News out of the Memphis Music Foundation has confirmed reports that master bluesman, Bobby “Blue” Bland has died. He was 83.
Rodd Bland said his father died about 5:30 p.m. Sunday due to complications from an ongoing illness at his Memphis, TN home surrounded by relatives.
“He brought a certain level of class to the blues genre,” said Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, son of legendary musician and producer Willie Mitchell.
Bland was a contemporary of B.B. King’s, serving as the blues great’s valet and chauffer at one point, and was one of the last of the living connections to the roots of the genre. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
According to Wikipedia, Bobby “Blue” Bland was born in the small town of Rosemark, Tennessee. Later moving to Memphis with his mother, Bland started singing with local gospel groups there, including amongst others The Miniatures. Eager to expand his interests, he began frequenting the city’s famous Beale Street where he became associated with an ad hoc circle of aspiring musicians named, not unnaturally, the Beale Streeters.
“It is a great loss for the blues and for Memphis Music. He was a trail blazer and his music will be missed,” Pat Worley with the Memphis Music Foundation told WREG TV.
More on Bobby “Blue” Bland from Wikipedia:
Bland’s recordings from the early 1950s show him striving for individuality, but any progress was halted by a spell in the U.S. Army. When the singer returned to Memphis in 1954 he found several of his former associates, including Johnny Ace, enjoying considerable success, while Bland’s recording label, Duke, had been sold to Houston entrepreneur Don Robey.
In 1956 Bland began touring with Junior Parker. Initially he doubled as valet and driver, a role he reportedly fulfilled for B. B. King and Rosco Gordon. Simultaneously, Bland began asserting his characteristic vocal style. Melodic big-band blues singles, including “Farther Up the Road” (1957) and “Little Boy Blue” (1958) reached the US R&B Top 10, but Bobby’s craft was most clearly heard on a series of early 1960s releases including “Cry Cry Cry,” “I Pity The Fool” and the sparkling “Turn On Your Love Light,” which became a much-covered standard. Despite credits to the contrary, many such classic works were written by Joe Scott, the artist’s bandleader and arranger.