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Bobby "Blue" Bland

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Bobby “Blue” Bland (also known as Bobby Bland) (born Robert Calvin Bland, 27 January 1930, in Rosemark, Tennessee, died June 23, 2013, Memphis, Tennessee) was an African-American blues and soul singer. An original member of The Beale Streeters, he was sometimes referred to as the “Lion of the Blues”. Along with such artists as Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Junior Parker, Bland developed a sound that mixed gospel with the blues and R&B. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1981, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.

Bland started singing with local gospel groups in Memphis, including amongst others The Miniatures. Eager to expand his interests, he began frequenting the city’s famous Beale Street where he became associated with an ad hoc circle of aspiring musicians named, not unnaturally, the Beale Streeters. He released a couple of unsuccessful singles for Chess Records in 1951, and Modern Records in 1952. That year, Bland entered the Army and returned to music upon his discharge in 1955. His first successful single was “It’s My Life Baby”, showcasing a new, more mature sound. He was signed to the Duke Records label in 1956.

Bland’s glottal gargle sound was patterned after Aretha Franklin’s father, the Reverend C. L. Franklin. For all his rough and raw vocal projections, Bland was backed by a band that delivered some of the smoothest and most modulated arrangements in the blues genre.

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