Another first generation bluegrass musician passed away this week, right here in our hometown. John Bell, who used the stage name “Remus,” performed with Reno & Smiley when they first formed. He died this past Monday, November 1.
Remus first worked with Don Reno and Red Smiley when the three of them played with noted fiddler Tommy Magness. They recorded with Magness’ band, The Tennessee Buddies, in 1951 and not long after, Reno, Smiley and Bell left to reform Don’s group, The Tennessee Cut Ups.
The Tennessee Buddies was a period of musical development for these three young musicians. The band also included Don’s cousin Verlon Reno on guitar, and Dexter Mills on bass. It is thought that Don created his infamous character, Chicken Hotrod during this time as well.
Bell left music to serve in the US Air Force during the Korean War, and returned to Roanoke where he worked as an electrician. He was 79 years old when he died.