Bobby "Blue" Bland dies at age 83

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    (June 24, 2013) Legendary blues and soul singer Bobby "Blue" Bland has died at age 83. Bland, whose raw, expressive vocals and hard driving songs made him a crowd favorite for over a half century, arose from a small town singer in Tennessee to one of the most popular blues singers ever.

    Services for Mr. Bobby "Blue" Bland 

    First Baptist Church - Broad 
    2835 Broad Avenue 
    Memphis, Tennessee 38112 
    *Visitation: 1pm - 6pm Wednesday, June 26, 2013
    Funeral : 11:00 am Thursday, June 27, 2013

    (June 24, 2013) Legendary blues and soul singer Bobby "Blue" Bland has died at age 83. Bland, whose raw, expressive vocals and hard driving songs made him a crowd favorite for over a half century, arose from a small town singer in Tennessee to one of the most popular blues singers ever.

    Services for Mr. Bobby "Blue" Bland 

    First Baptist Church - Broad 
    2835 Broad Avenue 
    Memphis, Tennessee 38112 
    *Visitation: 1pm - 6pm Wednesday, June 26, 2013
    Funeral : 11:00 am Thursday, June 27, 2013

    Bland started singing with local gospel groups in Tennessee, including 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 the Beale Streeters.

    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. In 1956 Bland began touring with Junior Parker. Initially he doubled as valet and driver, a role he reportedly filled 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.

    Bland continued to enjoy a consistent run of R&B chart entries throughout the mid-'60s. Never truly breaking into the mainstream market, Bland's highest charting song on the pop chart, "Ain't Nothing You Can Do" peaked at #20 during the same week The Beatles held down the Top 5 spots. Bland's records mostly sold on the R&B market and he had 23 Top Ten hits on the Billboard R&B charts.

    Financial pressures forced the singer to cut his touring band and in 1968 the group broke up. He suffered from depression and became increasingly dependent on alcohol. He stopped drinking in 1971; his record company Duke was sold by owner Don Robey to the larger ABC Records group. This resulted in several successful and critically acclaimed contemporary blues/soul albums including His California Album and Dreamer, arranged by Michael Omartian and produced by ABC staff man Steve Barri. The albums, including the later "follow-up" in 1977 Reflections in Blue, were all recorded in Los Angeles and featured many of the city's top session players.


    The first single released from His California Album, "This Time I'm Gone For Good" took Bland back into the pop Top 50 for the first time since 1964 and made the R&B top 10 in late 1973. The lead-off track from Dreamer, "Ain't No Love In the Heart of the City", was a strong R&B hit. Later it would surface again in 1978 by the hard rock band Whitesnake featuring singer David Coverdale. Much later it was sampled by Kanye West on Jay-Z's Hip Hop album The Blueprint (2001).  The follow-up, "I Wouldn't Treat A Dog" was his biggest R&B hit for some years, climbing to #3 in late 1974, but as usual his strength was never the pop chart (where it hit #88). Subsequent attempts at adding a disco/Barry White flavor were mostly unsuccessful. A return to his roots in 1980 for a tribute album to his mentor Joe Scott, produced by music veterans Monk Higgins and Al Bell, resulted in a fine album Sweet Vibrations.

    In 1985, Bland was signed by Malaco Records, for whom he made a series of albums while continuing to tour and appear at concerts with fellow blues singer B. B. King. The two had collaborated for two albums in the 1970s. Despite occasional age-related ill-health, Bland continued to record new albums for Malaco and perform occasional tours alone, with guitarist/producer Angelo Earl and also with B.B. King, plus appearances at blues and soul festivals worldwide.

    He will be missed

    Portions of this article are licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Bobby "Blue" Bland

     

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