Blues singer Precious Bryant dies

Blues singer Precious Bussey Bryant, who grew up in a family of musicians and honed her craft at country get-togethers, died Saturday at The Medical Center in Columbus. She was 71.

"She was always cheerful," said Zola Bussey Goodwin, her sister and a member of the Bussey Sisters before Bryant found a niche playing the guitar and singing the blues.

Goodwin said her sister had battled complications from diabetes and congestive heart failure for the last six weeks. Funeral arrangements are incomplete but the service will be held at Salem Primitive Baptist Church in Talbot County with Leonard's Funeral Home officiating.

Goodwin recalled how she and her sister grew up in a large family with nine girls and a boy. Her father, Lonnie Bussey, was a musician but Bryant learned to play the guitar on her uncle George Henry Bussey's instrument.

In a 1988 Ledger-Enquirer interview with Billy Winn, Bryant said she could hardly pick up the instrument but learned to play it. She would take the guitar to school and she and another boy would play together on the bus.

Bryant was able to polish her sound playing at barbecues and fish fries held at the homes of relatives.

"It was just a gift," Goodwin said.

Singing the blues, Bryant took her music to England, France and throughout the Southeast region.

Goodwin said there were really two loves in Bryant's life. "Her booze and her blues," her sister said.

Many of Bryant's songs were influenced by some of the sounds from Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters and Freddie King.

"I just love the blues," Bryant told Winn. "I tell people that If I couldn't play the blues myself, I would like to be a disc jockey and play them over the radio."

Columbus businessman and nightclub owner Buddy Nelms has known Bryant for nearly 20 years. She has played many times at his club, The Loft, in downtown on Broadway.

The last time Bryant took the stage in Columbus, she opened The Loft's 20th anniversary show in early June.

"No matter where or when I saw her, she was always so welcoming," Nelms said. "She was soulfully such a happy person."

Nelms, Talbot County musician Neal Lucus and the Music Maker Foundation helped acquire a new mobile home for Bryant last summer.

Some of the popular sounds from Bryant include "Black Rat," "I Can't Stand To See You Go," "You can Have My Husband But Please Don't Mess With My Man," and a version of "When the Saints Go Marching In."

-- Senior editor Chuck Williams contributed to this report.