44. Bobby "Blue" Bland
January 27th, 1930
Key Tracks "I Pity the Fool," "Farther Up the Road," "Cry, Cry, Cry" "Turn On Your Love Light"
Influenced Van Morrison, B.B. King
Bland called it a "squall" — the choked, gospel-inspired near-scream that became his trademark. "I got the idea from Rev. C.L. Franklin, Aretha's father," Bland told Rolling Stone. "I had to work with that a long time before I got it to perfection." But Bland, whose admirers range from Van Morrison to Jay-Z, was more than a blues shouter — on the quieter moments of signature tunes such as "I Pity the Fool" and "Turn On Your Love Light," he could just as easily adopt a smooth, uptown croon, complete with elegant vibrato, like his early hero Nat "King" Cole. "If I could sing like Bobby Bland," said his longtime collaborator B.B. King, "I'd be a happy man." Adds Gregg Allman, "It's a one-of-a-kind voice — I wonder how many people tore up their throats trying to imitate that shout."