Bryan Lee Obituary
August 21, 2020
Brian Leroy Kumbalek, 77, a.k.a. Bryan Lee, Your Braille Blues Daddy, The Blind Giant of the Blues, a New Orleans Blues Institution, husband, father, and friend, passed into legend on Friday, August 21, 2020, at Tidewell Hospice House in Sarasota, FL. He is survived by his wife, Bethany Kumbalek, his daughter, Dena Darrow, his son Bryan Kumbalek, children’s mother Penny Bews, step children Sarah M. Harder, Alison Harder (Zach Colvin) grandson Noah Harder, Christopher Cahill, his sister Vicky (Rich Reilly), brother Gary (Gayle), nieces Megan Reilly and Shannon Kumbalek, nephews Raymond Reilly (Kimberly) and Robert Kumbalekalong with many beloved extended family members.
Brian made the world a better place by sharing his God-given musical talent. He began performing professionally at the age of 13, in his birthplace of Two Rivers, WI, and continued playing all over the world until 2020.
Major Achievements: 2011: Grammy Nominee with Kenny Wayne Shepard, BMA Blues Rock Album of the Year, 2015 Big City Rhythm and Blues Lifetime Achievement Award, 2016 Legendary Blues Artist Blues Hall of Fame, Legendary Blues Artist Florida Blues Hall of Fame, 2017, WAMI Lifetime Achievement Award, 2018 Phoenix Radio Lifetime Achievement Award and numerous Blues Societies Awards.
“A gift is not a gift unless, you share it. God gave me the gift of the Blues, and I want to share my gift with you.” -Bryan Lee
The funeral will be held Wednesday, August 26th at 10:00 a.m., at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church at 3100 26th St. W. in Bradenton, FL. The ceremony will be streamed on Facebook via BryanLeeBrailleBluesDaddy.
Brian’s family whole-heartedly thanks the staff of Bradenton and Sarasota Tidewell Hospice, BayCare Home Health Care, the Community Paramedics Program, and Bradenton EMT’s for their loving care and support.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred, and will be used in remembrance of Bryan’s name in Two Rivers, WI and New Orleans, LA and can be sent to:
Bethany Lee Kumbalek
PO Box 10547
Bradenton, Fl 34282
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
August 21, 2020
“Today the blues community lost a legend, and I lost a dear friend and mentor. Check this brief video of him from my documentary and get inside the soul of a man born to play the Blues.
Rest In Peace Bryan. We love you dearly.” —Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Just got the sad news that Wisconsin blues legend Bryan Lee (the Braille Blues Daddy) has died in Florida. Dude got a ride out of Two Rivers and made himself a career of guitar slinging, singing and sharing the blues around the world and, it seemed, forever in New Orleans.
I first saw Bryan at the old Union Bar in Nordeast Minneapolis (yeah, that’s how we say it) in 1978 or ‘79. I think I was only 17 at the time. I had sneaked in to see the Downchild Blues Band from Canada but was immediately smitten by the blind opening act who claimed to be Bryan Lee from Milwaukee. I already really liked the blues but he was the first “real” blues guy I ever saw in a club. He just ripped it and blew away the headliner.
A few years later, while on a short college jaunt to New Orleans, I heard some wicked blues wafting from a bar so we walked in and damn, it was Bryan. I found out years later that it was his regular gig at the Old Absinthe. After college
I moved to Appleton and soon learned that he was from Two Rivers. I saw Bryan a couple of times locally, had some good times chatting it up and later got his life story out of him for a radio blues show I hosted.
I also got a kick out of a discussion in Green Bay once with Kenny Wayne Shepherd on one of his first tours. He knew he was in the neighborhood of Bryan’s roots and we shared our love of his playing. Kenny, of course, was mentored by Bryan and he seemed super grateful and gracious about the lessons and opportunities he was afforded by it. It spoke to Bryan’s insistence that he always share the blues fully. He sure did with KWS.
It seems I was destined to have Bryan Lee woven through much of my life and I’m lucky and appreciative to have had the happenstance. We weren’t close friends but I did know him well enough to tell you he was a fine fellow and we got along swell. He was a short guy and a really good blues man in general. But he was kind of a giant to me.
Play on, brother Bryan.