by Robert Wilkinson
The Lion of the Blues and one of the last surviving originals just died.
Bobby “Blue” Bland was one of the last of the Beale Street originals. His name will always be inextricably linked with BB King, as well as Sam Phillips and Frank Sinatra, who he was compared to for all kinds of reasons.
Bobby Blue Bland (January 27, 1930 – June 23, 2013) was one of the first blues cats I turned on to in the 60s. I discovered him along with BB King, Albert King, Freddie King, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, Junior Parker, Robert Johnson, Ledbelly, John Lee Hooker, Little Walter, Big Joe Turner, the awesome Chicago sound of Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, and too many more to list, including the entire British electric blues group featuring some of the best guitarists in history, and never looked back.
The blues can’t be confined to any one sound or artist. The sound of BB King seems to have little to do with John Lee Hooker, and Big Joe Turner’s music would seem to have little in common with Eric Clapton’s precision licks, or Jimmy Page’s over the top leads. Robert Cray’s screaming fluid guitar work would seem to come from a different universe from the simply acoustic melodies of the legendary Ledbelly, but it’s all the blues, including the supersonic guitar of Jimi Hendrix.
I’ve found that even if someone doesn’t like most of the blues they’ve heard, there’s always something that grabs them by the throat, opens their heart, and helps them understand this original form of American music derived from ancient roots. Whether acoustic, or electric, simple rhythms or complex feelings expressed in a howl or a cry or a harmonica riff, there’s something in this art form for everyone.
Today we pay tribute to one of the originals, Mister Bobby Blue Bland.
Here’s the first one I ever heard by this master, the original studio version of “I Pity the Fool”
Here’s another of my faves, Bobby’s original studio version of the great rave up number “Turn on Your Love Light”
Live in 75, BB King and Bobby live on the “Soul Train” television show performing “It's My Own Fault” and “Sweet Little Angel”
Also from the 70s, here’s Bobby live on television belting out “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby”
And now, some early ones!
One of his first! From 1952, iconic jump blues “Good Lovin’”
Another of his very first! Also from 1952, the blues lament of “I.O.U. Blues”
Here’s one of his first top ten scores! From 1957, the original studio version of “Farther Up the Road”
From 1961, the original studio version of “Cry Cry Cry”
From 1958, the original studio version of “Little Boy Blue”
Here’s the entire album that Bobby released in 1964 that shows his incredible range, from smooth tunes to some serious blues laments! As “they” say, he “takes us to church.”
“Ain’t Nothing You Can Do” – The A Side (“Ain’t Nothing You Can Do,” “If I Hadn’t Called You Back,” “Today,” “Steal Away,” “After It’s Too Late,” “I’m Gonna Cry”)
”Ain’t Nothing You Can Do” – Flip side (The B Side) (“Loneliness Hurts,” “When You Put Me Down,” “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Reconsider,” “Black Nights,” “Blind Man”)
For our finale to this “Lion of the Blues,” I found several great live performances. First, a great live one in St. Louis! Here’s 12 minutes of pure blues featuring Bobby Blue Bland singing “That's The Way Love Is,” “Further On Up The Road,” “I Pity The Fool,” “and “As Soon As The Weather Breaks.”
Here’s a great television performance by Bobby, Bobby Rush, and Johnnie Taylor doing a medley of “Stormy Monday Blues” and “She’s Puttin’ Something In My Food”
From 2011 in Mississippi, here’s 12 minutes of great live blues from late in his career! Bobby blue Bland Live in Greenville, Mississippi
Thanks, Bobby, for a lifetime of amazing work. RIP, Mister Original Blues Brother.
© Copyright 2013 Robert Wilkinson