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Vincent E. Gambella, 87, formerly of Tenafly, NJ, passed away peacefully on Thursday, October 3, 2019. He was professionally known as "Vinnie Bell", and he was one of the most successful and most well-known session guitarists of the '60s and '70s.

Vinnie was born on July 28, 1932, in Brooklyn, NY, the son of Joseph and Antoinette (Coletti) Gambella. Vincent was a graduate of PS95 and attended college. Vincent served his country in the Army Reserves. He later became one of the most popular of professional studio guitarists of his time, was the inventor of The Electric Sitar and was most famous for his underwater guitar sound. He was the recipient of many prestigious awards.

In 1953, Vinnie married Marilyn Christina, and in the years that followed, their three children were born: Edward, Denise and Michele. Marilyn acted as Vinnie's booking agent, organizing his recording dates for him.

Vinnie was well-known in the music industry, and played guitar on many hit records from the '60s and '70s for artists as diverse such as The Four Seasons, Frank Sinatra, Dionne Warwick, Herman's Hermits, Bing Crosby, The Cowsills, Perry Como, The Drifters, Bob Dylan, The Shangri-Las, Rupert Holmes, Jean-Jacques Perrey, and Quincy Jones.

Besides being known for being a guitarist, Bell also helped re-invent the instrument. Working with Danelectro Guitars, Bell is credited in inventing the first electric 12-string guitar for them, as well as the Coral Electric Sitar (a cross between an Indian sitar, and the electric guitar). His electric sitar sound, (usually played by Bell himself, but sometimes by others) can be heard on hits by The Lemon Pipers' ("Green Tambourine"), B.J. Thomas' ("Hooked on a Feeling"), Freda Payne's ("Band of Gold"), and The Box Tops' ("Cry Like a Baby").

When he wasn't in the studio, he was in his home workshop, experimenting with electronics, and inventing his own unique guitar pedals. This was at a time when guitar pedals were not for sale, commercially. He pioneered the Wah-Wah pedal, and he invented his own fuzztone pedals. By using these unique effects on recording sessions, Bell became in high demand by '60s and '70s record producers who were constantly looking for new sounds to feature on their records.

Working with with Nat Daniel of Danelectro Guitars, a most unique sound effect was devised by the team of the two men -- the strange "Watery" guitar sound. That particular sound (which is hard to describe, but sounds most similar to musical drops of water) was Vinnie's most jealously-guarded professional secret. The effect was only played in recording sessions by Bell himself, and can be heard on records by the Four Seasons ("Can't Take My Eyes Off You"), the Shangri-Las ("I Can Never Go Home Anymore"), to name just two hits. He played this "water" guitar sound in the early 70's on the song "Midnight Cowboy", which became a Top 40 hit for pianists Ferrante and Teicher. For that hit, he was awarded a Gold Record. It also won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition in 1971, while Bell was nominated for Best Instrumental Performance.

In addition to recording albums of his own, Bell's guitar work was admired by artists as diverse as Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa. Hendrix once called Bell at home to ask how he achieved his many unusual guitar effects. Hendrix told Bell that he loved his electric sitar sound and soon after, Bell personally supervised a custom left-handed electric sitar, made especially for Hendrix. In the '70s, Bell was personally requested to play on recording sessions for Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, and in the 80's, for the band Anthrax.

In 2007, Vinnie Bell earned another Gold Record for his guitar work on the theme to David Lynch's "Twin Peaks". He also worked on many filmscore sessions for Woody Allen's favorite film composer, Dick Hyman, in addition to his work for "Twin Peaks" composer Angelo Badalamenti.

Vinnie was voted Most Valuable Player on Electric Guitar seven times by the New York chapter of National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), and was given their Emeritus award in the late 80's. By the '90s, he had played guitar or banjo in the Macy's annual New Year's Day Parade, for over 20 years.

Surviving Vinnie are his beloved wife, Bonnie Loan, whom he married in 2006; daughter and son-in-law, Michele and Steve Teufel; grandchildren, Krista Teufel and Katharina (Nader) Kahoush; great-granddaughters, Isabelle, Sabrina and Olivia; step-children, Dawn Marie Solais, Albert Loan and many wonderful cousins. He was predeceased by his first wife, Marilyn; his son, Edward and daughter, Denise.

To read more about Vinnie's life and accomplishments, you are invited to visit his website at vinniebell.com

Watch a video slideshow of Vinnie's remarkable life:

All music performed by Vinnie Bell.
Expand to a full-sized video by clicking at bottom right of box above.

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