Bobby Bland: Two Steps from the Blues


Bobby Bland: Two Steps from the Blues

Documentary about the life and music of Bobby 'Blue' Bland, one of America's classic vocalists. It traces his path from its gospel roots, through jazz and into the blues.


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Transcript


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# You know how it feels

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# You understand

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# What it is to be a stranger

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# In this unfriendly land

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# Here's my ha-a-and... #

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Bobby Bland was a voice as soft as silk.

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Well, that's kind of the way his voice was to me.

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# ..I'll follow you

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# Let me wa-alk... #

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Such an individual stylist -

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you know? The phrasing...

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the way he interprets the song - I can't really describe it in words.

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It's not about virtuosity in concerts

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it's a straight-through soul.

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You just feel it - you feel everything that he says,

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and you believe it.

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And you know that he's preaching it.

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# ..And just lead me on

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# Lead me on... #

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Bobby is what you call a legend now.

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He's a master of what he's doing, man.

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What is it about this man?

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Bobby Bland...sings the blues.

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He was pop to me. I didn't look at him...

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He was a blues guy, but he was...

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He was the pop blues guy.

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# .Here's my hand

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# Won't you take it?

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# And just lea-ad me on... #

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I feel that Bobby...

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has been vastly underappreciated.

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# ..And I'll follow...

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# ..You-u-u-u. #

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APPLAUSE

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# ..And you tore it apart

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# You left me sitting In the dark, crying

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# Said your love for me was dying

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# Come on, baby

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# Come on, please

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# Come on, baby

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# Come on, please

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# Turn on the light

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# Let it shine on me... #

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'I started out singing in my hometown, Rosemark, Tennessee.'

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Being straight from the country,

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all the singing I was doing was like spirituals, you know?

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And if I sang a blues, it had to be out of the house.

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And I used to do it on Saturdays,

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because...that's when people would come in and bring me

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the gin and, er...

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as soon as they get a drink, they want to be entertained, you know?

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And I'd have a pocket full of change when I finished.

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You see, blues came from spirituals.

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That deep down...

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..gospel sounds spiritual.

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Those people back there, those slaves weren't singing no blues.

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They were trying to sing praises to God,

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to help them to get out of what they was doing, you know?

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We came to Memphis in...1947, I think my mum brought me.

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I was working at a garage up... across Main Street,

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by the theatre, which is the Orpheum now.

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And I used to sing all the time at the garage.

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And so Mr Cole told me one day, "Why you singing?

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"Go back there and wash that car," you know?

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# Well, I was standin' at the track waitin' for the train to go by

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# Well, I was standin' at the track waitin' for the train to go by

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# Well, I was thinkin' 'bout my baby all I could do was cry... #

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I've never been to college, but I would think

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Beale Street was like a community college.

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There was something going on in the park,

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you'd find people gambling, you'd find gospel singers -

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I guess a lot of my training, I got it right there on Beale Street.

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The best of musicians would come to Memphis,

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but it was segregated at the time and they couldn't stay at the best hotels,

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so...this one particular hotel called Mitchell's Hotel,

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they would stay there.

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Mitchell was the sort of guy we called "in the know" -

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he knew nearly everybody, and everybody knew him.

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They had a ballroom there at his hotel,

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so nights when the guys wanted to just practise and sit in

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with people if they could, and...

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people like me would be there with my ears wide open,

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trying to hear everything going on.

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I used to have a good friend named Mitchell,

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who had a club I'd go up and want to sit in.

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The guys doing their thing, they wanted to play jazz, you know?

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And they'd say, "Oh, ain't doing this blues thing," you know?

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I came out of the big band era,

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where they had blues singers too, so I'm not a snob about it at all,

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but back then, we were hardcore beboppers, man.

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And we would just tolerate the blues singers.

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In those days, the equivalent of the Stones and U2

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and the Beatles, were Artie Shaw, Basie, Duke, Harry James,

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Tommy Dorsey - the bandleader's musicians, they didn't want to hear singers, man.

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Bobby's mother had a restaurant on Beale Street,

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and he hung around with a bunch of extremely talented

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and in many ways more advanced than he was musically,

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people. Like Johnny Ace, like BB King.

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When I first met Bobby Bland,

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I was a disc jockey on the radio -

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an all-black operated station,

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called WDIA. And...

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we was youngsters then, and we would go round to places

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with other bands,

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and we really got to be pretty tight,

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because I had my little group and everything going,

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and we'd just hang out together.

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# Do the BB boogie, baby

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# The BB boogie, darlin'

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# Do the BB boogie... #

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Bobby's exposure to show business came about for one specific reason -

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he had a car.

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The reason I got with B was because he would play...

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a place called Mason, Tennessee.

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And how could I go with them?

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And then I said, "I can drive real good."

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They had this town over from Memphis, called West Memphis...

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..was wide open. West Memphis was a little Las Vegas at that time.

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They had something called a Harlem House,

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and that was strictly for blacks.

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And we'd all meet up there - that's where you'd go get some of the best

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coffee and see some of the prettiest girls working.

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And we'd always line up in there.

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Junior Parker, Rosco Gordon, BB King, Bobby Bland,

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you would have seen Howlin' Wolf -

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everybody that...excuse the word, but everybody that was anybody

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showed up there sometime - you'd see 'em there.

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# Train I ri-ide

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# 16 coaches lo-ong

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# Train I ri-i-ide

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# 16 coaches lo-ong... #

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Sam Philips always believed one of the things that lead Elvis

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to the Sun Studio at 706 Union Avenue,

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was Little Junior Parker's Mystery Train.

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# Train, tra-i-in

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# Coming on, round the bend... #

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It's clear that that was an enormously influential record,

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and Elvis was totally enraptured

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by that song.

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# Train, tra-in

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# Coming round, round the be-end

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# Train, tra-in... #

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Elvis was a huge fan of blues, of rhythm and blues,

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and one of the most remarkable tributes and the ways in which

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Elvis paid tribute to the music he loved so much was going down

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to the WDIA, go to a review.

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Now, for Elvis to come down to a thing that was strictly segregated,

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at a time when the delineations were so strong,

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was in itself making a statement.

