16 May 2003
With the release of a new CD, Grammy-winning vocalist Bobby "Blue" Bland proves once again that you're never to old to sing the blues. At 73, Bland admits the secret to his success has been singing what he feels. He says, "It's about life. You get hurt, you get happy."
Bobby "Blue" Bland never played guitar or harmonica, two staples of most working blues musicians. Instead, he made his mark on the blues world solely with his voice. During a career that's lasted five decades, Bland has recorded more than 60 albums, including 50 Top Ten R&B singles. His latest album, featuring My Sunday's Comin', caps a long and winding musical path that began during the Depression years in the American South.
Bobby "Blue" Bland was born Robert Calvin Brooks in the poor rural town of Rosemark, Tennessee. He sang in church, on the front porch of a local store, or wherever there was a small audience. In his early teens, he took his stepfather's last name, Bland, because he liked the way it sounded. When his family moved to Memphis, Bobby got a job as a truck driver, shuttling workers back and forth to the corn and cotton fields along the Mississippi River.
On his nights off, Bobby entered and usually won first prize at an amateur singing contest. He joined a Memphis blues group called the Beale Streeters, whose members included up-and-coming blues guitarist B.B. King. His friendship with King led to his first recording session with producer Ike Turner. Before long, Bobby was recording singles for established labels like Chess, Modern and Sun. Signing with Duke Records in 1952, Bland embarked on a string of hits propelled by his unique blend of blues, gospel, pop and country.
Bland was 67 years old when he received the Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1997. A year later, he was presented with another Lifetime Achievement Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
About the songs on his new album, Bland says, "It's the story that catches my ear. I look for something I want to sing about."