, a popular Kansas City bluesman whose sound originated in his native Chicago, died on Nov. 3. He was 74.
When he wasn’t touring internationally, Bellamy drew crowds to B.B.’s Lawnside BBQ, the Grand Emporium, Club Paradox and festivals including the Kansas City Kansas Street Blues Festival, where his stellar musicianship, broad smile and onstage banter delighted audiences. His songs were recorded by artists such as Coco Montoya, Otis Clay, Jimmy Burns, Bobby Jonz and several Chicago soul groups.
The blues are always personal, Bellamy told me in 2006.
“It meant something to people,” he said. “They were not just saying something just to say some words. They were trying to tell you what they were going through.”
He loved it that every song told a story.
“It always had a beginning and an end — how it all started, what happened, why he’s singing the particular title: ‘You started me to drinkin’’ … ‘If I’m going crazy, I’m not goin’ alone.’ This is how my lyrics get started.
Bellamy grew up on the West Side of Chicago surrounded by music. His half-brother, Curtis Mayfield, often rehearsed with his band the Impressions in the living room of Bellamy’s family home.
“I was like, ‘I want to do that.’ Plus he gets girls!” Bellamy recalled.
“At a young age my mother would let me travel almost 10 miles by myself late at night to go to a stage show at the Regal Theater. I could stay all night long. I’d get home at 1 or 2 in the morning, 12 years old, riding the train.”
He picked up the guitar as a teenager and began accompanying local vocal groups. In 1967, he recorded his first 45 under the name Gregory Washington. His first big break came when he joined the Betty Everett group. In between recording sessions and international tours with Everett, Bellamy played with Donny Hathaway, Billy Stewart, Walter Jackson, Gene Chandler, the Chi-Lites, Jimmy Reed, Otis Clay, Artie “Blues Boy” White, the Staple Singers, Bob Seger and others.
In the late 1990s, Bellamy moved with his daughter to Kansas City, Kansas. He was amazed at the vibrancy of the local blues scene.
“I had no idea, until I moved here, of the musicianship in this city. It’s just amazing that the rest of the world has not become aware of it yet,” Bellamy said.
Teaming up with Jim O’Neal, record producer and former editor of Living Blues Magazine, Bellamy recorded two critically acclaimed CDs as a band leader: “Water to Wine” and “Give Some Body to Somebody.” A veteran record producer, O’Neal was delighted with the opportunity to work with Bellamy.
“D.C. had stayed under the radar as a guitarist and bandleader for other performers until put together a blues act in Kansas City that was fresh, exciting and original,” says O’Neal.
“I happened to see him at the Club Paradox in 1999 just as all that was coming together, and knew he needed to be recorded,” O'Neal adds. “I felt lucky to be able to work with a one-of-a-kind artist — a first-rate singer and guitarist, a true professional as a studio arranger and producer, a distinctive and clever songwriter, and a vibrant entertainer who could keep an audience engaged and laughing.”
“D.C. had that extra something special,” says Bellamy’s longtime friend and promoter Dawayne Gilley. “Smile, grins, and laughs to spare. Loaded with musical talent too.”
A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 18 at New Birth Christian Center, 1303 N. 38th St. in Kansas City, Kansas. Visitation is at 11 a.m., followed by a service at noon.