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The picture ran in the paper the next day,

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With Elvis and Bobby and Junior Parker.

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It was also covered in the mainstream papers,

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and in those, Elvis paid tribute, not simply to the richness of the

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music, but beyond that, it was to the richness of the culture

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from which this music sprang.

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Lansky Bros was on Beale, it was...

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even Elvis started buying clothes.

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A lot of people were afraid for him to come on Beale Street -

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that was the wrong place for a white boy.

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But you didn't have to worry about him,

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because he could handle himself.

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Really, Bobby's biggest exposure was not through professional engagements,

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it was through appearing at the amateur show at the Palace Theatre,

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which Rufus Thomas MC'd.

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It was really king of a vaudeville type of show -

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Rufus had gone out with the tent shows as a young man,

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and he tap danced, he told jokes.

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As the host of the amateur show, I think one of his great joys

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was to give out the prizes.

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I was just doing tunes from the juke box,

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and I got a chance to get on the amateur show that Rufus Thomas

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and Bones had got on Wednesday night.

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And you had 5 if you win.

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So I won it about three nights in a row,

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that's where one of the scouts, Dave Clark...

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who was there with another guy, and he came through and told Rufus...

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..how I was sounding.

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One day I got a cheque for 13.87, I think it was.

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Bus fare - to Houston, and that's where I went.

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And that's where... I got my opportunity to record.

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# Farther on up the road

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# Someone's gonna hurt you like you hurt me

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# Farther on up the road

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# Someone's gonna hurt you like you hurt me... #

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Don Robey was strictly a businessman.

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Now, but if you worked for Robey...

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he was a kind-hearted guy, man, he really was - I mean, like...

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He...he was older...but then he was like friend too, you know?

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Don Robey was trying to make me a pimp,

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he gave me a stick pin with a diamond, I had some Stacy Adams on.

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He used to call me Young Huss. He had a hat on, a cigar, you know?

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Real player.

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He owned that company and he worked...I mean,

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it just wasn't something put together - it was a viable company, you know?

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He had his booking agency set up, which was Buffalo Booking Agency,

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he had Duke Records and then he had Peacock Records.

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Now...I think Peacock was more of a religious side of it,

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and the Duke was the blues side.

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He was the big man during that time. Peacock was it.

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Everybody was trying to get on Peacock.

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And most of them did.

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# You ain't no real cool cat

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# You ain't nothing but a hound dog

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# Been snoopin' round my door... #

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I recorded with Big Mama Thornton,

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I recorded with Junior Parker,

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I recorded with Joe Hinton.

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I recorded with a lot of people that was associated with that record company.

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And Bobby Bland, you know...

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# Cry, cry, cry

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# That's what I want you to do... #

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Joe Scott was here to record - he was the one who created Johnny Ace,

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myself, Buddy Ace...

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# ..I sit alone and cry over you

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# Cry, cry, cry-y... #

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But I was the only one that could tell his story.

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The way he wanted to hear it.

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And I was very pleased and honoured, you know,

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to be his favourite singer.

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And I learned about the business of singing from him.

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Joe Scott would choose the right songs for Bobby,

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because he knew Bobby's character.

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# I want you to cry, cry me a river... #

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Musically, Joe Scott was Bobby Bland,

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because Joe Scott wrote for Bobby Bland.

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When they say you write for a part - he knew Bobby inside and out.

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So he could write for Bobby, and don't get me wrong, Joe could write.

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When Joe said, "I'm gonna put it together," Joe could write it together.

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He was Bobby Bland, musically.

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Joe got everything together.

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Musicians...me...and we were a family.

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And the musicians were really concerned about playing.

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Joe...you could say he was a hard taskmaster.

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But Joe knew how to get what he needed to get from each member of that band.

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# ..Let your tears fall at night... #

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One session I was doing with Joe,

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and...I wasn't singing the way he wanted me...he just cut the session off.

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And I said, "Well, what happened?" He said, "We'll come back tomorrow."

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I said, "Well, what did I do?" He said, "Oh, I...

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"I want you to go over the lyrics again."

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And right then, it dawned on me that I was the problem.

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You know? And I went back to the hotel room,

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and I had my dubs and everything and I sit up half the night.

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When I got back in the studio the next night, I was ready.

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Because I had something to prove.

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# Don't cry no more

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# Wipe away your tears

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# Don't cry no more, baby

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# Wipe away your tears

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# And I know that your That your love is real... #

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It was about my life.

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Things that had happened to me, growing up.

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Being from the country and not exposed to a lot of different things,

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you know - I thought everybody loved everybody.

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I had my heart broken a couple of times,

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so I used to sing about it - all the hurt,

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and it worked for me in the studio, very much.

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Because I could think about something

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and when I'd see the lyrics - like an actor,

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when you step into a play -

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well, I could see that and then I'd say the words

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that I was supposed to have been saying all the time.

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But you had to have something to bring you to it.

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And that's what Joe taught me so well.

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"You ever lost a girlfriend?"

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I said, "Yeah." He said, "Well, how did you feel?"

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He didn't have to say nothing else.

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If I can feel it, I try to make YOU feel it.

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And if I can't feel it, you aren't gonna feel it.

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Because someone says it in a way that you... You've been through the same thing I've been through!

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What grabbed me about Bobby was that the...

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the choice of songs, with the voice, struck a real chord with me.

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They were about loneliness, they were about...

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being let down by somebody...

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..being pained by the experience of a lost love.

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And I mean, you know, you do have that generally in blues as a genre,

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but somehow Bobby's work just has a slightly more sophisticated feel.

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It sounded like he was trying to get to the blend between jazz and blues.

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# Look at the people

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# I know you're wondering what they're doing

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# They're just standing there

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# Watching you make a fool out of me

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# Look at me, people

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# I know you're wondering what they're doing

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# They're just standing there

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# Watching you make a fool out of me

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# Oh, I pity the fool

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# I pity the fool who falls in love with you... #

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We did it live, you know, and not like you can make a tape

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and sing right now, you know?

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No, everybody was in the studio,

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and when you make a mistake...see, that's the thing that kept

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me uptight all the time. Because I didn't want to be the one

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that's standing out, you know?

