Madeline Bell

Madeline Bell was born July 23, 1942, in Newark, NJ, and was strongly influenced by her grandmother, who had been a singer. Bell was raised by her grandmother after her parents divorced. Showing a bent toward creative arts, Bell first took piano lessons at 50 cents a pop, but couldn't master the complexities of the keyboard. Next, her grandmother paid for dancing lessons and discovered Madeline would never be confused with Ginger Rogers or Josephine Baker, so the lessons stopped. By the fifth grade, Bell found her calling -- singing -- and she regularly appeared in school shows. At age 11, she pantomimed "Santa Baby," a tune popularized by Eartha Kitt. Bell regularly attended church and sang in the choir. She later joined a group called Four Jacks & a Jill, who sung on street corners. Madeline Bell was the Jill. At 16, she joined the Glovertones, a gospel group, who sang gospel on weekends, often traveling hundreds of miles in an old dilapidated station wagon, to gigs that paid five dollars a member. The station wagon often broke down and many times Bell showed up for work (in a supermarket as a meat wrapper) on Monday mornings both frustrated and dead tired. Luckily, she had an understanding boss, and besides, she could wrap 75 chickens in an hour, which easily made her the fastest chicken wrapper in the house. Her productivity was helped by the R&B music coming from the radio her boss graciously let her play while working.