Born: Sept 1, 1944
Archie Bell began singing at the age of five in a Baptist Church in Houston’s Fifth Ward. While attending E.O. Smith Junior High School, Bell formed the group, The Drells (later Archie Bell & the Drells). The Drells – a vocal quartet consisting of Billy Butler, Joe Cross, James Wise and Bell – got their start playing talent shows and neighborhood sock hops. Picked up by Skipper Frazier, the group recorded their first single, “She’s My Woman, She’s My Girl” (1966).
The following year, Bell received his draft notice and the future looked bleak. Bell was cheered up by Butler who did a little dance for him he called “the Tighten-Up.” Bell turned Butler’s slang into a song called “Tighten Up.” According to Bell, the intro to the song was a response to a deejay who said after President Kennedy’s assassination that “nothing good” came out of Texas. Bell wanted “people to know that Archie Bell & the Drells were from Texas and [that we] were good.” The song “Tighten Up” was released in 1967 and picked up by Atlantic Records for distribution – all while Bell was stationed in Germany.
“Tighten Up” debuted reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on May 18, 1968. When Bell returned from the service in April 1969, the group toured and released follow-up hits “I Can’t Stop Dancing” and “(There’s Gonna Be A) Showdown.” “Tighten Up” ranked No. 5 in 2004 on Texas Monthly’s list of “The 100 Best Texas Songs”. Austin’s veteran rock critic Michael Corcoran placed it at No. 12 on his own list of the “Best Texas Recordings.” Archie Bell continues to live in Houston, works in music production. He also still performs and has diversified his repertoire to include blues and country.