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When you make a mistake, everybody looks at you -

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"Man, are you gonna get it right?" or whatever.

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In those days when they were making records,

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they didn't have the facility to...

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record a band five times and take the best verse from one tape,

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and the best chorus from another.

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Simple editing things that you can do on a computer,

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that do it really quickly.

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We started almost before electricity!

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And we had to just make all that technology up.

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But you had to be dedicated to whatever you were doing,

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because...the musicians get tired,

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they're playing them same notes,

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and then you hear, "I want to go dance for a little while with the boys,"

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to get the flavour that you need.

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So you try to do it within... no more than three takes.

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That's what it was like - they couldn't keep going.

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And the rule was back then,

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you were out of business as an arranger, which I always consider myself first,

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if you couldn't do four songs in three hours, you were a bum.

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If it ain't that night for that particular tune,

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you're not going to get it.

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And I used to dream about recording, when I'd go to the hotel,

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and tunes that I messed up on.

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That would be the first thing I'd try when I'd get in the next night.

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Cos I'd slept on it, you know?

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And I would say, "I'll show them."

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# They call it stormy Monday

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APPLAUSE

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# Well, Tuesday's just as bad... #

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When you hear Bobby Bland do a song, whether it's that song,

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or Stormy Monday, he owns it - it becomes his song.

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I think that's one of the beautiful things about Bobby Bland -

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when he does a song, it just...

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it's imprinted in your mind forever.

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# ..But Tuesday's just as bad

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# Wednesday's worse

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# Lord, and Thursday's all so sad

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# The eagle flies on Friday

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# And Saturday I go out to play

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# Lo-o-o-ord The eagle flies on Friday

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# And Saturday I go out to play, Lord

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# And Sunday I go to church whoa-a-a-a-a

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# I take my time

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# I kneel down and I pray, Lord... #

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But T-Bone was the first influence on the guitar,

0:23:390:23:44

that I liked and I started liking Stormy Monday.

0:23:440:23:47

And I did it for a long time on stage before I recorded it.

0:23:480:23:52

We recorded some in...in Houston, at the studio there,

0:23:520:23:59

but basically we started going to Nashville to record.

0:23:590:24:02

We did an album,

0:24:020:24:04

and they needed one tune to fill, because I think...

0:24:040:24:10

the tune that they were gonna push to try to make it the number one tune,

0:24:100:24:14

they had already got that, but they needed what they call a throw-away tune,

0:24:140:24:19

for that last tune. I said, "Well, do we have time? Would you let me do a tune?"

0:24:190:24:24

He said, "Yeah, what is it?" I said, "Stormy Monday."

0:24:240:24:26

Bobby, said, "Do you know what? I have always wanted to do Stormy Monday."

0:24:260:24:31

And, and I...

0:24:310:24:32

He said, "Let's just put that on there as a throw-away,"

0:24:320:24:37

so Robey, so Joe said, "I don't care,"

0:24:370:24:39

Robey said, "You wanna do it?" "Yeah!"

0:24:390:24:42

So he told the rest of Wayne, he said, "Wayne, you start up."

0:24:420:24:47

# They call it Stormy Monday

0:24:500:24:52

# But Tuesday's just as bad... #

0:24:560:24:59

So it was Wayne Bennett on guitar,

0:25:010:25:04

I was on drums.

0:25:040:25:05

LA Hill was the tenor player...

0:25:050:25:08

I think the piano player was Teddy Reynolds.

0:25:080:25:11

Wayne Bennett...Hamp Simmons on bass.

0:25:110:25:13

Anyway, Wayne hit that chord,

0:25:130:25:17

and he started playing, and...

0:25:170:25:20

one take. One take and it was over with - that's all we did.

0:25:200:25:25

We went in there and took one take.

0:25:250:25:27

And I said, "Well, can I...?" He said, "No. You can't."

0:25:290:25:33

He said, "I'm gonna release this next month."

0:25:330:25:36

And it was one of my biggest things.

0:25:360:25:38

# The eagle flies on Friday

0:25:380:25:41

# And Saturday I go out to play... #

0:25:440:25:46

Bobby Bland was a man on that Chitlin circuit,

0:25:530:25:58

if you want to call it that - whatever you want to call it.

0:25:580:26:01

And when he sang Stormy Monday,

0:26:010:26:04

he came out to the edge of the stage - tiny little stage -

0:26:040:26:07

and sang, you know, "Eagle flies on Friday, Saturday I go out to play,

0:26:070:26:11

"Sunday I go to church and I fall down on my knees and pray,"

0:26:110:26:14

Now, he fell down to his knees then - not like James Brown,

0:26:140:26:18

but he...you know, he got down on his knees.

0:26:180:26:20

The women had to be...restrained!

0:26:200:26:24

I mean, they just... in this little club they came and flung themselves

0:26:240:26:28

at him, and people - people working for Bobby or policemen were there too,

0:26:280:26:33

they had to take the women away.

0:26:330:26:35

I sang to the ladies.

0:26:350:26:37

That's where you get your first response.

0:26:370:26:39

And all females, I find that that worked for me throughout the years.

0:26:410:26:46

You don't have to worry about the men if the ladies like it.

0:26:460:26:49

# Today, I started loving you again... #

0:26:490:26:56

APPLAUSE

0:26:560:26:57

Thank you.

0:26:570:26:59

# ..Said I'm right back where I've really, Lord, always been

0:26:590:27:05

# I got over you just long enough to let my heartache mend

0:27:090:27:16

# But today, I started loving you again

0:27:180:27:24

# What a fool I was to think that I could get by

0:27:270:27:32

# When only these few million teardrops I've cried

0:27:360:27:42

# Should have known, well, Lord, the worst was yet to come

0:27:450:27:50

# And crying time for me had just begun

0:27:540:28:00

# I started loving you, yeah... #

0:28:040:28:06

Oh, his singing is incredibly sexy,

0:28:080:28:10

and like you were talking about, there was this guttural thing

0:28:100:28:13

that Bobby's got. Well, that definitely comes from

0:28:130:28:16

like, reaching deep down,

0:28:160:28:18

and just trying to get something across to the point where

0:28:180:28:21

you're just trying to, you know, explode.

