Memphis Musicians Remember Blues Singer Bobby "Blue" Bland

Memphis Musicians Remember Blues Singer Bobby "Blue" Bland

Bland moved to Memphis when he was 18. He soon became part of a group called the Beale Streeters, where he sang with musicians like BB King.
MEMPHIS, TN (localmemphis.com) - Memphis musicians are sharing fond memories of a local blues legend. Singer Bobby "Blue" Bland died Sunday, June 23rd.

He was 83 years old and known around the world for his signature soulful sound.

Bland moved to Memphis when he was 18. He soon became part of a group called the Beale Streeters, where he sang with musicians like BB King.

Bland went on to develop a sound and style all his own.

"His charisma was unmatchable," says Paul McKinney. "People just began to come closer. They couldn't get enough."

Bland sang the blues, R&B and gospel, forging the three sounds into his own style. McKinney toured with Bland in the late 90s.

"People have called him the Frank Sinatra of the blues. He had this smooth, really beautiful delivery."

"His voice was his instrument," says Charlton Johnson, who played with him from 1997 until now.

The 83 year old died at his Germantown home Sunday. "Memphis meant the world to him. He didn't want to be anywhere else," Johnson says.

His death is a loss not just for the Memphis music scene, but for blues fans around the world.

"I'm proud to say I did play with him," Johnson tells Local 24 News. "We got to go overseas to Europe, Japan, and all big cities here in the country. San Francisco, New York, Miami."

"He makes that connection from rock and roll to early rhythm and blues to blues," McKinney says.

Audiences ate up everything he played. "Women would throw shoes up on the stage," laughs Johnson. "Everybody thought he was singing to them personally."

"Any song he sang, he was very much into the lyrics. If they didn't tell a story he couldn't relate to it. Every lyric he sang he meant and could relate to."

A day after his death, friends and fellow musicians were sharing stories of Bland with teenage musicians at STAX academy. They'll perform one of his songs at a concert at Levitt Shell this weekend.

"We're already doing one his songs, Stormy Monday," McKinney says. "We're really excited we could pay homage to him even before his death."

Bland leaves behind a wealth of music. He was a member of both the Blues and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame. He won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 1997.
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