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Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland: 5 Facts About ‘Little Boy Blue’

Posted By Patrick Kiger On June 25, 2013 @ 3:49 pm In Legacy | Comments Disabled

Bobby 'Blue' Bland peforming in 1996 [1]If I had a million dollars I’d give you every, a-every dime
Just to hear you call me, “Bobby,” one more time.

That’s what Bobby “Blue” Bland [2] sang in his trademark 1958 single, “Little Boy Blue,” which unveiled his trademark vocal style: a restrained, silky-smooth crooner’s delivery, punctuated at the right moment by a high-pitched, pleading squall. It fused the earthy raw power of rural blues singers such as Robert Johnson with the jazz-inflected urbanity of Nat King Cole. And if the Tennessee native had gotten a dollar for every blues and rock singer – from Otis Redding [3] to Van Morrison – who was influenced by his sound, he might actually have been able to pay his baby that million. YouTube Preview Image [4]

Here are some intriguing facts about Bland, who died on June 23 at age 83 [5] in Memphis, Tenn., and his music.

  • He was born in Rosemark, Tenn., a  town northeast of Memphis, which had a population of just 200 people.
  • As a youth, he sang with a gospel group called the Miniatures.
  • In the early 1950s, he recorded for producer Sam Phillips at Sun Records in Memphis. Phillips later launched the careers of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash [6], Jerry Lee Lewis and others.
  • He worked for a time as a driver for B.B. King [7], who eventually came to admire his voice. Here they are performing together in 1977. YouTube Preview Image [8]
  • Early in his career, he experimented with singing in a falsetto but had to abandon it after having a tonsillectomy that lowered his voice, according to an interview [9] he did with actor and blues enthusiast Dan Ackroyd. He copied his trademark squall – famously rendered in “The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest [10]” – from the singsong preaching of the Rev. C.L. Franklin, singer Aretha Franklin’s father.
  • His first hit was “Farther Up the Road,” which topped the rhythm-and-blues chart in 1957. YouTube Preview Image [11]
  • The title of his 1961 song “I Pity the Fool” later became the catchphrase of 1980s tough-guy actor Mr. T.  YouTube Preview Image [12]
  • Another 1961 Bland single, “Turn On Your Love Light [13],” was often covered by the Grateful Dead, with the late Ron “Pigpen” McKernan doing the vocal. Here he is, singing it in 1972. YouTube Preview Image [14]
  • According to USA Today [15], Bland never learned to read or write well, and he would memorize the lyrics to songs by listening – for weeks at a time – to a demo recording of someone else singing them.
  • His 1974 song, “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City,” has been covered by performers ranging from country singer Crystal Gayle to rapper Jay-Z, and has appeared in commercials and on movie and TV series soundtracks. But the original is still the best. YouTube Preview Image [16]
  • He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
  • In his interview with Ackroyd, he laid out his philosophy as follows: “Some of the things I sing about actually happened to me. Maybe you have a girlfriend and you lose her. It’s not a good feeling, not if you care for her. Blues is based on feeling, what happens in life … you can’t be happy and sing the blues as far as I’m concerned. Maybe some people can, but it’s news to me.”


Photo: Bland at the Long Beach Blues Festival in 1996 by Masahiro Sumori via Wikipedia [17]


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Article printed from AARP: http://blog.aarp.org

URL to article: http://blog.aarp.org/2013/06/25/bobby-bland-5-facts-about-little-boy-blue-famous-blues-musicians/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://blog.aarp.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/BobbyBland1996.jpg

[2] Bobby “Blue” Bland: http://rockhall.com/inductees/bobby-blue-bland/bio/

[3] Otis Redding: http://www.aarp.org/entertainment/music/info-09-2011/otis-redding-tribute.html?intcmp=AE-BLIL-DOTORG

[4] Image: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9p5KuwO8xQ

[5] died on June 23 at age 83: http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-bobby-blue-bland-20130625,0,1913221.story

[6] Johnny Cash: http://www.aarp.org/entertainment/music/info-04-2011/country-music-famous-couples.html?intcmp=AE-BLIL-DOTORG

[7] B.B. King: http://www.aarp.org/about-aarp/events/info-05-2010/bb_king.2.html

[8] Image: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUyKrNzW3Pc

[9] interview: http://books.google.com/books?id=74G8kP6fkLUC&pg=PA9&dq=bobby+%22blue%22+bland&hl=en&sa=X&ei=jMjJUaPXMvfi4AOV54C4DA&ved=0CEYQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=bobby%20%22blue%22%20bland&f=false

[10] The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kn38BSD9KHI&list=PL651FDF85CA57C0FD

[11] Image: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7ejzddkFhM

[12] Image: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1--7K58_4ZQ

[13] Turn On Your Love Light: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StdN_CiCNS4

[14] Image: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2kFuQJ8-8U

[15] USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2013/06/24/bobby-blue-bland-dies/2451221/

[16] Image: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYrDyMY0Vew

[17] Masahiro Sumori via Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BobbyBland1996.jpg

[18] Bob Thompson: He Made Music to Sip Martinis By: http://blog.aarp.org/2013/06/10/bob-thompson-bachelor-pad-music-composer-dies-at-age-88-in-l-a/?intcmp=AE-ENDART1-BL-REL

[19] Remember ‘O-o-h Child’ by the Five Stairsteps?: http://blog.aarp.org/2013/05/30/remember-o-o-h-child-by-the-five-stairsteps/?intcmp=AE-ENDART2-BL-BOS

[20] Join AARP: https://appsec.aarp.org/MSS/join/application?intcmp=AE-ENDART3-BL-MEM

[21] AARP home page: http://www.aarp.org/?intcmp=AE-ENDART3-BL-HP

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