0:28:210:28:24

And women love that, cos, you know, he has that tension and release,

0:28:240:28:27

you know? And that's something that's so beautiful in music too.

0:28:270:28:30

Just running around, something's about to explode

0:28:300:28:33

but it just keeps getting better and better.

0:28:330:28:36

# Oh, today, I started loving you again

0:28:360:28:42

# Said I'm right back where I've really, Lord, always been

0:28:450:28:50

# Uh-huh

0:28:520:28:54

# I got over you just long enough to let my heartache mend

0:28:540:29:02

# Long enough

0:29:030:29:05

# Long enough

0:29:050:29:07

# Long e...long e...long e...oh! #

0:29:070:29:12

I listened to the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Soul Stirrers,

0:29:130:29:18

I listened to the Spirit Of Memphis, when I wanted to flavour

0:29:180:29:22

a certain lyric. And those spirituals would help me.

0:29:220:29:26

Bobby could sing gospel, you know?

0:29:260:29:30

Cos Bobby was singing spirituals at one time.

0:29:300:29:33

He can go back to it.

0:29:340:29:35

A lot of us...a lot of us, including Bobby Bland or Aretha Franklin,

0:29:350:29:41

James Brown - I could just name you many.

0:29:410:29:44

We started out in the church.

0:29:440:29:47

We started out in quartets and choirs.

0:29:470:29:50

And...God, Ira Tucker was like...

0:29:520:29:57

..Jesus Christ walking around on the ground here with us!

0:29:590:30:03

Because the Dixie Hummingbirds, his group, was the best.

0:30:040:30:09

These people could do it, man. They...

0:30:090:30:12

I'd love to go and see maybe...

0:30:130:30:16

Bobby Bland...James Brown, Aretha, somebody on Saturday night,

0:30:160:30:21

but Sunday, I'm going to church...

0:30:210:30:23

if these guys were singing. You understand what I'm saying?

0:30:230:30:26

# Gonna move on

0:30:270:30:29

# Up a little higher

0:30:290:30:31

# Gonna move on

0:30:310:30:32

# Gonna meet with

0:30:320:30:34

-# Gonna move on

-Hebrew children

0:30:340:30:36

# Gonna move on... #

0:30:360:30:37

So many...of the pop singers were coming to hear our programme,

0:30:370:30:43

and they were...

0:30:430:30:45

overwhelmed, you know?

0:30:450:30:48

When they would find out, then see our advertisement...

0:30:480:30:52

..for the Dixie Hummingbirds.

0:30:530:30:55

Man, they would figure out a way they would be there.

0:30:560:31:00

That is why all of us have - they use the word a lot - soul.

0:31:000:31:06

Soul, soul, soul.

0:31:060:31:08

But BB King is a blues singer, and I love him!

0:31:080:31:10

INDISTINCT LYRICS

0:31:100:31:12

-# ..Gonna move on

-I'm gonna talk to find him

0:31:150:31:18

# Gonna move on

0:31:180:31:20

# ..Talk about the world where I come from... #

0:31:200:31:24

They'd turn on that fire and make me feel good about it.

0:31:240:31:28

That's how good they were. Bobby does that to me today,

0:31:280:31:32

he does it to me now, Bobby Bland does.

0:31:320:31:34

Oh, yeah, you could hear it in his voice.

0:31:340:31:36

Gospel was in all of it, it was in Sam Cooke, Ray Charles...

0:31:360:31:41

I mean, blatantly obvious in Ray Charles' case where he...

0:31:410:31:44

actually had hit records that were based on gospel things.

0:31:440:31:49

You know, of course, Sam Cooke came out of the Soulsters.

0:31:490:31:53

It all came out of gospel music.

0:31:530:31:56

James Brown also, not the funk stuff, the slow stuff he did.

0:31:580:32:02

I got... I obviously got that.

0:32:030:32:06

I think Bobby is one of those artists like Ray Charles

0:32:060:32:08

and Sam Cooke who really took gospel music

0:32:080:32:11

and the inspiration behind it and that energy

0:32:110:32:14

and mixed it with R&B and blues.

0:32:140:32:17

# Yield not

0:32:180:32:20

# To temptation

0:32:200:32:23

# Whoa, my love

0:32:230:32:25

# While I'm away

0:32:250:32:27

# Don't you know you gotta be strong,

0:32:270:32:30

# Leave all the other guys alone?

0:32:300:32:32

# One bright and sunny day

0:32:320:32:34

# I'll be back home to stay

0:32:340:32:36

-# Yield not

-Yield not

0:32:360:32:38

# To temptation... #

0:32:380:32:42

Well, Ira, he should have been a teacher, a voice teacher,

0:32:420:32:45

because there are so many ways you go if you know as much as he knew

0:32:450:32:49

about the different ways that you can say things.

0:32:490:32:52

So I learned quite a bit from him

0:32:520:32:54

and...Archie Brownlee...

0:32:540:32:58

the Five Blind Boys from Alabama. That was nice singing, also.

0:32:580:33:02

And, like, I have to say Sam Cooke was one of the best Soulsters.

0:33:020:33:07

During that time, whichever city that I was in,

0:33:070:33:10

if there was a spiritual group in the same city,

0:33:100:33:13

I'd go and hear them, their programme,

0:33:130:33:16

and they'd come and hear me that night. I'd say, "Are y'all allowed to come out to blues?"

0:33:160:33:21

They'd say, "Yeah, I'm going out tonight to hear you."

0:33:210:33:23

# You build my hopes so high

0:33:240:33:27

# Then you let me down so low

0:33:280:33:30

# It makes no difference, darlin'

0:33:320:33:34

# I just love you more and more

0:33:350:33:38

# Every time you smile

0:33:400:33:42

# You know I'm smilin' with you

0:33:430:33:45

# Every time you cry

0:33:470:33:49

# You know I shed a few tears

0:33:500:33:53

# I ain't not lovin' you

0:33:540:33:58

# I ain't not lovin'

0:33:580:34:00

HE SNORTS # Everything I am... #

0:34:010:34:04

Man, I never heard a man snort a song as good as Bobby.

