Saturday, May 02, 2009

Bobby 'Blue' Bland on the BBC

Full marks to BBC4 for broadcasting tonight's excellent documentary on the wonderful, and incredibly under appreciated Bobby Bland. The programme demonstrated Bobby's fantastic voice and smooth style - quite unlike anyone else - which led to a string of 51 R and B hits in the 50s and 60s, despite being almost totally ignored by the pop buying public. He started in Memphis at the same time as B B King, Junior Parker and Rufus Thomas and the programme explored the influence the early Sun blues sides had on Elvis and others. But it focused very much on Bobby's music, his gospel roots, his relationship with the notorious Don Robey at Duke and his later collaboration with B B King which took him to a new audience. There were worthwhile contributions from the likes of B B, Ira Tucker of theDixie Hummingbirds and Mick Hucknall.
I first became aware of Bobby in 1964 when Ain't Nothing You Can Do reached number 3 in my personal top ten and Yield Not To Temptation reached number 1 the next year. I think at the time he was primarily a soul singer for me and I associated him with James Brown in my mind, yet blues was always at the heart of his work. But Bobby was, and is, unique. I love his famous grunt and I could listen to great LPs like Two Steps From the Blues over and over again. I've seen him quite a few times over the years, including New Orleans Jazzfest. in London at the Astoria in the mid 90s (pictured) and at the House of Blues and he remains, at the age of 79, someone who I will not miss if he is appearing in any town I'm in. Many of his recordings were made with Wayne Bennett on guitar and my picture shows Wayne playing in New Orleans in 1991, a year before he died.
Before the Bland programme, the BBC's blues weekend featured a series of blues performances shown on BBC between 1964 (John Lee Hooker) and 1991 (Buddy Guy). In between there were some great performances from blues originals such as Champion Jack Dupree. T Bone Walker, Son House. Freddie King, B B King and Pops Staples, plus white artists such as the Kinks, Pretty Things, Long John Baldry, Delaney and Bonnie, Tony McPhee and Eric Clapton. It was followed by some more great blues from various Jools Holland programmes over the years with performances by among others, B B. Albert King, Katie Webster, Jimmie Vaughan and Bo Diddley.


At 5:27 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bobby Blue Bland is one of the greatest to ever do blues at its purest.


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