During the '80s and '90s, the only blues band that visitors to New Orleans would hear was Bryan Lee's Jump Street Five Band at the Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street. Blues veteran Bryan Lee, blind since childhood, became a true New Orleans blues institution and kept on delivering his own fiery brand of blues power long after the Old Absinthe House was gone. This was a gig that went a long way to establish New Orleans as a blues town despite the fact that Lee's style never really departed from his mid-west demeanor, making him the most Chicago-sounding band on the strip. Born in 1943 on March 16, Two Rivers, Wisconsin, Lee lost his eyesight at the age of eight. His avid interest in early rock and blues was fostered through the 1950s with late night listening sessions via the Nashville-based radio station WLAC-AM, where he first encountered the sounds of the three Kings, Elmore James, T-Bone Walker and other influential bluesmen. By his late teens, he was playing rhythm guitar in a regional band called The Glaciers that covered Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Chuck Berry material. Through the '60s, Lee's interest turned to Chicago blues and he soon found himself gigging in blues clubs throughout the Midwest. In January of 1982 (in the midst of a particularly cold Wisconsin winter), Lee relocated to New Orleans and for the next 14 years held down a steady gig playing five nights a week at the Old Absinthe House in the heart of the French Quarter. He subsequently went to the Opera House and 544 Club and remains one of the most crowd-pleasing acts on Bourbon Street to this day. Lee debuted on Justin Time in 1991 with The Blues Is and has since released a string of powerful outings on the label, including 1993's Memphis Bound, 1995's Braille Blues Daddy, 1997's Live at the Old Absinthe House Bar and 2000's Crawfish Lady. His dynamic Blues Power Band was captured in concert at The Spectrum in Montreal on the recent Justin Time DVD, Live & Dangerous. Today Bryan Lee is going stronger than ever, touring across the US, Canada and Europe playing the blues with his Blues Power Band as well as guesting on other artists' shows. In March 2007 Lee took part in highly successful whirlwind legends' tour featuring Kenny Wayne Shepherd's blues documentary 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads, with his hit song 'Tina Marie.' As Bryan puts it, this collaboration granted him 'the distinct honor and pleasure' of being on stage with Pine Top Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Buddy Flett, and Willie Big Eye Smith. As the 2007 festival season unfolds, Bryan is primed and ready to take his own band on tour in the wake of his latest Justin Time release, Katrina Was Her Name, produced by guitar great Duke Robillard. Bryan Lee, the man and the artist, as revealed in his own words 'People used to ask me why are you working so hard at all these stupid little bars, who cares? But hey, there are people who care. I have to be sincere about it. In all walks of life you search for serenity and there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of it. Sincerity and guts! That is what I bring to my music all the time. I really feel the good Lord has blessed me with this gift and if I can reach just a few people in an audience, I feel I have done a good job. I believe that I have a gift that makes people smile, enjoy and have a good time… and I want to share that. As you get older, blues is something that you get better at simply because of your age. You understand the music more and you learn to appreciate the old cats a whole lot more.' 'While I know exactly where I'm headed melodically and musically, I cannot physically see at all. That's where spiritual faith comes into play everyday. It is especially evident in my music, which is grounded in intensity and poured out with passion that can only come from someone who intimately knows the blues. As a blind person I put my faith in the Lord everyday. You have to believe in something to carry forward. A lot of people have let me down over the years because it is easy to take advantage of a blind person. In the end, it is faith in God that gets you along the way and practically, I put my faith on the line every time I cross the street.' 'Now 64, I've struggled for more than two decades to make a living in music. I came from Two Rivers, a blue-collar factory town in Northeast Wisconsin. I left after attending the Janesville School for the Blind, and played in Detroit, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids and southern Wisconsin.' 