0:34:040:34:09

-HE LAUGHS

-He had a... He got a...

0:34:090:34:13

He got a way of doing songs...

0:34:130:34:15

his own thing.

0:34:150:34:16

# ..I don't believe in...

0:34:160:34:18

# I don't believe... #

0:34:180:34:20

I got that from Reverend CL Franklin.

0:34:210:34:23

It was a record of his called The Eagle, stirred his nest.

0:34:230:34:28

# You lot don't know how

0:34:280:34:30

# To face your problems

0:34:300:34:33

# Y'all getting worried

0:34:330:34:35

# Coming down through the centre

0:34:350:34:37

# Saying peace be on us... # And I used to listen to it...

0:34:370:34:40

The reason why I was listening, because I used to sing real high.

0:34:400:34:45

They removed my tonsils...

0:34:450:34:47

and they lowered my voice by about a baritone, you know?

0:34:470:34:51

And I didn't have no gimmick no more, you know, up there.

0:34:510:34:54

I didn't know how to handle it

0:34:540:34:56

when my voice lowered. I listened to that over and over.

0:34:560:35:00

I said, "Maybe this is somewhere I could use this, you know?"

0:35:000:35:04

And...I started giving it a try...

0:35:040:35:07

but I wanted to sound just like a Baptist preacher.

0:35:070:35:11

But I had to work on it a while, you know.

0:35:110:35:14

Then I was trying one night in the hotel

0:35:140:35:17

and I just happened to turn this way when I got ready to try this -

0:35:170:35:21

I call it squal -

0:35:210:35:23

and it kind of closed off the wind on one side.

0:35:230:35:26

and it came out perfect, something like his would.

0:35:260:35:30

So, that's how it started.

0:35:300:35:32

HE SNORTS # Everything I know

0:35:350:35:37

HE SNORTS # Everything I want

0:35:380:35:40

# I ain't done loving you, baby... #

0:35:420:35:45

If I didn't do that, they said I hadn't been on stage, you know?

0:35:450:35:49

And overseas, like in London, they call it the "love throat."

0:35:490:35:54

That ladies gave me that particular name, you know?

0:35:540:35:57

SONG ENDS, APPLAUSE

0:36:020:36:05

One of the things I find most fascinating is his...

0:36:050:36:10

his beautiful range between being, you know, velvety, smooth

0:36:100:36:14

and, you know, very sensual to being growly and, like...

0:36:140:36:19

right up in there and just getting it to a point where...

0:36:190:36:22

the music just climaxes on such an amazing level and you just feel it.

0:36:220:36:26

# I said it wasn't long ago

0:36:270:36:29

# I was doing real good

0:36:320:36:35

# Don't you know my baby was acting? #

0:36:380:36:40

Bobby responded to prompts, the kind of prompts

0:36:400:36:43

that Joe Scott gave him but, after a certain point,

0:36:430:36:47

he developed a greater freedom, I think, particularly in his stage act

0:36:470:36:52

to where he knew he was Bobby "Blue" Bland,

0:36:520:36:55

with or without Joe Scott.

0:36:550:36:56

And...it was, you know, a terrible blow

0:36:560:37:00

when they broke up, but then he went out and he put together

0:37:000:37:06

the Bobby "Blue" Bland sound, and it was genuinely and legitimately

0:37:060:37:10

the Bobby "Blue" Bland sound.

0:37:100:37:12

# And I guess they're right... #

0:37:140:37:17

Touch Of The Blues... that's what I did

0:37:170:37:20

with the mix that he did the arrangment on.

0:37:200:37:22

I just did Touch Of The Blues.

0:37:220:37:25

# ..My eyes are all red... #

0:37:290:37:32

Bobby Bland, you don't tell him how to sing,

0:37:320:37:35

you don't, er...

0:37:350:37:37

All you do is make everything available to him,

0:37:370:37:40

and if he makes a mistake, then he knows it before you know it.

0:37:400:37:46

He's very professional.

0:37:460:37:47

# ..I said it's a touch of the blues

0:37:490:37:52

# I went to see my doctor... #

0:37:570:38:00

Well, I was cuttin' a whole lot of people for Don.

0:38:020:38:05

Me and Don, we worked out good.

0:38:050:38:08

People had different things to say about Don, some good, some bad.

0:38:080:38:13

Don Robey, it was a sin and a shame

0:38:130:38:18

the way he did Bobby Bland,

0:38:180:38:20

not only Bobby, he did me, he did everybody else.

0:38:200:38:25

And...you couldn't record for him

0:38:260:38:30

unless he had your publisher.

0:38:300:38:33

A lot of artists didn't know anything about the publisher.

0:38:330:38:37

Robey would buy tunes from guys. There were so many people in Houston

0:38:370:38:41

that could write.

0:38:410:38:42

He would buy them, he'd pay 50...

0:38:420:38:45

75, 100 for a tune.

0:38:450:38:48

He would take it and put his name on it cos it's his, he bought it.

0:38:480:38:51

A fair shake was... the way he would see it.

0:38:510:38:56

You know? And...

0:38:560:38:58

..people would be coming through there every day with lyrics.

0:38:590:39:02

Artists, even if you wrote a tune...

0:39:020:39:06

you should not hum it or do anything until you get it published.

0:39:060:39:10

Don was black so it looked like everybody wanted to jump on him

0:39:120:39:15

about it, but what about the other people?

0:39:150:39:17

All of them, they were small labels at that time, all of them...

0:39:170:39:22

it seemed like they were in the brother hood!

0:39:220:39:25

Almost all of the records that were made then...

0:39:280:39:33

had a partner and you didn't know until after you saw it on the label.

0:39:330:39:37

All of them were like that.

0:39:370:39:40

All of them, white and black, they totally exploited all the artists.

0:39:400:39:44

I would come through with Lionel Hampton and he would make me write with some of the guys in the band.

0:39:440:39:50

I'd write for anybody then. I just wanted to write,

0:39:500:39:53

I didn't care whether I got paid or not.

0:39:530:39:55

I don't say that day...

0:39:550:39:57

I can say this...

0:39:570:40:00

I would've paid them in the beginning to record me.

