Performer, BMA – Blues Rock Album, Single “Tina Marie,” a.k.a. Braille Blues Daddy,
Grammy-nominated musician and Sarasota resident passed over at 77, and is likely waiting on us at the Pearly Blues Gate, or Jammin’ with the other great blues artists who got there before him.
The blues guitarist and singer was known for his time in New Orleans and work with Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Brian Leroy Kumbalek – better known to blues lovers around the world as Bryan Lee or Braille Blues Daddy – enjoyed a lifelong music career that included a Grammy nomination and traveling the globe, ultimately spending his last years in Sarasota- Manatee county.
Kumbalek, (Bryan Lee) passed away Friday, August 21 2020 at Tidewell Hospice House in Sarasota after battling various lung, heart and kidney issues. He was 77. Born March 16, 1943 in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, Kumbalek was legally blind by 8 years old and performing professionally by the time he was in his teens.
Before moving to Bradenton in the mid-2010s, the blind blues guitarist and singer had lived in New Orleans since the ’80s and became ingrained in the city’s music scene, playing Bourbon Street venues and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. He was also known for his work with blues star, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, including appearing on the 2010 Shepherd Band record “Live! in Chicago,” earning Kumbalek a Contemporary Blues Album Grammy nomination.
“The blues community lost a legend, and I lost a dear friend and mentor,” Shepherd posted on his Instagram. “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.” On, 2/14/2007 Bryan performed on the Jay leno show, with KWS singing Tina Marie.
Bryan’s wife, Bethany took 3 years off from teaching to travel and work with Bryan all over the US, Canada, Switzerland, Brazil, Mexico, and Eastern Europe. Bethany also said the best years of their lives were traveling together to locales such as Svalbard, between the North Pole and Norway, and Sao Paulo, Brazil. She also attended the Grammys with him, and toured with him for a week while he was playing with Shepherd and other blues legends like Hubert Sumlin and Pinetop Perkins.
Since they moved from New Orleans to Bradenton, the couple’s favorite things to do included visiting the beach and their favorite local music venues, including The Blue Rooster in Sarasota. Blue Rooster owner Bill Cornelius called him “a real pro, one of the last real bluesmen.” Kumbalek earned a Blues Music Award nomination for his 2007 record “Katrina Was Her Name.” His latest release was 2018’s “Sanctuary,” a blues-gospel album that indicated his deep religious beliefs.
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 was 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.
Kenny Wayne Shepard
“Whether he’s wailing a Freddy King inspired blues ballad, stomping out low down and dirty blues, or getting down with a super funky New Orleans groove, Bryan Lee is gonna grab your soul and squeeze it til you scream in blues ecstasy.” – Duke Robillard
“…one of the Best Bluesmen I’ve ever seen.” –
“His fiery telecaster is unstoppable, and his banshee wails blast the tunes into apogee.” –
Bryan Lee, 2010 Grammy Nominee, 2011 BMA Recipient, has played the Blues consistently for over 50 years to fans all over the world. He was referred to by his peers as a “Living Legend”, “New Orleans Blues Institution” as well as your “Braille Blues Daddy”
Bryan has performed with many of his peers over the years such as, Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Freddie King, Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins, Willie Big Eye Smith, Kenny Wayne Shepard, Luther Allison, Sonny Landreth, Mike Zeto, Larry Garner, JW Jones, Tab Benoit, Albert King, Duke Robillard, Albert Collins, Michael Burks and BB King to mention a few.
Bryan Lee – Bourbon Street Blues, American blues guitarist and singer who was based in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was also known as a fixture on Bourbon Street since the 1980s. Bryan worked at The Old Absinthe House Bar for 14 years, 5 nights a week, no other band has ever done that.
Notable Festivals USA and International
NOLA Jazz and Heritage Festival, 20 consecutive year’s starting in 1983 ending in 2019, a total of 29 times.
