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The late, great Boots Bell gets shout-out from Ed O’Neill

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Boots Bell, the late and legendary Youngstown rock-radio disc jockey, left an impression on a lot of people.

One of them was actor Ed O’Neill, who grew up on the North Side.

O’Neill stars in ABC’s “Modern Family” and paid homage to Boots Bell on the Feb. 8 episode. On the show, his character (Jay Pritchett) meets and gushes over a radio DJ named Booker Bell that he listened to years ago. “I used to listen to him while driving from Youngstown to Sugar Creek,” O’Neill’s character says.

Anyone who grew up in Youngstown in the 1960s instantly knew that Booker Bell was modeled after Boots Bell. He even did a practical-joke shtick just like Boots used to do, and parroted the catchphrase — “I just rang your bell” — in the gotcha moment.

Fred Woak, aka Fast Freddie from Youngstown radio station WNCD, has talked to O’Neill several times over the years and said O’Neill often mentioned that he was a big fan of Boots Bell.

Woak and Bell worked together on WHOT from 1983 to 1993. “We were like family,” said Woak, who caught the “Modern Family” segment by accident while flipping through the channels.

Ralph Ross “Boots” Bell was on the air in Youngstown from 1959 to 1993, the year he died.

His son, Chris, still lives in the area. Although he didn’t see the Booker Bell episode when it aired, he said he was “blown away” when he found out about it.

Chris said he often meets people in the rock ’n’ roll business who fondly remember his father. He feels that “the angel Boots” continues to make things happen for him and his sister, Leslie.

Bell was a flamboyant celebrity in the Youngstown area during the city’s heyday, who helped a lot of people and influenced many more. For that reason, Chris thinks he belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. He has written to the hall, but never got a reply.

He knows that many others, at least in this corner of the state, feel the same way.

“I was up in the radio exhibit room at the hall about eight years ago, and somebody wrote ‘Where’s Boots?’ on the wall in a magic marker,” he said.


Miranda Lambert, country music’s tough chick with the pink guitar, showed her vulnerable side as well as her redneck side at Saturday’s concert at Covelli Centre.

She went back and forth between bittersweet ballads (“Over You,” “More Like Her,” “Mama’s Broken Heart”), scorching rockers (“Kerosene,” “Maintain the Pain”) and attitude songs (“Baggage Claim,” “Gunpowder and Lead”).

The wife of country star (and judge on TV’s “The Voice”) Blake Shelton — they got married last year, and she showed off the ring to prove it — is touring her new album, “Four the Record,” which has been nominated for Album of the Year at the ACM Awards. Lambert also is up for Female Vocalist of the Year at the April 1 award show.

With way more twang in her voice than in her guitar, Lambert ripped through 22 songs, including “Fastest Girl in Town,” “Only Prettier” and her No. 1 hit, “White Liar.”

A highlight was “Fine Tune,” during which a sultry Lambert smoldered on a comfy couch with an old-style microphone.

Lambert also shared a little dirt with the sold-out house, dishing on the wack conversation that passed between her and Lady Gaga, whom she sat next to at the Grammy Awards. Lambert has been in a much-publicized Twitter feud with Chris Brown since that night (she doesn’t think the singer, who pleaded guilty of beating then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, should be let off the hook).

For her encore, she summoned her opening acts — Chris Young and Jerrod Nieman, who already had begun the post-show party — back on stage and traded verses with them on a cool cover of Waylon Jennings’ “Honky Tonk Heroes.” During the last song of Young’s own set, a chap in a Pittsburgh Pirates cap in the front row proposed to his girlfriend. She said “yes,” even though — as Young noted — it was a break-up song.


Members of the Youngstown Cash Mob will show up at Dorian Books, 802 Elm St., Youngstown, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

A cash mob is like a flash mob in that people show up at a preordained location. But when they get there, they spend money instead of breaking into song and dance. There are cash mobs in many larger cities now.

YCM’s goal is to pump revenue into locally owned businesses, and Dorian Books — the city’s only independent bookseller — is a great place to kick off what will be a monthly event. To learn more, find the group on Facebook.