Thursday, June 8, 2017

Bobby “Blue” Bland statue joins MLGW’s musical block

Emotions were running high. A musical legend and storyteller was finally getting his due. Family members, supporters, fans, members of the Downtown Memphis Commission and The Blues Foundation all gathered on May 12, for the statue dedication honoring the late Bobby “Blue” Bland.

The statue sits at the corner of South Main and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue on the Administrative Building’s property at MLGW.  It is just around the corner from the widely popular Elvis Presley statue which is also on MLGW’s green space overlooking Beale Street.

A lifetime Memphis-area resident, Bland is known as one of the greatest Blues singers of all time. He died in 2013 at his Germantown home. He was 83. Former Blues Foundation President & CEO Jay Sieleman lead the drive and rallied support to create and install the life-sized Bland statue. Bland is shown elegantly dressed, holding a microphone and hitting a high note in his signature style.
President and CEO of MLGW Jerry Collins Jr. didn’t hesitate when he was approached by the idea.

“The decision-making process on whether we would agree to put the statue here took about five seconds. We are going to do this,” Collins said. “Just like Memphis is famous for having the best drinking water in the world, we are also famous for having the best rock’n’roll and the best blues thanks to people like Bobby “Blue” Bland.”

Bland’s style stood the test of time. In Bland’s obituary, the New York Times reported, “His vocals, punctuated by the occasional squalling shout, were restrained, exhibiting a crooner’s delicacy of phrasing and a kind of intimate pleading. He influenced everyone from the soul singers Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett to rock groups like the Allman Brothers and The Band. The rapper Jay-Z sampled Mr. Bland’s 1974 single “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” on his 2001 album, “The Blueprint.”

The next time you are Downtown, check out the new statue or listen to Bland's hits online. 

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