Influential Native American Musician Tony Bellamy of Redbone Dies in Las Vegas

Tony Bellamy on the cover of Come & Get Your Redbone (1975)
Tony Bellamy on the cover of Come & Get Your Redbone (1975)
The Native American Music Awards (N.A.M.A.) organization reported the passing of Redbone’s Anthony Bellamy, who died on Christmas morning, December 25th, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada with his family by his side. "Anthony, or Tony "T-Bone" Bellamy, who attended the 10th Annual Native American Music Awards and was inducted into the N.A.M.A. Hall of Fame with Redbone in 2008, was a Mexican-American Yaqui Indian who became the lead guitarist, pianist and vocalist for the Native American band," said the N.A.M.A. press release. "He was a beloved and endearing friend of the "Nammys" since its inception, and will be greatly missed."

Redbone became established as a Native American rock group in the 1970s. They reached the Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1974 with the hit song, "Come and Get Your Love."

Originally formed in 1969 in Los Angeles, California by brothers Patrick Vasquez (bass and vocals) and Lolly Vasquez (guitar and vocals), the name Redbone started as a joking reference to a Cajun term for a mixed-race person ("half-breed"). The band’s members were of mixed blood ancestry.
According to Patrick Vasquez (a.k.a. Pat Vegas), it was Jimi Hendrix who talked the musicians into forming an all-American Indian rock group and so they signed as the band Redbone to Epic Records in 1969. The band consisted of Patrick Vasquez, Lolly Vasquez, drummer Pete DePoe and Anthony "Tony" Bellamy. Their debut album Redbone was released in 1970.

Redbone played primarily rock music with R&B, Cajun, Jazz, tribal and Latin roots. Their first commercial success was with the single, "Maggie" from their second album, Potlatch, in 1970. Two other hit singles would follow; "The Witch Queen of New Orleans" in 1971, which went to #21 on the Billboard Hot 100, and their greatest hit song to date, "Come and Get Your Love" in 1974, which went to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Come and Get Your Love", stayed in the Billboard charts for 24 weeks, and was awarded a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America (R.I.A.A.) on April 22, 1974.

Tony Bellamy grew up in a family of dancers and musicians and learned to play the flamenco guitar as part of his musical education. Before joining the band Redbone, Tony Bellamy had performed with Dobie Gray, and a was a member of the San Francisco band, Peter and the Wolves, that evolved into the psychedelic band Moby Grape.

In 1998, Tony Bellamy and Patrick Vasquez performed as Redbone at the First Native American Music Awards held at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.

On October 4, 2008, Tony Bellamy and Patrick Vasquez attended the 10th Annual Native American Music Awards at the Seneca Niagara Hotel & Casino in Niagara Falls, New York as special guests to accept Redbone’s induction into the N.A.M.A. Hall of Fame.

Born as Anthony Avila, Tony Bellamy was 63. It was originally reported that Bellamy was born in 1940  and was 69 years of age, but it was later corrected as 1946 and Bellamy passed at the age of 63. According to the Native American Music Awards, Bellamy’s family confirmed that Tony originally used a birth year of 1940 so that he could legally play in the clubs.

"N.A.M.A. and its Advisory Board contingency would like extend their condolences to the Bellamy family," expressed the N.A.M.A. press release. "N.A.M.A. will forever honor this legendary performer who has been both a leading force in the mainstream music industry and an inspiration to the Native American community."

Author: World Music Central News Department

World music news from the editors at World Music Central