“When I was 11 years old, my grandad bought me a guitar and said he would pay for my lessons.” That was where it started for Brendan Bell; he was hooked. Brendan took lessons from the late Leon Gibbs. Leon and his brothers, Sam and Nat Gibbs, made up the popular western swing band, The Miller Brothers (MB Corral founders). Bell say that Leon taught him “note by note and fret by fret” which made the way for reading sheet music. These early skills helped him branch out to other instruments including dobro, mandolin, and banjo. “I went out and bought a banjo after the first Mumford and Sons album came out”, explained Brendan. Brendan also trained under the popular performer and teacher, Bruce Canafax.
In high school Brendan and some friends started a band, Cinco Gringos, that continued into college. Once the Gringos dissolved, Bell, now living in Austin, decided to join another friend in starting a 90’s cover band and call it OJ and the Broncos. The two guys chose an unconventional way of forming the group. “The entire band was put together from Craigslist ads”, Brendan said.
Brendan reluctantly moved back to Wichita Falls in 2013 after spending 12 years in Austin. He said that it didn’t take him too long to realize that this wasn’t the same place that he left over a decade earlier. Several people questioned his decision to leave Austin and return to his home town saying things “like there’s nothing for you here, this is as good as this town is ever going to get. I don’t believe that. Good things are happening right now”.. Brendan told me “this city is great. It’s all about attitude. If you can’t be happy living here then you wouldn’t be happy in Austin, or Paris France. You make your own happiness.”
Not long after moving back Brendan began attending Onelife Community Church at The Wichita Theatre where he heard Katy Draper sing and, without knowing her, went up and told her they needed to start a band together. Katy wasn’t too sure what to think about his approach, but they started that band calling it Wichita Red and the Songbird and have since played venues such as The Maplewood, Sounds Of Speedway, Live At The Lake, Red River Beer And Wine Festival, and Top Of Texas Market.
Brendan keeps himself busy these days. Between the band and working at Schaaf and Clark Commercial Real Estate, he still manages to make time for his community and giving back to society. Brenden recently announced his decision to run for City Counselor at Large. He said that some friends suggested he run and after talking about it for about an hour he realized “this is everything I’m already doing. I’m a huge advocate for downtown and represent buyers of commercial real estate so I’m always selling the greatness of this place”. If Brendan wins on November 7th Wichita Falls will have the youngest City Council it has ever had with everyone being under the age of 40, with a mayor of 41. Many are optimistic about this in the hopes that the new council will be more creative and progressive.
Bell is compassionate and community minded. In 2014 he went with a church group to help after the tornado struck Moore Oklahoma. Following that experience he told himself that if the opportunity ever presented itself to help in a similar capacity again, he would do it. That opportunity did present itself in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Brendan felt the need to contribute his time and effort to help where he could, so he teamed up with his Austin friends and went to Houston to help clean up. The area they found themselves was a neighborhood that sat in 6 feet of water for two weeks. Brendan described the scene, “there was mold up to the ceilings and the smell was so strong I could barely stand it”. They cleared out 5 houses in 3 days down to the studs. Brendan said that the people were grateful and optimistic. Some houses that were on hills and didn’t flood even set up tents and ice chests, offering food, beer, and water to anyone needing a break. It was a great community setting. “I’m all about community”, said Brendan.