One of my favorite R&B singers, Bobby “Blue” Bland has died. He passed away in Memphis on Sunday at the age of 83.
Bland was born January 27, 1930 in Rosemark, Tennessee. He had to quit school in the third grade to help his single mother at work picking cotton. The two later moved to Memphis, where he started singing with local gospel groups. He came up around the same time as other great singers including Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Nat Cole and Junior Parker. He also frequented the Memphis club scene on Beale Street.
One of the biggest stars on the Memphis’ Duke label and Houston-based Peacock records, Bland got his start after leaving army service in 1954. He sang in the great Little Junior Parker’s band, followed by his first big hits include 1957’s “Farther On Up the Road”, with tasty guitar fills from the great Pat Hare and covered by Eric Clapton in 1975, 1961’s “I Pity the Fool”, “Cry Cry Cry”, and 1958’s “Little Boy Blue”. Although his songs were popular on the R&B charts, few ever made it to the pop charts. The exception was 1961’s “Turn on Your Love Light”, which was also a favorite of The Grateful Dead. Bland was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1981, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement in 1997.
Once dubbed the “Sepia Sinatra”, Bland’s crooning was as smooth as honey ice cream and tender as young love, but in songs like “Cry Cry Cry”, he also could be cool and cutting. The two albums pictured here are a good start. The “Call On Me” is there partly because I love the cover art.
Here are a few of his classic songs: “Honey Child”, “Farther on Up the Road”, “I’ll Take Care of You”, and “Cry Cry Cry”.
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