They Call Me Bobby: Sinatra of the Blues Succumbs at 83


Boby Bland   tint Blue

Los Angeles,CA._ Blues great Robert Calvin Bland, better known a Bobby “Blue” Bland, a distinguished singer who blended Southern Blues and Raw Soul while recording  big hits such as, “Turn on Your Love Light” and “Further On Up the Road,” and  “Stormy Monday” died June 23, he was 83.  Rod Bland said his father died about 5:30 p.m. Sunday due to complications from an ongoing illness at his Memphis, Tenn., home surrounded by relatives.

Bland was known in some circles as the “Lion of the Blues” and 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. This brought about a second moniker of  “The Sinatra of the Blues.”   “He brought a certain level of class to the blues genre,” said Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, son of legendary musician and producer Willie Mitchell.

Born in Rosemark, Tenn., he moved to nearby Memphis as a teenager and, as the Hall Of Fame noted, was “second in stature only to B.B. King as a product of Memphis’ Beale Street blues scene.”Bland was a contemporary of B.B. King’s, serving as the blues great’s valet and chauffeur at one point  early in his young career.

After a stint in the Army, he recorded with Sam Phillips at Sun Records in the early 1950s with little to show for it. It wasn’t until later that decade Bland began to find success. He scored his first No. 1 on the R&B charts with “Further On Up the Road” in 1957. Then, beginning with “I’ll Take Care of You” in early 1960, Bland released a dozen R&B hits in a row. That string included “Turn On Your Love Light” in 1961. His “I Pity the Fool” in 1961 was recorded by many rock bands, including David Bowie and Eric Clapton, who has made “Further On Up the Road” part of his repertoire.

Being one of the last of the living connections to the roots of the genre,Blues.

Bland 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.

“He’s always been the type of guy that if he could help you in any way, form or fashion, he would,” MusicObitBobbyRodd Bland said.

In the world of Soul,Blues and R&B, young singers can stand on the shoulders of true  pioneers, like Bland, who truly paved the way while doing all the heavy lifting. Bobby Blue Bland will be sorely missed with very few left to fill the void left in his absence.

Robert J. Carmack – Editor-in-Chief ** you can follow this writer on twitter:@blues2jazzguy

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Kindred Spirits: Ndugu Chanceler


Kindred Spirits: Ndugu Chanceler 

It’s not often you get an opportunity to actually watch the professional growth of a musician up-close through most of their career,but in the case of Leon “Ndugu” Chanceler,I did. There’s many good things about growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s or 60s..You had opportunities a kid from Shreveport, Louisiana during that era was never going to have. My parents moved us to Los Angeles in 1960. 

By 1963,I was learning saxophone and music theory. As in the case of Ndugu Chanceler, he too was from Shreveport, Louisiana. he started playing and studying music at 13,He grew up in LA (Watts area)in the 60s,just like me! I graduated from Cal State University Dominguez Hills, so did he. I guess that makes us kindred spirits and “Home Boys”. But that’s where the the meter on his side rises and explodes off the Charts. One Night, I was attending the famous jazz club, the Lighthouse where Willie Bobo & the BoGents were the group performing. Willie Bobo, a Purveyor of great talent,a master drummer- percussionist himself. He no longer playing the “Traps”.

 Bobo was out front now on timbales and vocals.. but, seated behind this mountain of drums,cymbals,and gear, was this youngster who hardly looked all of 15 or so. It was,at that time Leon(Ndugu) on drums. And man! could he play. I cut my teeth on listening to all the jazz masters on drums and seeing all I could, when they came to the Lighthouse or Shelly’s Manne Hole in Los Angeles. Billy Higgins,Frank Butler, Louis Hayes,Max Roach and Art Blakey frequented the LA club scene often.. I now have a guy from my generation who displays all of the jazz history and legacy into his playing AND,then piles on monstrous groove patterns at tremendous tempos with the greatest of ease,smiling like he just ate the canary! That was my introduction to Ndugu Chanceler! 

In my humble opinion, the two “baddest Cats” on drums coming out of Los Angeles late 60s to early 70s were, Ndugu Chanceler and “Sunship” Theus(RIP) another great drummer from my generation. These drummers were younger than Jack DeJohnette, Billy Hart,Billy Cobham, but still played on a higher level as the 70s emerged. Jazz went all “Electric Fusion”,Fender Rhodes pianos Synthisizers(MOOG)technology was in play, and Ndugu was was right in the middle of that music era strong! Still maintaining his roots in Jazz performing with the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, Bobby Hutcherson, and Gerald Wilson Big Band. In a flash of an eye, doubling up on calls with George Duke, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock’s Jazz Fusion bands. In addition, his recording sessions list was equally stellar also. Chanceler has also worked with Stanley Clarke,Jean-Luc Ponty,Donna Summer,George Duke,Patrice Rushen,Carlos Santana,Hubert Laws,The Crusaders,Frank Sinatra,Weather Report,Lionel Richie,Kenny Rogers,Thelonious Monk,Herbie Hancock and John Lee Hooker. Most famous of all, The King of Pop.” Michael Jackson! THE Drummer on Thriller’s Billy Jean”. 

Ndugu(Leon)Chanceler, from his humble beginnings in Los Angeles at Holy Chapel Missionary Baptist Church under Pastor William Cobbs,to, Grammy winning recordings,to being honored at the University of Southern California’s  www.usc.edu/visionsandvoices Visions and Voices Humanities & Arts program Sept 23. 

60 years of Life & Music!

Chanceler is also a member of Percussive Arts Society and has been named as one of the top 25 Drummers in the world! Follow Robert J. Carmack discussions and reviews on jazz at twitter: @blues2jazzguy