Monday, 24 September 2012

Featured Artist: Bobby Blue Bland

Bobby “Blue” Bland
Born January 27 1930
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.
Bland's recordings from the early 1950s 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 Little Junior Parker. Initially he doubled as valet and driver, a role he reportedly fulfilled for B.B. King.
Melodic big-band blues singles, including “Farther On 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
Financial pressures forced the singer to cut his touring band and in 1968 the group broke up. He suffered from depresssion 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”. 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 sessionmen at the time.
The first single released from “His California Album” was "This Time I'm Gone For Good", and 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. The follow-up, "I Wouldn't Treat A Dog" was his biggest R&B hit for some years, but as usual his strength was never the pop chart. 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”, but it failed to sell well outside of his traditional “chitlin circuit” base.
In 1985, Bland was signed by Malaco Records, specialists in traditional Southern black music 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 continues to record new albums for Malaco, perform occasional tours alone, with guitarist/producer Angelo Earl and also with B.B. King, plus appearances at blues and soul festivals worldwide.

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