I am absolutely ashamed to say that, until his death yesterday, I had never heard of the great talent that visited this earth for the past 68 years, not getting his music "out there" until 2011, when he was 62 years old.
I'll be up front with you. Mr. Bradley moves my soul when he sings. Go here while reading this tribute and listen to AIN'T IT A SIN while you're reading this humble prose. We'll start with that one. I know it's gonna make you forget all about this blog post you're reading.
I'll wait until you cue it up. There. Got the volume right? Have you ever heard anything like this voice in your life, other than perhaps the likes of the late Robert Johnson, the late Louis Armstrong and other great blues talents that long ago left our realm.
These great blues singers, they had one thing in common apparently, from the video interviews with Mr. Bradley on YouTube and the articles I've read online about him. They had a real bad upbringing and perhaps, a troubled continuing life. Indeed, if there is a modern face of a soulful blues singer, it was Mr. Bradley.
That is not the defining fact of a man. The good Lord above gave Mr. Bradley an ability to sing that forged Mr. Bradley's unique sound that fell somewhere in between Al Green and the late James Brown.
I hate that I'm writing the phrase "the late" so many times already.
As the lead singer of an late 1980's original Houston blues band that I played drums for, Joyce Bradshear once intro'd a song at a gig by stating, and I'm paraphrasing here..."That it's funny how something so sad can make you so happy. People listen to the blues when they're down, when they're troubled about something, and the whole grieving process of the song just somehow make you in your situation feel better about your blues". That quote doesn't do her justice.
About now you should be ready for another gem of Mr. Bradley, and this one was a real surprise. Although I'm in my fifties, and spent the mid 60's until now just obsessed with lots of different kinds of music, I'm not the biggest Black Sabbath fan. Yes, there are a few songs like Paranoid and Iron Man that I like somewhat, but it was really the songs like Crazy Train from Ozzy's solo career that were more accessible musically to me.
So I discover yesterday that one of Mr. Bradley's cover tunes was called Changes and was done originally in 1972 to an awful and dreary musically composed tune by BLACK SABBATH. Mr. Bradley takes CHANGES and makes it a totally new song.
Mr. Bradley has 3 albums that he released in this short period of being a professional bluesman. I'll give Mr. Bradley the honor of mentioning his loyalty to his excellent band. He kept the same band over the last 7 years, and that's something a lot of rising star singers and guitarists often don't do.
They get more famous, more experienced musicians to play with them. I'd actually be surprised if his management and label had not at some point had a run made at them by any number of experienced musicians, wanting to start a band with Mr. Bradley singing. Old guys, guys that have been playing the blues for a living for as long as Mr. Bradley's band has been alive.
If that didn't happen, with regional stars or former semi-major blues musicians looking for that next great gig while he was alive, it certainly would've happened soon as his immense talent was being heard daily by so many others.
Mr. Bradley's story reminds me of my good friend CAROLYN WONDERLAND a blues siren and songstress herself and of her persistence in the music business in Austin.
A talented blues guitarist as well as trumpeter, I've been watching and waiting for the rest of the world to notice her intense talent since she was 15 and busing tables at the Monday Night Blues Jam at the now defunct Dan Electro's blues bar in Houston, Texas.
That would be exactly 29 or 30 years ago. As the drummer for the house band on many of those nights for the last several years of my law school days, Carolyn would get up and sit in on a tune with the band. You knew one day she'd be noticed and be famous.
If memory serves, after one of her regular appearances at the Harley festival in Stugis, she was hired by and did a tour playing guitar with none other than Bob Dylan.
For a taste of Carolyn's music that you'll come back to at Christmastime, go to BLUE LIGHTS, song written by the man who taught me how to blues drum beginning in 1984, when I was first in one of his bands, the legendary Kenneth Blanchet, or "Little Screaming Kenny" as he's known.
Screamin' thought my drumming was too busy., "too cymbally", he said. And he was right, it was. Way too busy.
He complimented my rock sensibilities, and then handed me a stack of old blues albums and told me to take them home and tape them and bring them back and listen A LOT to them to learn how to play blues drums. Screaming taught me that less is more, many times musically speaking.
But that's the fellow who wrote Blue Lights, and I sure would have liked to have heard Mr. Bradley belt out that number.
You can find several albums of tunes out there from Mr. Bradley. Rest in Peace, sir. I will continue to listen to your legacy.