0:40:000:40:04

I would've paid them.

0:40:040:40:06

What I can thank Don Robey for is allowing me to record...

0:40:060:40:11

because everybody turned me down.

0:40:110:40:15

I know he has to think back and say, you know,

0:40:150:40:19

"I'm thankful for where I am because if it had not been for Robey,

0:40:190:40:22

"I probably wouldn't have gotten this far."

0:40:220:40:25

So you don't be angry, you just wish...

0:40:250:40:29

I wish that I knew then what I know now,

0:40:290:40:32

it would be a big difference, you know?

0:40:320:40:34

'Ladies and gentlemen, together for the first time,

0:40:340:40:37

'BB King and Bobby Bland.' CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:40:370:40:40

# Money's so good... #

0:40:520:40:54

What's interesting about Bobby and BB is that they remain friends to this day.

0:40:550:40:59

One of the ways in which Bobby really crossed over

0:40:590:41:04

to the fullest extent that I'm aware of his doing,

0:41:040:41:07

was in the early '70s, he and BB started going out together.

0:41:070:41:11

They made two or three albums together.

0:41:110:41:14

They toured together, and they reached an audience

0:41:140:41:17

that Bobby, until then, had never been able to reach.

0:41:170:41:20

# Wednesday's all right

0:41:240:41:25

# Wednesday's all right

0:41:250:41:27

# Thursday's all wrong

0:41:270:41:29

# Thursday's all wrong

0:41:290:41:31

# One day you're all with it, baby

0:41:310:41:34

# Mm-hm

0:41:340:41:36

# The next day, it's all gone... #

0:41:360:41:38

I remember once we did a recording together -

0:41:380:41:41

BB and Bobby, For The First Time,

0:41:410:41:44

and we got a whole lot of bad press on that. They said...

0:41:440:41:49

whatever we were doing before we did that, we should go back and start doing it.

0:41:490:41:55

I think they meant go back to the plough!

0:41:550:41:58

Together For The First Time was one of the biggest things

0:41:580:42:01

that BB and myself had.

0:42:010:42:03

That album went platinum.

0:42:030:42:06

I wrote the company again, I wrote them.

0:42:070:42:10

I said, "We're gonna do another one. I hope you'll have the same person...

0:42:100:42:16

"talk about it this time!"

0:42:160:42:18

# The next day, she might leave

0:42:190:42:22

# I'm sure you shake it like a... #

0:42:230:42:26

Now, I saw BB and Bobby in a Battle of the Blues about 1964...

0:42:270:42:32

at Louis Showcase Lounge,

0:42:320:42:34

in Roxbury, which was the black section of Boston.

0:42:340:42:37

And it was just one of the most phenomenal shows.

0:42:370:42:40

To see Bobby "Blue" Bland with his full band and BB King

0:42:400:42:44

with his audience of a couple of hundred or something...

0:42:440:42:49

It was a literal Battle of the Blues. I mean, they were friends,

0:42:490:42:52

but they were going at it.

0:42:520:42:54

And, er, you know, I just want to say there was no question -

0:42:540:42:58

I don't know how it came out 300 nights of the year -

0:42:580:43:01

but that night, there was no question who came out the victor.

0:43:010:43:04

Bobby came out on top, totally.

0:43:040:43:07

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:43:090:43:12

# The thrill is gone

0:43:450:43:47

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:43:470:43:49

# Thrill is gone away

0:43:510:43:53

# Thrill is gone

0:43:570:43:59

# Thrill is gone away

0:44:030:44:05

# Oh, oh

0:44:050:44:07

# You done me wrong, baby

0:44:080:44:10

# Oh, Lord, yeah

0:44:100:44:12

# And you're gonna be sorry

0:44:130:44:16

# Someday

0:44:160:44:18

# Say it, son

0:44:180:44:20

# Thrill is gone

0:44:200:44:21

# Thrill is gone away from me

0:44:240:44:27

# Oh, oh, Lord

0:44:300:44:34

# Thrill is gone away from me

0:44:350:44:39

# You done me wrong, baby

0:44:440:44:45

# You done me wrong

0:44:450:44:46

# And you're gonna be sorry

0:44:460:44:50

-# How do you say it?

-Someday

0:44:500:44:52

# Listen...

0:44:530:44:54

# She'll know that

0:44:540:44:56

# Loving, yeah

0:45:000:45:02

# No...

0:45:030:45:04

# Oh!

0:45:050:45:07

# She'll know that

0:45:080:45:10

# Feel it

0:45:110:45:12

# Do you feel it?

0:45:140:45:15

# Feel it

0:45:160:45:19

# And I'm sorry

0:45:190:45:20

# I'm sorry

0:45:220:45:23

# Why don't you help me?

0:45:230:45:25

# Everybody

0:45:270:45:29

# Let's get a groove going on

0:45:300:45:32

# Come on!

0:45:320:45:33

# Oh!

0:45:350:45:36

# Oh, Lord... #

0:45:380:45:40

What Bobby was aiming for was the kind of respectability

0:45:400:45:44

that someone like Frank Sinatra, whom he considered to be

0:45:440:45:47

one of the foremost interpreters of song, he saw himself

0:45:470:45:51

as aspiring to the same kind of thing.

0:45:510:45:53

He never did achieve that Las Vegas headlining experience.

0:45:540:45:59

It may have been better for his art, but it was a disappointment to him.

0:45:590:46:03

-Yeah!

-# Do you feel it? #

0:46:030:46:05

As far as reaching an audience that was altogether different

0:46:050:46:08

from the audience that he reached when he started out

0:46:080:46:11

as one of the artists playing the amateur show at the Palace Theatre,

0:46:110:46:14

he reached audiences all around the world

0:46:140:46:16

and he reached audiences in the best clubs,

0:46:160:46:20

the supper clubs, the jazz clubs, all around this country.

0:46:200:46:24

# Let's hear it!

0:46:240:46:26

# Here I am

0:46:270:46:29

# Feel it, yeah

0:46:300:46:32

# You got to want

0:46:320:46:34

# You got to talk about it

0:46:350:46:37

# Feel it

0:46:380:46:40

# Feel it... #

0:46:410:46:42

Others sang this, like Charlie Rich, or Dan Penn, or even Elvis

0:46:420:46:46

took more from...Bobby's soft side.

