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©AP / Bobby 'Blue' Bland
© AP / Bobby 'Blue' Bland
Blues singer Bobby 'Blue' Bland dies at 83
By ADRIAN SAINZ , Associated Press

GRENADA, Miss. (AP) — Bobby "Blue" Bland, a distinguished singer who blended Southern blues and soul in songs such as "Turn on Your Love Light" and "Further On Up the Road," died Sunday. He was 83.

Rodd Bland said his father died due to complications from an ongoing illness at his Memphis, Tenn., home. He was surrounded by relatives.

Bland was known as the "the Sinatra of the blues" and was heavily influenced by Nat King Cole, often recording with lavish arrangements to accompany his smooth vocals. He even openly imitated Frank Sinatra on the "Two Steps From the Blues" album cover, standing in front of a building with a coat thrown over his shoulder.

"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 and was an influence on scores of young rock 'n' rollers.

Born in Rosemark, Tenn., he moved to nearby Memphis as a teenager and became a founding member of the Beale Streeters, a group that also included King and Johnny Ace. Upon his induction, the Rock Hall of Fame noted Bland was "second in stature only to B.B. King as a product of Memphis' Beale Street blues scene."

After a stint in the Army, he recorded with producer Sam Phillips, who helped launch the careers of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, in the early 1950s with little to show for it. It wasn't until later that decade Bland began to find success.

He scored his first No. 1 on the R&B charts with "Further On Up the Road" in 1957 and it was around this time he got his nickname, taken from his song "Little Boy Blue" because his repertoire focused so closely on lovelorn subject matter. Beginning with "I'll Take Care of You" in early 1960, Bland released a dozen R&B hits in a row. That string included "Turn On Your Love Light" in 1961.

Some of his best-known songs included "Call on Me" and "That's the Way Love Is," both released in 1963, and "Ain't Nothing You Can Do" in 1964.

"Lead Me On," another well-known song, breaks the listener's heart with the opening lines: "You know how it feels, you understand/What it is to be a stranger, in this unfriendly land."

Bland wasn't as well known as some of his contemporaries, but was no less an influential figure for early rock 'n' roll stars. Many of his songs, especially "Further On Up the Road" and "I Pity the Fool," were recorded by young rockers, including David Bowie and Eric Clapton.

"He's always been the type of guy that if he could help you in any way, form or fashion, he would," Rodd Bland said.

___

AP Music Writer Chris Talbott contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
26Comments
Jun 24, 2013 11:50AM
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Bobby Blue Bland is that 'hidden' bridge that allowed us to cross the so-called music genres, especially here in America. He is that blues music man that grandmothers swooned over, that mothers swooned over, and their daughters said 'play that song by Bobby!' at summer picnics. Meanwhile, grandfathers, fathers, and us sons greatly admired the talent that was raw and velvet, bluesey and honey-soothing.

 

I regret not taking time from work and family to see him perform. In my 50 years plus on this earth I was always hoping to 'catch him the next time'. If you have a favorite artist that you haven't seen yet, make time to travel to see them; your life will be waiting when you return with your memories!

 

R.I.P. Bobby, and God bless your family and friends!  

Jun 24, 2013 11:40AM
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My parents listened to his music often. We would put on a 45 and do the "twist". RIP Bobby "Blue" Bland....
Jun 24, 2013 11:33AM
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Saw Bobby BLUE Bland a # of X Always a Fantastic Soul Singer or R & B BEST Cd IS Yrs Of Tears & Always Loved that Growl Dropped his Dentures & did that & Got 2 Steps from the Blues Also a Fine CD Thank You Bobby BLUE Bland Rest in Peace
Jun 24, 2013 11:08AM
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I think the first I heard BBB was in Victoria, Texas at the Westerner.  Again the International Festival in Houston.  BBB and BB King  also appeared together in Houston, and I still prefer BBB over King.  My favorite song is Cry, Cry, Cry.  I'll miss you Bobby.
Jun 24, 2013 10:43AM
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Turn On Your Love Light was always a favorite song of mine.  Whether your black, white or any race, anyone can relate to it.
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