'Attending a Ray Charles concert in 1962 marked my own blues beginning. After I heard Charles on the sax then pound the keys mercilessly for an upbeat number, then cool it down for a gospel tune, I was ready to devote my life to music. The thing that kept me in was a time in Milwaukee, 1981 I opened up for Muddy Waters at Summerfest, and at the end of his show I went to his dressing room, and I said: 'Muddy, you and your band sound so good and it's just so nice to see an old man like you with a beautiful lady!' And he said:' Bryan my friend, I don't see any old people here, what are you talking about?' And I said: 'Well, it is so nice to be in the presence of a living legend'. And he got up and came over and hugged me, and said: Bryan, stay with this. One day you're going to be a living legend! So, that was the clincher. After that it was: OK! Give me the brick wall, I'll go through it!' 'Coming from the Midwest, I became friends with Luther Allison who also grew up in Wisconsin. He was one of my favorite guys that I could run into on a regular basis. I did a Monday night blues jam in Milwaukee in this place called the Jazz Riverboat and he used to come out there… and he'd play a whole set. He used to do a gig in Milwaukee at the Brother's Lounge that was 12 sets: 12 noon until midnight! I mean, talk about paying your dues. The owner used to feed them and I think they made $50 bucks. Luther could do some pretty amazing things… he had that 'visual thing'. But my 'visual thing' isn't that bad either, considering that I am blind. I do have a lot of showmanship. It's kind of compact in one little area because I don't move too far away from the microphone. But still, I do have intensity!' 'I traveled to Chicago but couldn't get work there because of color… I couldn't get a break up there. There was a time in Chicago where I was beaten down…and it hurt... I wasn't trying to be black. I was just trying to be me. Hell, I can't even see color. So, I made my way down to New Orleans 25 years ago and it was the best thing I ever did. I found that I could walk where I wanted, even walk back and forth to work and the weather was nice all year round, I lucked out.' 'I think it is important to show people that if you have a handicap or a disability, whatever people want to call blindness - and believe me in some respects it is a handicap because you cannot drive a car, you cannot read your money. I feel it is important for me to let people see that I can get around by my self. Like in church, they don't have to bring communion to me; I can walk up and take communion. These are small things but I think it's important that they see that blind people can live productive lives and do a lot for themselves. There are those who can't do things for themselves, because they don't have the want or they just don't have the ability.' The good Lord gave me this talent, and I give it back to Him through His people. I had a priest tell me one time: Bryan I envy you in that you get people's attention and you make them smile. When I do Mass on Sunday and I'm up there doing the homily I look out and see a lot of dead faces. They're not with me. Here, you're getting across to people. That's a good tool, making people happy.' 'I would like to be remembered as someone who was honest and true to music. You want to hit people between the ribs with something that's going to stick to them because I'm making a statement. Believing in you is really important too. I learned that a long time ago from Freddie King when he played. He wasn't going to let anything get in the way of his music. Same is true for me. I think it's more important than ever, whether you are white, black, or purple that if you have the feeling for the blues in your soul, you have to carry it on.' 'I used to have people say 'Oh, you're a musician working in bars? And, on top, a blues musician! They're all junkies and alcoholics. What I do, I do honestly. You see no big diamonds on my fingers. But there's a firm belief in my heart, a love for what I do. It is very important for me every night, no matter how I feel, to give my very best to the audience. I want the music to be perfect every night (though I will never get it that way). But there are times when I perform in front of an audience and everything's just right, I know I can't make a mistake!" Those kinds of nights still happen for Bryan Lee and The Blues Power Band as they tour across the Us, Canada and Europe. Bryan Lee and The Blues Power Band will bring the blues back to New Orleans this fall performing 5 nights a week at the Jazz Emporium.
VISIT BRYAN'S WEB SITE: http://www.braillebluesdaddy.com/
VISIT BRYAN ON MYSPACE: http://www.myspace.com/bryanleeandthebluespowerband
BRYAN's EPK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eKgCMIvNL0
BRYAN LEE ON YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/user/justintimerec?feature=mhee#p/u/27/3CBgESoQveQhttp://www.youtube.com/user/justintimerec?feature=mhee#p/u/29/qOGlXA47nwQ