Today marks the 82nd birthday of Hall of Fame blues man Robert Calvin Bland, better known as Bobby "Blue". In a case of being "in the right place at the right time", Mr. Bland was born in Rosemark, Tennessee in 1930, then moved to Memphis at eighteen to begin his career. He became an original member of the Beale Streeters, an influential group of blues singers and musicians that included names such as B.B. King and Junior Parker.
A major player in the creation of the modern soul-blues sound, Bland and his contemporaries (Ray Charles, Sam Cooke) mixed gospel with blues and R&B, a move that was met with both praise and resistance by music lovers and churchgoers in the South. But unlike his friends B.B. and Ray, Mr. Bland did not have an instrument to lean on, so he concentrated his efforts on his voice. With powerful, heartfelt vocals, he molded a magnificent style of singing that was both tormented and charismatic.
He produced three number one hits in his career. The first was "Farther Up The Road" in 1957, a lively track that has been called a "seminal Texas shuffle" and was later covered by such artists like Eric Clapton. Also at the top of the R&B charts were "I Pity The Fool" in 1961 and "That's The Way Love Is" in 1963.
My personal favorite Bobby "Blue" Bland offering is "Turn On Your Love Light", a joyful, horn-heavy groove that swings from velvet smooth vocals to guttural "I feel alright" proclamations. The hip-hop generation will recognize "Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City", a track that was sampled beautifully on Jay-Z's Blueprint album.
Happy Birthday, sir.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.