Blues singer, Memphis
Governor’s Distinguished Artist Award (2013)
A lifelong Memphian, Bland (1930-2013) played a principal role in the birth and popularity of the modern soul-blues style. Born and raised on gospel singing in the Rosemark community, he moved into the city in 1948, where he made his mark on Beale Street along with the likes of B.B. King and other greats of his generation. Among them, he was the only one to distinguish himself solely as a singer and not also an instrumentalist. He made his first hit recording in 1957, and that was followed by many more successes in the expanding R&B market. While some varieties of the blues have gained more diverse listenership since then, Bland’s popularity derived almost exclusively from African-American audiences over the years. Known for a smooth, stylized, and emotional delivery, he toured and recorded actively for over 50 years, and won honors including Handy awards, membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.