Chicago Blues Festival, Chicago 2008
Tampa Bay Blues Festival 2014
Telluride Blues and Brews Festival, CO 2008
Waterfront Blues Fest in Portland, OR
Crossroads B.S. Waterfront B.F. Rockford, Il
Kansas City Blues Fest 2008
Summerfest, Milwaukee WI 2006, 2008
Paramount Blues Festival, WI 2008
Blues Festival Oroville, WA 2008
Southwest Florida Blues Festival 2008
Oskar Blues Festival. Lyons, CO 2008
Great Lakes BS Blues Festival 2008
Baton Rouge Festival, La 2013
Charlie West Blues Festival, WV 2010
Prairie Dog Festival, Wi 2013
Bayfront Blues Festival, MN 2013
Cowpie Festival, MI 2009
Carolina Down Home Blues Festival 2010
King Biscuit Festival, AR
Mississippi Valley BF 2006
Xerox Rochester NY International Jazz and Blues Fest. 2010
North Atlantic Blues Festival 2010
Rock and Blues Fest Baton Rouge, La 1996
Dark Season Blue’s Fest in Svalbard, Norway 2011
Lucerne, Switzerland Blues Fest 2010
Rio dos Ostros, RJ Brazil Jazz and Blues Fest. 2011
Festival International De Jazz de Montreal, 2006, 07,08,09,10
Tremblant International Blues Festival Quebec 2007, 09
Ottawa Blues Festival 2008
Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in Fredericton, NB
Edmonton’s Labatt Blues Festival , Edmonton 2007
Bierbeek Blue’s Up Festival Belgium 2010
Trois -Rivieres en Blues, Quebec 2009
Wendelstein Blues and Jazz Open, Germany 2008, 11
Jazz et Blues De Saguenay, Quebec 2011
Beaches Festival, Toronto, CA 2013
Spring Blues Festival Belgium 2011
Internationalis Blues fest Eutin 2011
Blues Baltica Blues fest 2011
Festival De Blues Victoriaville 2008
Luxemburg Blues Festival 2009
Festival international Jazz and Blues Zacatecas, MX 2009
There were many more places Bryan has played throughout his more than fifty (50) year career. Not to mention the countless numbers of people he has inspired.
Discography and Cover Art
⦁ 1979 Beauty Isn’t Always Visual
⦁ 1984 Bourbon Street Beat
⦁ 1991 The Blues Is… Justin Time
⦁ 1993 Memphis Bound ( Justin Time)
⦁ 1995 Braille Blues Daddy ( Justin Time)
⦁ 1995 Heat Seeking Missile ( Justin Time)
⦁ 1997 Live at the Old Absinthe House Bar: Friday Night ( Justin Time)
⦁ 1998 Live at the Old Absinthe House Bar, Vol. 2: Saturday ( Justin Time)
⦁ 2000 Crawfish Lady ( Justin Time)
⦁ 2002 Six String Therapy ( Justin Time)
⦁ 2005 Live and Dangerous ( Justin Time)
⦁ 2007 Katrina Was Her Name ( Justin Time)
⦁ 2009 My Lady Don’t Love My Lady ( Justin Time)
⦁ 2010 Old School Blues
⦁ 2011 Live from Sao Paulo
⦁ 2013 Play One for Me ( Severn Records)
⦁ 2018 Sanctuary (Earrelevant Records)
2003 Bryan Lee’s Greatest Hits (Justin Time)
“Not Done Yet”, with one more CD to be released hopefully in 2023, as a “tribute to the 4 kings”.
The Cover Art is in no particular order and does not include all cover art.
“SIX STRING THERAPY” EPK and YOUTUBE VIDEO’s
“Six String Therapy” DUKE ROBOLARD, producer.
In 2013, Bryan was given an honorary lifetime membership to the Southwest Florida Blues Society in respect for his numerous achievements, dedication to the blues, and support of younger musicians. Not to mention what he has given to the blues community at large.
“The Good Lord gave me this gift and I want to share it with you.” – Bryan Lee