Bland started in gospel and was part of a loose Memphis confederation of blues and R&B singers including B.B. King, Johnny Ace and Rosco Gordon before being drafted. After his discharge, he signed on as B.B.'s driver/valet before his own career exploded with "Farther Up The Road" in 1957. Like B.B., a lifelong friend, Bland enjoyed a solid, established African-American audience for over a decade before young white musicians discovered him and brought him an entirely new and different following that never flagged.
Here are some high points, right up to a few months ago.
1957: His # 1 R&B hit single: "Farther Up The Road."
1961: Two # 2 R&B singles, both standards today.
"I Pity The Fool."
"Turn On Your Love Light," later a Grateful Dead favorite.
1963: The second # 1: "That's The Way Love Is."
1977: With B.B King (the two friends recorded an album in 1975), on "The Thrill Is Gone."
1992: B.B. inducts Bland into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1992)
February 11, 2013: Brought onstage by Buddy Guy and Jonny Lang during a performance at a Tunica, Mississippi casino.