0:46:460:46:50

I get a call, you know, "Hey, Bobby Bland's in town.

0:47:010:47:05

"He's cutting I Hate You tonight. Do you wanna meet him?" Do I ever!

0:47:050:47:09

# I hate you

0:47:090:47:11

# Oh, I try-y-y-y

0:47:130:47:16

# To hate you... #

0:47:160:47:18

Well, when I first heard Bobby Bland...

0:47:200:47:23

I guess it was WLAC Radio here in Nashville,

0:47:230:47:27

we had Ray Charles, James Brown, some other people,

0:47:270:47:31

and immediately after that was Bobby Bland with Two Steps From The Blues.

0:47:310:47:36

He had the right mixture of...

0:47:360:47:38

heart and air. He just...

0:47:380:47:41

HOARSE VOICE: He had that thing! He blew it out there like that.

0:47:410:47:44

As good as Ray Charles was, he never did that.

0:47:440:47:47

And that became Bobby's thing, you know,

0:47:470:47:49

his growl came to you...

0:47:490:47:52

and got all over you.

0:47:520:47:54

That's what he brought you. He brought you those words...

0:47:540:47:58

He brought you the tune, but it was his unique growl

0:47:580:48:02

and his singing that set him aside from everybody else, I'd say.

0:48:020:48:05

I mean, there were just so many of us

0:48:050:48:09

blues white guys in the South,

0:48:090:48:13

but we were all influenced by Bobby Bland.

0:48:130:48:16

'We're gonna play this solo from the Bland song for ya.'

0:48:160:48:19

# They call it Stormy Monday

0:48:240:48:26

# But...

0:48:290:48:30

# Tuesdays are just as bad. #

0:48:340:48:36

# ..Watching you make a fool of me

0:48:380:48:41

# Look at the people, yeah

0:48:410:48:44

# I know you wonder what they're doing, baby

0:48:440:48:47

# They're just standing there

0:48:470:48:50

# Watching you make a fool of me

0:48:500:48:53

# Oh, I pity the fool... #

0:48:530:48:56

You can see where Paul Butterfield turns a corner

0:48:580:49:01

with a song like that, it made a tremendous impact.

0:49:010:49:05

I'm sure Van Morrison would tell you how much he's been influenced by Bobby.

0:49:050:49:09

# Without a warning, you broke my heart

0:49:090:49:12

# You took it, darling And you tore it apart

0:49:130:49:17

# You left me sitting by the fire crying... #

0:49:180:49:23

I first heard them when I was in Germany about 1962, I think.

0:49:230:49:28

We were playing in a band that was then called the Monarchs.

0:49:280:49:33

Some black GIs brought some 45s

0:49:330:49:36

to the hotel we were staying at.

0:49:360:49:38

One of them 45s was Stormy Monday...

0:49:390:49:44

the B Side was Your Friends, and I heard, like,

0:49:440:49:47

those songs, how much soul was in it.

0:49:470:49:51

The whole thing started to come together for me.

0:49:510:49:55

Van told me that Bobby was going to be opening for him

0:50:060:50:09

on some of the dates in the British tour.

0:50:090:50:12

I was living in Italy at the time

0:50:120:50:14

and I couldn't resist so I got on the plane and flew in Birmingham.

0:50:140:50:19

I didn't meet Bobby that night, sadly,

0:50:190:50:22

but I enjoyed the show very much.

0:50:220:50:24

It was a great thrill to hear Bobby doing these old songs.

0:50:240:50:27

A couple of years after that,

0:50:270:50:30

I just came up with the idea and announced it to my management

0:50:300:50:34

that I want to do this tribute album.

0:50:340:50:36

# Now you're laughing, pretty baby

0:50:390:50:42

# Someday you're gonna be crying

0:50:430:50:46

# Now you're laughing, pretty baby

0:50:480:50:52

# Some-Someday you're gonna be crying

0:50:520:50:56

# Further on up the road

0:50:570:51:00

# You'll find out I wasn't lying... #

0:51:020:51:05

I tried to choose the songs that I thought would somehow

0:51:060:51:10

lend themselves to now,

0:51:100:51:13

and also trying to choose the ones that had...

0:51:130:51:18

what seemed to me like the timeless quality,

0:51:180:51:21

that they just...they transcend time.

0:51:210:51:25

Regardless of who's singing them, the actual lyric lended to the melody

0:51:250:51:30

just as something that never really goes out of fashion.

0:51:300:51:34

It's a strange scenario, you're presenting an artist

0:51:340:51:38

with their...with your interpretation of their work.

0:51:380:51:43

All those tunes that I did, you made a twist to them

0:51:430:51:47

-that you didn't lose the flavour.

-I was fortunate because I had you

0:51:470:51:51

-to be influenced by.

-Well...

0:51:510:51:53

-If I didn't have you, I wouldn't have been able to do that.

-But I'm just saying, what you've done,

0:51:530:51:58

what I've listened to, you are a good student, you're very good.

0:51:580:52:01

-How old were you when you sang these tunes?

-Well...

0:52:010:52:06

about 24, I think it was.

0:52:060:52:08

I don't think I'd be able to sing as well as when I was 24.

0:52:080:52:11

Were you always in the same studio?

0:52:110:52:14

For a long time I was.

0:52:140:52:15

-I'm like a...homely type.

-Mm-hm.

0:52:150:52:19

You know, like...

0:52:190:52:22

all that extra room would take something from me.

0:52:220:52:26

-Yeah, it's better in the smaller rooms.

-I don't like that extra...

0:52:260:52:30

The sound just goes everywhere else. It doesn't get into the mic.

0:52:300:52:33

The room we record in has got a very low ceiling.

0:52:330:52:36

-That's where you get to...

-You get it all down the microphone instead of up in the air.

0:52:360:52:41

Just bouncing back at you.

0:52:410:52:43

So, you know how to record too, right?

0:52:430:52:46

Yeah, yeah... Well, you know, I've been doing it for a few years.

0:52:460:52:50

Yeah. How old are you now?

