Braille Blues Daddy, legendary blind guitarist & singer is no more
Brian Leroy Kumbalek, known to blues lovers around the world as Bryan Lee or Braille Blues Daddy, has passed away. The blind blues guitarist and singer died after battling various health issues in the United States.
From a Grammy nomination to traveling around the globe, Brian Leroy Kumbalek, famous to blues lovers around the world as Braille Blues Daddy enjoyed a lifelong music career. The 77-year-old guitarist and singer died in Sarasota, United States after battling lung, heart and kidney issues.
Kumbalek was an integral part of the music scene in New Orleans, where he had lived since the ’80s. Among those who paid tributes was blues star Kenny Wayne Shepherd, with whom he had played frequently. Kumbalek earned a Grammy nomination for his work on the Shepherd Band album Live! in Chicago.
On Instagram, Shepard posted this tribute:
The blues community lost a legend, and I lost a dear friend and mentor. Bryan Lee gave me my first shot on a stage in front of an audience on Bourbon Street in New Orleans when I was 13 years old. I was meant to play only two songs with his band, but after the first song was done, Bryan wouldn’t let me get off the stage until all his sets were done and it was nearly 4 a.m. That night began a lifelong friendship for me that I can’t place a value on. – Kenny Wayne Shepard, Blues musician
Born in Wisconsin, Kumbalek was legally blind by the age of eight. He started started out playing for Midwest crowds at the early age of 15.
Kumbalek met his wife Bethany at a performance. Speaking to the Herald Tribune she said, “We held hands before we left, and he said that he knew at that moment when he held my hand that we would have a future together”.
Kumbalek earned a Blues Music Award nomination for his 2007 record Katrina Was Her Name. His latest release was Sanctuary, an album that showed his deep religious beliefs.
To the end of his life, Kumbalek continued to perform in New Orleans. He also toured several times a year in the Midwest, Eastern Seaboard, Rocky Mountain States and recently Europe and Brazil.
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