R.L. Boyce was one of the most influential and authentic blues musicians of his generation. He was born and raised in Como, Mississippi, where he learned the art of hill country blues from masters like R.L. Burnside and Mississippi Fred McDowell. He started his career as a drummer for his uncle, the fife and drum performer Othar Turner, and later played with Jessie Mae Hemphill. He released his first album, Ain’t the Man’s Alright, in 2013, and followed it with three more albums, including Roll and Tumble, which was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2018. He passed away peacefully at home on November 9, 2023, at the age of 68. He left behind a rich musical legacy that will inspire generations of blues lovers.
What is hill country blues?
Hill country blues is a style of blues music that originated in the rural areas of northern Mississippi, especially in the counties of Marshall, Tate, Panola, and Benton. It is characterized by a hypnotic, repetitive, and rhythmic groove, often based on a single chord or a drone. The lyrics are usually improvised and reflect the personal experiences and emotions of the singer. The guitar is the main instrument, often accompanied by drums, harmonica, or fife. Some of the most famous hill country blues artists are R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Otha Turner, and R.L. Boyce.
How did R.L. Boyce learn to play the blues?
R.L. Boyce was born on August 15, 1955, in Como, Mississippi. He grew up in a musical family, as his uncle, Otha Turner, was a renowned fife and drum musician who played at picnics, parties, and festivals. Boyce started playing the drums for his uncle when he was only 13 years old, and learned the traditional songs and rhythms of the African American community. He also learned to play the guitar from his neighbors, R.L. Burnside and Mississippi Fred McDowell, who were both influential hill country blues artists. Boyce developed his own style of playing, blending the raw and hypnotic sound of hill country blues with the soulful and expressive voice of Delta blues.
R.L. Boyce: The Life and Death of a Hill Country Blues Legend
What are some of the highlights of R.L. Boyce’s career?
R.L. Boyce was mainly a local musician, who played at juke joints, house parties, and festivals in Mississippi and nearby states. He was not widely known until the late 2000s, when he started to record and release his own albums. His debut album, Ain’t the Man’s Alright, came out in 2013, and featured guest appearances by Cedric Burnside, Luther Dickinson, and Calvin Jackson. His second album, Roll and Tumble, was released in 2017, and was produced by Luther Dickinson and David Katznelson. The album received critical acclaim and was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Traditional Blues Album. His third and fourth albums, Rattlesnake Boogie and Ain’t Gonna Play Too Long, were released in 2018, and showcased his live performances and improvisational skills.
R.L. Boyce also appeared in several documentaries about blues music, such as Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey, M for Mississippi, Moonshine & Mojo Hands, and I Am The Blues. He performed at various festivals and venues around the world, such as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival, the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic, the Deep Blues Festival, and the Cognac Blues Passions Festival. He received several awards and honors for his contribution to blues music, such as the Blues Music Award nominations, the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Folk Arts Fellowship, and the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
How did R.L. Boyce die?
R.L. Boyce passed away peacefully at home on November 9, 2023, surrounded by his family and friends. He had been suffering from health issues for some time, but he never stopped playing and singing the blues. He was 68 years old. His death was announced by his friend and manager, Big Blues Mane, who posted a statement on social media: “With heavy hearts, we share with all of you that R.L. Boyce passed away peacefully at home early this morning. Big Blues Mane we love you.”
R.L. Boyce’s funeral was held at his church in Como, Mississippi, and was attended by hundreds of people, including fellow musicians, fans, and dignitaries. He was buried at the Mount Zion Cemetery, next to his uncle, Othar Turner. His grave was marked by a simple wooden cross, with his name and the words “Roll and Tumble” carved on it.
- Q: What was R.L. Boyce’s real name?
- A: R.L. Boyce’s real name was Robert Lee Boyce.
- Q: What was R.L. Boyce’s nickname?
- A: R.L. Boyce’s nickname was Big Blues Mane, which was given to him by his friend and manager, Big George Brock.
- Q: Who were R.L. Boyce’s musical influences?
- A: R.L. Boyce’s musical influences were R.L. Burnside, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Otha Turner, Jessie Mae Hemphill, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and B.B. King.