Bobby 'Blue' Bland Day
Barretville’s Bobby “Blue” Bland Day has it all, from great people and food to inspiring blues performances; it is an event to please everyone! Created to honor the incredible Blues legend Bobby Bland, the third annual event had attendees dancing to classics, Bland tributes, and more.
Yet, music was not all this special day had to offer. With catering from Long Road Cider, Double D’s BBQ, H.Y.P.E., and Jack’s Frost, attendees feasted on southern home cooking. Guests also learned the history of the Bobby “Blue” Bland. Attendees could even buy a souvenir shirt to celebrate Bland, his music, and his home.
Of course, even with all the activities, music was still the heart of the event, as Bland would have liked it. Beginning with the National Anthem, sung by Judge Karen R. Williams, the night started off with a bang and only got better! Soon, Michael Townsend opened on the saxophone, with a performance that had the crowd swaying and dancing to his sweet melodies. Next, Bertha Payne graced the stage, only heightening the crowd’s excitement for the event’s main act.
To these headliners playing the event was a huge honor. The Blues duo of Hal Reed and Will Gustofson performed at Bobby “Blue” Bland Day, and their set was an array of Bobby’s music, as well as covers of other artists. Mr. John Burnett, the event coordinator, invited Hal and Will from Illinois to play at the event.
Hal Reed grew up in the “mid-Bobby era” and he believes that it is a true honor to be invited to Bobby Blue Bland Day, stating “He was a part of history—musical history, so to be a part of his day, his celebration day, here in Barretville, it’s an honor. That’s what makes us travel this far.”
When asked why they return to the festival, Will responded that the music is “a great way to celebrate the musical laugh—imagine, like, okay, he was on the porch of the general store, you know, singing, all these songs. And then, you know, the guy has a record collection that spans across the world that people will listen to. It’s just neat to come back to the place it all started.”
Hal added that he grew up in Bobby’s time. He recalls listening to WDIA, the first black radio station in the nation and, naturally, they played a variety of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s music. The group shows admiration towards Bobby and were ecstatic playing in his name.
Bobby Blue Bland Day was fun, its creators also understood the weight it holds. Coordinators included Dr. Barret Matthews, his daughter, and others who worked especially hard to honor Bland. They tried to highlight the musician’s obvious impact on blues and the joy he continues to bring listeners through hits including “Cry Cry Cry” and “I Pity the Fool”. In the years to come, Barretville is eager to continue the fun of Bobby Blue Bland Day. They hope future celebrations only get bigger to bring the joy and ease of blues to more and more of our community.