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Alabama Blues Musician Debbie Bond Pays Tribute to Eddie Kirkland (1923-2011)

Posted: Mar 16, 2011

The funeral service for Eddie Kirkland, "Gypsy of the Blues," was held on Monday, March 7, in Macon, Georgia. Friends came from far and wide to pay tribute to the 87-year-old blues legend who was killed in Florida on February 27 when his car turned into the path of a Greyhound bus. Friends say Kirkland will be remembered for his impact on the music industry and for the life he lived. Those who knew him say his music was his life.

Among those attending the service was Alabama blues musician and director of the Alabama Blues Project, Debbie Bond. Bond said of Kirkland " Eddie Kirkland is really one of those legends that didn't get his due in his lifetime. He's going to be greatly missed. He was the real deal bluesman. The sad thing is Eddie had so much energy left. If someone had been driving Eddie maybe he would still be here. He was a blues warrior doing his thing -- no one could stop him. There was someone who was meant to be with him driving him that night and he couldn't be there. This is life. I know." (photo of Bond and Kirkland)

Born in Jamaica and raised in Alabama, Kirkland eventually moved to Indiana before he settled in Detroit. He polished his blues sound and toured for over 7 years with John Lee Hooker. He moved to Georgia, became a bandleader for Otis Redding and performed with a variety of artists, including Little Richard, Ben King, Ruth Brown and Little Johnnie Taylor.

"We are all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our dear friend and Alabama blues legend Eddie Kirkland," said Bond. "Eddie was a close friend of the Alabama Blues Project. Originally from Dothan, Alabama, he visited our blues camp regularly and shared his talent and inspiration.

"Eddie and I were very close and I was privileged to do a guitar apprenticeship with him about ten years ago." Bond added. " I spoke to Eddie Friday [prior to the accident] and we were very excited about our plans for his upcoming visit with the ABP kids, a performance in Livingston, Alabama-- all being included in a public TV film project that was going to be featured in Alabama state’s 2011 Year of Alabama Music.

"Later this year, Eddie was going to be celebrated in his home town of Dothan and have his oral history recorded. He was so full of energy and looking forward to the year. We are all going to miss him terribly." (YouTube of one of Eddie's energetic performances)

Bond mentioned the new blues encyclopedia which is in progress saying "Eric LeBlanc [a winner of the 2010 Keeping the Blues Alive Awards] and company are doing a great job documenting Eddie's Dothan connections. I am so happy they are doing this important work on a new blues encyclopedia. Hasn't been anything great since the old Living Blues Who's Who. It [the new encyclopedia] is going to raise awareness big time for Alabama blues...Georgia blues - and everywhere that blues has been neglected..."

Debbie Bond, who played with Willie King for six years until his death in 2009, has been paying her dues to play the blues in the Alabama backwoods for over 30 years and performs with soul and emotion. She has been described as sounding like a cross between Bonnie Raitt and Janice Joplin, but Debbie does it her own way with a mix of house rockin' covers and originals.  Bond was born in LA but moved to England when she was eight. There she learned to play the guitar and fell in love with the blues . When she moved to Alabama after graduating from college, she fell in love with Alabama and the Alabama blues scene. (photo of Bond's latest album)

Bond has been associated with many great blues masters, starting with sharing her band with the late, great Johnny Shines. She has since worked with or performed alongside Jerry Boogie McCain, James Peterson, Eddie Kirkland, Kenny Neal and many more, as well as touring in the US and Europe playing guitar with Lil' Jimmy Reed, Little Whitt and Big Bo, Eddie Kirkland and Sam Lay. Most recently, Bond was guitar player for the outstanding Alabama bluesman Willie King.

Bond is the co-founder and executive director of the award-winning Alabama Blues Project, an educational non-profit devoted to preserving and promoting Alabama's rich blues heritage. She is a former winner of the Keeping The Blues Alive Award. Bond has played blues all over the United States as well as in England, Ireland, Scotland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Germany and recently returned from a tour of England and France.

Bond has just completed a new album entitled Hearts are Wild. A special prerelease version is available on her web site, but the fully packaged CD is scheduled to be released in May.

Meanwhile, don't miss Debbie Bond at Mr. Gips in Birmingham on this Saturday, March 19. She will have prerelease copies of the new CD, Hearts Are Wild.

 ----Penne J. Laubenthal
Related Links
     Blue Legend Willie King Dies at 65

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