GRENADA, Miss. (AP) — Bobby “Blue” Bland, a distinguished singer who blended Southern blues and soul in songs such as “Turn on Your Love Light” and “Further On Up the Road,” died Sunday. He was 83.
Rodd Bland said his father died due to complications from an ongoing illness at his Memphis, Tenn., home. He was surrounded by relatives.
Bland was known as the “the Sinatra of the blues” and was heavily influenced by Nat King Cole, often recording with lavish arrangements to accompany his smooth vocals. He even openly imitated Frank Sinatra on the “Two Steps From the Blues” album cover, standing in front of a building with a coat thrown over his shoulder.
“He brought a certain level of class to the blues genre,” said Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, son of legendary musician and producer Willie Mitchell.
Bland was a contemporary of B.B. King’s, serving as the blues great’s valet and chauffer at one point, and was one of the last of the living connections to the roots of the genre. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and was an influence on scores of young rock ‘n’ rollers.
Born in Rosemark, Tenn., he moved to nearby Memphis as a teenager and became a founding member of the Beale Streeters, a group that also included King and Johnny Ace. Upon his induction, the Rock Hall of Fame noted Bland was “second in stature only to B.B. King as a product of Memphis’ Beale Street blues scene.”