(Memphis) He had an unforgettable voice. Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland was a legendary singer who helped pioneer the modern Soul-Blues sound.
Paul McKinney is a musician who toured with Bobby Bland. He’s also Stax Music Academy’s instrumental music director.
On Monday, he wore a Bobby Bland Band t-shirt as he remembered the music icon.
“People have called him the Frank Sinatra of the Blues and he had this smooth really beautiful delivery,” McKinney said.
At the Stax Music Academy, students rehearse as others learn in a summer class about Bobby Bland.
“What you noticed about the crowd and the response to Mr. Bland and his stage presence, people began to come closer. They couldn’t get enough and you saw it,” McKinney said.
Known also as the Lion of the Blues, Bobby Bland was born in Rosemark, Tenn. He moved to Memphis in 1947 where he began mixing sounds from Gospel, Blues and Rhythm and Blues.
He joined the Beale Streeters, a group that included Johnny Ace, Junior Parker and B.B. King.
Decades later, Charlton Johnson joined his band.
“He was a great friend, teacher. I learned a lot from him. He didn’t play an instrument, but his voice was his instrument,” Johnson said.
His voice began a career that would create hits such as ‘Members Only’ and many others, and ultimately got him inducted in the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame in 1981, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame last year.
His jacket, shoes and bracelet are displayed at the Stax Museum.
Songwriter and producer David Porter says Bobby Bland was unique.
“Bobby Blue Bland is the epitome of what true artistry is in the respect of aura and ambiance, and energy that was uniquely him and made it something that would resonate with people and others would feel,” Porter said.
His audience, especially his female fans, felt a personal connection.
“Electric, electric. Women would throw shoes on the stage. They’d walk around. Everybody thought he was singing to them individually (laughter),” Johnson said.
Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, a legendary singer remembered for being a cornerstone of American Music.
“He was one of the few ones that would make a melody talk to you in addition to singing to you. He will be totally missed. No doubt about it,” Porter said.
Bobby ‘Blue” Bland was 83.
Visitation is set for Wednesday from 1 to 6 p.m. at First Baptist Broad on the 2800 block of Broad Avenue and the funeral is Thursday at noon at the church.