John Farmer Bell is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the American rock band Widespread Panic, where he is known for his raspy southern drawl that hits a variety of octaves. He is frequently called JB by fans.
Bell grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where he graduated from University School in 1980. He attended the University of Georgia when he, Michael Houser, and Dave Schools met while Houser was playing at an open mic night. "Panic," as Houser was nicknamed, began playing with JB and Schools at local Athens, GA clubs, playing mostly cover songs.
John Bell is an active philanthropist, most notably as an advocate for SMA (spinal muscular atrophy). Bell has helped raise over $2 million for SMA research, mostly through his involvement with "Hannah's Buddies". The foundation is named for Bell's goddaughter and niece, who lives with SMA. Bell is involved in an annual fundraiser featuring a golf tournament and evening concert by "JB and Friends," featuring John Bell solo, as well as performing with guests. Guest performers at the benefit have included Col. Bruce Hampton, Vic Chesnutt, John Keane, and Bloodkin, as well as Grammy Award winner Robert Randolph and the Family Band and the North Mississippi Allstars, and Nickel and the Polar Bears. He has also performed at various Habitat for Humanity benefit concerts put on by Warren Haynes.