0:52:500:52:51

-I'm 47.

-You are? I'm 77.

-Well, I'm catching you up!

0:52:510:52:56

MUSIC DROWNS CONVERSATION

0:52:560:52:58

# Well, I cried, "Lord, have mercy"

0:53:020:53:06

-# Lord, have mercy... #

-I congratulate Mick

0:53:090:53:11

for doing that back and pulling the roots up

0:53:110:53:14

so these young people can understand where this great music came from

0:53:140:53:20

because let's get real, this music, between jazz and blues...

0:53:200:53:25

has almost replaced every indigenous music on the planet

0:53:250:53:29

in every country in the world.

0:53:290:53:31

# I know you've been hurt

0:53:320:53:34

# By someone else

0:53:380:53:40

# And I can tell by-y-y-y

0:53:430:53:46

# The way

0:53:460:53:47

# You carry yourself

0:53:510:53:53

# But if you let me

0:53:530:53:56

# Darlin', here's what I'll do

0:53:580:54:00

# I'll take care of you

0:54:040:54:06

# And I've...

0:54:100:54:11

# And I've...

0:54:110:54:13

# Oh, I've loved and lost

0:54:140:54:17

-# The same as you... #

-I remember when Sam Cooke died,

0:54:200:54:23

we were at his funeral

0:54:230:54:25

and Bobby sang one of Sam Cooke's songs.

0:54:250:54:29

I tell ya, when I got through listening to him,

0:54:290:54:33

water was all on my shirt because I had been crying all through it.

0:54:330:54:37

He's a great singer.

0:54:370:54:39

# Oh, Lord, here's what I'll do... #

0:54:400:54:43

What are you gonna do when a guy like that sings in front of you?

0:54:450:54:48

I'm glad he don't play guitar!

0:54:480:54:51

INDISTINCT LYRICS

0:54:520:54:55

They had the Blues Hall of Fame,

0:54:590:55:01

that's what I thought it should've been, but they called it the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

0:55:010:55:06

It kind of threw me for a loop when they first went in

0:55:060:55:10

in 1992.

0:55:100:55:12

I was a little unhappy because I think...

0:55:120:55:16

I do some blues songs...

0:55:160:55:19

I do some love songs...

0:55:190:55:22

and I do country and western.

0:55:220:55:24

Well, I think Bobby "Blue" Bland belongs in the Bobby "Blue" Bland Hall of Fame,

0:55:240:55:29

just like Ray Charles belongs in the Ray Charles Hall of Fame,

0:55:290:55:32

and Sam Cooke belongs in the Sam Cooke Hall of Fame.

0:55:320:55:35

I think to do justice to any of these great artists,

0:55:350:55:38

you have to recognise their aspirations,

0:55:380:55:41

their capacities in a way that no category ever can.

0:55:410:55:46

But I'm glad he's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

0:55:470:55:50

After so long, I said, "Well, what the hell...

0:55:500:55:53

"at least I'm getting in there before I die."

0:55:530:55:56

# I'm just as sure

0:55:590:56:02

# Oh, my Lord, I worry

0:56:050:56:07

# Then why don't you tell me right now? #

0:56:100:56:12

Everybody loves a winner.

0:56:150:56:17

They love to be in the bright lights,

0:56:170:56:19

and you bring that light to them.

0:56:190:56:21

But that's all they're looking for. And the Devil,

0:56:210:56:25

he's always there...

0:56:250:56:27

to show you the beauty of whatever they're telling you, you know?

0:56:270:56:31

And it's easy to be persuaded...

0:56:310:56:34

because he had some good things out there to bring to you.

0:56:340:56:37

# ..You took it, darlin'

0:56:370:56:39

# And you tore it apart

0:56:390:56:42

# You left me sitting

0:56:420:56:44

# In the dark crying

0:56:440:56:46

# You said your love for me was dying

0:56:460:56:49

# Come on, baby

0:56:500:56:52

# Come on, please

0:56:520:56:54

# Come on, baby

0:56:540:56:56

# Come on, please

0:56:560:56:58

# Turn on the light

0:56:580:56:59

# Let it shine on me

0:57:000:57:02

# Oh, turn it on

0:57:020:57:04

# Let it shine on me

0:57:040:57:06

# Let it shine, shine, yeah

0:57:060:57:09

# Let it shine

0:57:090:57:11

# I want it

0:57:110:57:13

# My love

0:57:130:57:14

# Oh!

0:57:150:57:17

CHEERING # Come on, baby

0:57:240:57:26

# Come on, please

0:57:270:57:28

# I'm beggin' you, baby I'm on my knees

0:57:290:57:33

# Turn on the light

0:57:330:57:35

# Let it shine on me

0:57:350:57:37

# Oh, Lord!

0:57:370:57:39

# Let it shine on me, oh-h-h!

0:57:390:57:42

# Turn on the light

0:57:430:57:45

# I don't wanna...

0:57:490:57:51

# I don't wanna...

0:57:520:57:53

# I don't... Oh! #

0:57:530:57:55

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:030:58:06

Email [email protected]

0:58:060:58:09

Documentary telling the story of the life and music of Bobby 'Blue' Bland, one of America's classic vocalists, listed high in Rolling Stone magazine's Top 100 greatest voices and admired by Elvis Presley, Van Morrison and Mick Hucknall among others.

In 1947, Bland's mother brought her son from the country town of Rosemark to Memphis in search of a better life. A year later, Gladys Presley and her son made a similar journey from neighbouring Tupelo. At that time, Memphis was a musical melting pot and BB King reports that 'everyone who was anyone' turned up there sooner or later. Bland offered his services as a driver, but soon secured a spot singing with King's band, while the young Elvis hung around Beale Street taking it all in.

The film traces Bobby's musical path from its gospel roots, through jazz and into the blues, which he infused with a unique sophistication, becoming a major singing star in black America in the 50s and 60s. His songs were covered by the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead and many others, and drummer Jab'o Starks recalls recording classic tracks like Stormy Monday, with which Bobby achieved great chart success.

Contributors include Van Morrison, Quincy Jones, BB King, Mick Hucknall, Dan Penn and Grammy nominee Susan Tedeschi.


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