Bobby BlandBobby Bland was born in Barretville, Tennessee, on 27/01/1930. His birth name was Robert Calvin Brooks, but he acquired the name "Bland" from his stepfather who went by the name of Leroy Bland. Bobby's father had abandoned the family shortly after he was born. Bobby never went to school and would be illiterate throughout his life. He and his mother moved to Memphis in 1947, where he began to sign with gospel groups, including the Miniatures. He would also visit Beale Street where he would meet other musicians such as BB King, Rosco Gordon, Junior Parker and Johnny Ace. They would be known collectively as the Beale Streeters.
In 1950 Bland started recording for Modern Records and for Sun Records. He recorded singles for them for two years with little success. He then signed with Duke Records. His progress was halted for two years when he served in the US army, during which he performed with singer Eddie Fisher.
In 1954 he returned to Memphis. He joined Johnny Ace's revue and returned to Duke Records. The contract he signed with Duke was reportedly quite poor, as Bobby couldn't read the contract that he had been given, receiving half a cent a record.
In 1955 his first single for Duke was released.
In 1956 he toured the chitlin' circuit with Junior Parker, where he would also be Parker's valet and driver. By then he was recording with bandleader Bill Harvey and arranger Joe Scott for Duke.
In 1957 he had an R&B chart number 1 with "Farther Up the Road". This was followed by a series of hits including "Little Boy Blue".
In 1958 he collaborated with Parker on the album "Blues Consolidated".
In the early sixties, he had releases such as "Cry Cry Cry", "I Pity the Fool", "Turn On Your Love Light", That's The Way Love Is" and also record a version of "Call it Stormy Monday" which he called "Stormy Monday Blues". His chart entries in the mid-sixties were consistent, but he didn't quite break into the mainstream market.
In 1968 he broke up his touring band as he struggled with his finances. He would go through a period of alcohol dependency, giving up alcohol altogether in 1971. Duke Records was sold to ABC Records. The blues/soul albums he would release with ABC would be more successful. "His California Album" in 1973 and "Dreamer" in 1974 were particularly well received. The single "Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City" from "Dreamer" would be covered by Whitesnake and has been sampled by Kanye West.
In 1980 he released a tribute album to his mentor Joe Scott called "Sweet Vibrations".
In 1985 he was signed to Malaco Records. He would record several albums for them. He continued touring, often appearing with BB King who he frequently collaborated with. He also collaborated with Van Morrison, who covered Bland's track "Turn On Your Love Light".
In 1992 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 2013 Bland passed away from an ongoing illness. Before he passed away he had told his son that the blues harmonica and singer James Cotton was his half brother.