Blues man Eddie Kirkland dies at 88

Musician was longtime bandmate of John Lee Hooker

Singer-guitarist Eddie Kirkland, a key performer on the ’50s Detroit blues scene and John Lee Hooker’s longtime bandmate, died Sunday, Feb. 27, in a car accident near Tampa, Fla. He was 88.

Born in Jamaica and raised in Alabama, Kirkland was a medicine show performer before he settled in the Motor City in 1943. He began playing with Hooker in 1948, and appeared on the million-selling Modern Records hit “I’m in the Mood.”

Kirkland left Hooker’s band in 1953 and recorded as a soloist for R&B labels including King and Fortune; sessions for New York’s Prestige Records in 1961-62 were collected on the album “I’m the Blues Man.”

He relocated to Macon, Ga., where he became soul singer Otis Redding’s bandleader; he also backed such performers as Ruth Brown, Ben E. King, Sam & Dave and Little Johnny Taylor. In 1965, he had a minor R&B hit with “The Hawg” on Memphis’ Stax label.

A 1970 interview with Bruce Bastin and Pete Lowry of the English publication Blues Unlimited led to a contract with their Trix label, which issued several well-received Kirkland albums.

A high-energy performer, Kirkland continued to record and tour into his 80s; his last album was 2005’s “Booty Blues.”