Saturday, June 20, 2015

VOCALIST WENDELL HOLMES DIED. HE WAS 71

Wendell Holmes, vocalist, guitarist, pianist and songwriter of the critically acclaimed soul/blues band The Holmes Brothers, died on Friday, June 19 at his home in Rosedale, Maryland of complications due to pulmonary hypertension. Earlier this week, Wendell addressed his fans and friends in an open letter as he moved into hospice care. He was 71.

Wendell retired from touring earlier this year when he was first diagnosed. Holmes Brothers drummer Willie "Popsy" Dixon died on January 9, 2015 of complications from cancer. Brother and bassist Sherman Holmes continues to carry on The Holmes Brothers legacy with The Sherman Holmes Project featuring Brooks Long and Eric Kennedy.

Wendell, the man Entertainment Weekly has called "a timeless original," was born in Christchurch, Virginia on December 19, 1943. He and his older brother Sherman were raised by their schoolteacher parents, who nurtured the boys’ early interest in music. As youngsters they listened to traditional Baptist hymns, anthems and spirituals as well as blues music by Jimmy Reed, Junior Parker and B.B. King. According to Wendell, “It was a small town, and my brother and I were about the only ones who could play anything. So we played around in all the area churches on Sundays.” The night before, though, they would play blues, soul, country and rock at their cousin’s local club, Herman Wate’s Juke Joint. “When he couldn’t get any good groups to come from Norfolk or Richmond, he’d call us in,” Wendell recalls. “That’s how we honed our sound. We used to say we’d rock ‘em on Saturday and save ‘em on Sunday.”

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